Anthony Mukutuma has had a successful and varied mining career around the world with First Quantum Minerals (FQM) where, as General Manager of Kansanshi, hes now overseeing the mines exciting new pit and smelter expansion, known as S3, due for completion in mid-2025.

Here, Mr Mukutuma shares his fascinating story with Mining For Zambia. Its one of hard work and perseverance, open-mindedness, a willingness to leave his comfort zone time and time again – and a few twists of fate, too.

How did you get into the mining industry?

I was born in Kabwe, which was a thriving mining town at the time. I used to see these big trucks passing by – trucks that mined the earth, making rock into useful metals – and it was quite enlightening for me as a child. After school, I planned to study mining engineering. But by the time I finished my A-levels, I decided that chemical engineering would give me a broader perspective of mining.

Where did you get your degree?

I studied chemical engineering at the University of Birmingham in the UK. I was on a scholarship with Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) which, at the time, offered 30 scholarships every year to students from secondary schools across Zambia. We studied A-levels at Mpelembe School, their school in Kitwe, and then got the opportunity to choose a university course – as long as it was mining related.

I chose the University of Birmingham because its one of the top universities for chemical engineering. You had to get at least two Asin Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry to get in. It was a full scholarship, with boarding, and pocket money, and school fees. That’s how I ended up in Birmingham.

What was it like to move to the UK alone?

When I landed in Heathrow at 18, I had never left Zambia. I went out through the gates to find my way – and we didnt have mobile phones of course. All I had was a few British pounds and a piece of paper with instructions to catch a train to Euston, and another train from there to Birmingham. But as a young man, I didnt really feel phased – it was more like an adventure.

We had to stay at university for at least two years before we could get an air ticket back home. This was the early 90s, so communication with home was mainly through letters. We did occasionally speak on the phone but international calls were really expensive, so you spoke quickly! Those were very different times.

“We had to stay at university for at least two years before we could get an air ticket back home. This was the early 90s, so communication with home was mainly through letters. We did occasionally speak on the phone but international calls were really expensive, so you spoke quickly!”

After two years, I came back home to see my parents, before returning to finish my third year. Two years is a lot for a young man! When I came back, everything looked different. Everybody had grown.

A warm welcome in the UK

Did you make any good friends during your time there?

I made all sorts of friends – some Brits and some Zambians. The one thing that I still remember very clearly – and which set up the way I see the world – was being approached by an old couple while I was on a train one day. They were Scots from Glasgow who were in London for a fashion show, and they asked what a young man like me was doing here, all alone. I explained, and they said something like, Oh my gosh, you shouldnt be all on your own. We can adopt you!”

This was back in 1992, and very soon I was a regular visitor to their home in Glasgow. I became like the last born in the family. I spent all my uni holidays there and during term-time we spoke on the phone almost every evening.

The last time I saw them before they passed away was in about 2006, and seeing me all grown up with a wife and two kids blew them away. I got a lot out of that relationship. It was like having a dad and a mom in the country. It just goes to show you how much capacity humanity has to give.

What was your first break, after finishing university?

My scholarship bonded me to ZCCM for two years so, when I finished university, I started working at ZCCMs mine in Chililabombwe. When Anglo American bought the mine in Chililabombwe, I stayed on. But Anglo had this system of assessing employees and identifying some as high fliers”, whose development they wanted to fast-track. I was swapped out to go to Anglo American Research Laboratories in Joburg, South Africa, to work on a pilot plant with a number of very intelligent people.

It was a step up, career-wise. But, more than being a step up, for me it was about being in an environment where I could learn from highly experienced people who were doing so many different things.

Once Anglo had pulled out of Zambia around a year and a half later, everybody went back to their original country. I came back to Zambia, but instead of going to Chililabombwe, I went to Chingola to the tailings leach plant.

The journey at FQM begins

Soon, I had accepted a job offer from a UK-based chemical manufacturing company. My family was all packed up to move to the UK when one of their customers had a problem with a chemical at the Bwana Mkubwa Mine, a small operation in Ndola. That customer was First Quantum.

