It stands to reason that a gold mining entity will require security guards but at some point, a determination will need to be made as to whether this function or service is provided by an outsourced provider or direct hires. Both the consideration of in-house/outsource and that of where and how they will be engaged must remain the decision and control of the gold mining company themselves. The question is, who makes this decision and do they have the right understanding/experience to make an informed decision?

Depending upon the stage of the gold mine, production levels, dispersed geographical resources, and personnel, the site will require security guard force services. Based on a full analysis of the perceived and required roles, this final number of personnel and administrative costs should then be evaluated at a financial level to determine the economic viability of maintaining this function in-house or being outsourced. Then, and only then all other factors should then be considered as to the final contracting agreement. This means that the perception of ‘cheaper’ security costs is not the final factor. Community relations, unionism, quality of providers, admin burden, standard of training, and a host of other factors need to be considered also. So many gold mining entities make this simple mistake. Yes, internal staff are definitely required in order to regulate, manage and oversee the provider and their staff but these staff members also need special consideration also. Don’t create unrealistic and fanciful expectations either, having a handful of in-house security professionals managing hundreds or even thousands of outsourced guards and the provider company. It may look “cheap” but all you have done is transfer the threat and problem to another area or another time.

Regrettably, errors are also made by engaged security management. Many are ‘security purists’, having expertise in guns, guards and gates solutions for business. Most lack adequate business acumen to be respected within the c-suite or by financial controllers, even project management. This results in ‘cost-centre’ labelling, rather than business enabling advisor status. It is essential that the final decision, contract/service agreement, governance and day-to-day management of security services be both a technical and business-based discipline. Too much of either one and you are assured dramas and even crisis.

No two security providers are created equal. The pre-sales and marketing guarantees never match with the final service delivered. Despite guarantees and assurances to the contrary, outsourced security guard services are poorly administered and lack adequate management oversight. Unless of course when it comes to invoicing and cost recovery, that is always best in class. Despite what celebrations or gloating that takes place within a gold mining entities finance and HR departments, the outsourced security provider is making considerable profit from your relationship and agreement. It is often this hubris that is exploited successfully by providers, wherever you are in the world. Celebrating a cost reduction or lower than anticipated cost put forward by your finance team will be a hollow victory as this “win” will translate into a loss of disproportional value in a very short period of time. Evidence of this will be quickly seen/experienced by the those charged with security management as they triple their workload and undertake a host of duties just to keep the service afloat, all the time performing tasks that you claim to have now outsourced. The same will be felt by logistics, administration, and operations.

Far too often, especially in remote, international gold mining enterprises, the security guard force is the dumping ground of “failed promises” made by the community relations effort or all other departments guaranteeing local employment, just not within their department. After all, ‘anyone can work in security’, right? This results in a service department, charged with the protection of assets, resources, and personnel, tainted and even sometimes dominated, by the very characters you should be trying to stop gaining access to your secrets, assets, and operations. All for the bargain price of being the lowest paid job onsite. It looks good somewhere in a consolidated financial spreadsheet but in reality costs you far more across the business.

If you are in a truly remote area or developing part of the world then you are paying for your police and military support… in one manner or another. If the agreement is a “secret” or “confidential” deal, then you are definitely in trouble, paying too much and the only one keeping the secret is your management. Your investment will result in the purchase of a new range of administrative headaches and dramas, real or perceived. The commanders and their soldiers/officers will be a constant demand on management, impact life on site and influence the local communities. You have successfully purchased a slice of national politics, government subsidization, and the administration of armed, bored and calculating individuals in uniform. Manage this wisely, daily and effectively or you have truly introduced the fox into the hen house. I am yet to come across a civilian that has effectively succeeded in the management of soldiers or police officers, despite their apparent claims to the contrary. It has been my experience that if all seems calm and well managed on this front it is because the price/profits is significantly high enough to appease stakeholders…for now.

Having been a commercial supplier of thousands of security guards to gold mines and other related industries, an engaged consultant on behalf of gold mining entities, I have had the benefit of evaluating a lot of sites, providers and guard force contracting agreements. Sadly, the problems are common and preventable. Gold mining entities need to shed the flawed idea that “its just security” and realize the significant tangible and intangible losses resulting from this poor comprehension and it’s equally poor selection of service providers that create losses across the business. It is this very decision that has also resulted in the total failure and destruction of a gold mining entities entirely. This is especially prevalent where a gold mining site has already had disruptions, violence, strikes, and conflict. The quality of your security selection determines if they were involved and if your enterprise and people will survive the experience.

Tony Ridley

Travel Safety Experts
Travel Safety Experts

Travel health, safety, security and risk management experts