The company didnt have any Zambia-based engineers to assist, so they sent me. As I was leaving the site in Ndola that evening, the General Manager called me back and said, Would you like to work with us?” I explained that Id accepted a job in the UK, but the chemical manufacturing company and I agreed that Id spend a few months helping FQM to commission an expansion they were doing. We should be up and running in three monthstime,” said the General Manager. Then you can be on your merry way.”

Long story short, I didnt leave. After three months, I decided it was quite interesting working there. I loved it. So I stayed.

Anthony Mukutuma on site at Kansanshi
Anthony Mukutuma on site at Kansanshi

What was it about the company culture that appealed to you?

At the other companies where Id worked, you didnt have much autonomy. There was quite a bit of red tape, and you had to do a lot of work to convince people when changes needed to be made. Joining FQM felt like joining a company of entrepreneurs. If youre convinced theres a better way to do something, do it. You dont need to beg, or try to get the funding approved by seven people before you do it.

“Joining FQM felt like joining a company of entrepreneurs. If you’re convinced there’s a better way to do something, do it. You don’t need to beg, or try to get the funding approved by seven people before you do it.”

Is that still FQMs ethos today?

Yes, thats an ethos that remains, and the people whove worked for the company for a long time will tell you the same. In fact, its this ethos that drives a lot of the people who work with us, and retains them: that entrepreneurial mindset of being free to express yourself and your talent, knowing that if you try something in the workplace and it doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, you learn from it, and carry on.

The Land Down Under

What came next?

After working as a senior metallurgist and then plant manager at Bwana Mkubwa Mine for five years, I left at the end of 2007 to take up a job as a technical manager working in Australia out of the Perth office, doing designs for the various process plants that we were working on: the development of Kansanshi, another completely new mine called Frontier Mine in the DRC, and an operation we had acquired in Mauritania.

After a few years at it, I decided I didnt really want to do design and technical work. I was more operational and I like working with people, so I transferred to become a plant manager for a greenfield project in Finland that we had acquired – a copper-nickel mine.

The Arctic Circle and beyond

What was it like living in Finland?

It was different… The mine is in the Arctic Circle, in a place with a very small population, right up north in a town called Sodankylä. Employees lived in houses in the town, so we were sort of mixed into the community, and we drove 40 kilometres to the mine every morning. I commissioned the mine and then became plant manager, and stayed for four and a half years.

After working in Australia and then Finland, was it time to return to Zambia?

Not yet. A General Manager (GM) role opened up at a copper-gold mine – Mauritanian Copper Mines in North Africa – and, because Id spent time there doing design work and getting to know the place, I was offered the job. My wife and I decided to base ourselves in England so it would be easier for me to get in and out of Mauritania. I worked six weeks on and two weeks off. Its in the desert so its quite a harsh place to live, but I spent about four years there as GM of the site.

At the end of 2018, I went to Ravensthorpe Nickel Mine (RNO) mine in Australia to assess the state of the operation – and the nickel market – and work out what it would cost to restart it. By the beginning of 2020, the plant was running again.

Then, in March 2020, COVID hit, and we were sitting in Australia watching footage from Italy thinking, This is going to end in tears.”

I flew to the UK to check on my family. The last thing I wanted was to be so far away and in such a different time zone during a pandemic. While I was in the UK, I got a call from Rudi Badenhorst (FQMs director of operations) who said that Kansanshis GM at the time – who was from Australia – was also worried about being so far away from home. So Rudi said, Look, he’s here in Zambia but wants to go back to Australia. Would you like a role here?”

It made a lot of sense! So the two of us traded places, and I came to Solwezi in June of 2020. After living all over and being on the trot for almost 12 years, my wife and I were happy to be back in Zambia. And it turned out to be exactly the right decision.

***

In Part 2 of this interview, Mr Mukutuma tells us about the progress with S3, what having an expanded pit and increased smelter capacity will do for Zambias economy, and which of Kansanshis many community projects hes most proud of.

Look out for it later this week on our website, our social media platforms, or email info@miningforzambia.com to receive a message the minute it’s published.

 

See also: Safety is a year-round commitment

58 COMMENTS

    • Committed/ Creative / Result oriented Metallurgical/ Chemical Engineer- We saw this coming. Continue with your strong work culture

  1. Encouraging moment to read this,,,, what a great opportunity at a time,,,,, also had working spirit. All the best GM.

  2. Continue with good works bwana Anthony I learnt alot from you when we were working together at Bwana Mkubwa mine in Ndola Zambia. Missing you my boss.
    Kind regards.

  3. Quite an encouraging 👏 story. We sre proud of your achievements. My request to him is kindly assist young people from your province more especially from Kasempa to acquire jobs. I have a son who has done mechanical engineering but not accepted to join Kansanshi. He has supplied on several occasions but no chance.

  4. This is so encouraging, being someone who’s just starting a career I am moved by your story and career success sir. I have really enjoyed reading your story and it has really motivated me so much. My aim is one day to be able to tell a story like this and motivate someone thank you so much sir and may God continue blessing you in your future endeavors.

  5. Such a hard working and intelligent man. You will still make it here at Kansanshi and will not fail on this S3 project coz u’ve got what it takes to be and Executive.
    Long live boss Tony.

  6. Very equipping interview, the man who always does new things, to get things done in a different way, stands out with no phobia of squeezing results from unanticipated front. Big ups to you boss, your exploits are eve admirable.

  7. So encouraging story Sir Anthony it has moved me what life has offered you am so touched being a person from Kabwe also and am in Solwezi great things will happen too to me.
    🦅 One Mulà Africa 🌍
    💫 The BusinessMan✨ here
    🙏🏾 Honest Pays 🤗👌
    🏃All The Way 💯💞

  8. Good morning GM, we are very much proud of you, we have been inspired through your achievements, God almighty continue guiding you, thanks . May I also take this opportunity to ask where charity, Humphreys and kyamba where are they sir?

  9. What a legacy Mr. Anthony maintain with this Spirit to develop solwezi and Zambia at large. Very encouraged journey that will embrace everyone in Kansashi mine🙏

  10. inspiring journey there Mr.mukutuma. It says a lot about his humility that have felt in my few engagements with him. May God enlarge his territory.

    • I’m a pastor in Solwezi since 2001. I’ve 4 children one has done auto electrical at NORTEC he graduated 2 years ago but no one to help him get a job in the mine or anywhere else.
      The other 3 girls all finished grade 12 but for 3 and 4 years respectively they are all at home no one to help us with jobs despite having good grade 12 results.
      Please help me give my children something to do.
      God bless you 🙏

  11. Very encouraging since you are kansanshi general manager you will help young people to study abroad through your help under kansanshi scholarships.i would love one day to see my child being scholarship to study abroad.may our almighty God add more days in your life sir

  12. Very inspirational story from the big boss you’re indeed the low model to young engineers and upcoming keep up with the same spirit help us sir to develop solwezi

  13. I worked with Mr Mukutuma at Bwana Mkubwa , we were just commissioning phase two . He was soft spoken and he tutored us to remain focused during operations and know what we were doing.

  14. Mr Anthony Mukolwe Mukutuma,i remember those days at Mpelembe Secondary school while studying A levels,you’re very hard working and a disciplined God fearing man.God uplifts the humble person’s like you.

  15. You are the greatest son of FQM, continue in this trajectory so that you become the great father of this company.
    God bless you and your family.

    • We grateful to God for u our very own GM.i remember fellowshiping with you at people’s church in ndola you are such a gentle soul keep up the good work sir .

  16. Very powerful and motivating journey. You have indeed made a very big family across the global. I like the way you move along and help employees.

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