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Female Leaders at Polyus: Svetlana Zyryanova, head of Kuranakh Mill

25 March 2019
Female Leaders at Polyus: Svetlana Zyryanova, head of Kuranakh Mill

Svetlana Zyryanova is the head of Kuranakh Mill and currently Polyus’ only female director of such a complex industrial site. In the interview, she shares the details of her life as a female factory boss.

— Ms Zyryanova, female business leaders are typically expected to be found in a business suit and a corner office... But you do not fit this stereotype at all. Do you feel comfortable running a production site?

— I’m not really an armchair expert. I spend a great deal of my time on the site. The progress with the upgrade, the production process, the atmosphere — all of this really matters to me. And I’m very comfortable wearing protective clothing; my colleagues are so used to seeing me dressed like this that they sometimes don’t recognize me in my regular clothes.

— Does your family understand your zeal?

—My working hours are long — I arrive at the site by 7 am and sometimes leave as late at 9 pm or even 10 pm. But my children are adults now and I’m grateful to them for their understanding and support. My son has followed in my footsteps and is studying to be an open pit mining engineer. It seems that some of my passion for this profession got through to him.

— Tell us about the mill that you manage

— The Kuranakh mill is turning 55 next year, and managed to significantly improve it in recent years. We installed state-of-the-art equipment for the circuits, had it painted. Last year, the Kuranakh Mill processed 5.195 mt of ore and produced 5,644 kg of gold. In 2019, we expect to ramp it up to 5.8 mtpa of ore, and that is probably not the limit.

— The mill is currently undergoing the largest reconstruction upgrade in its history, and production has not stopped.

— We are not only continuously installing upgrades, but also increasing both our processing and gold output capacity.

— What helps you maintain momentum?

— The Total Optimization Programme (TOP) and proposals from our employees for improving working conditions.

— Still, working at the mill is not easy, is it? Do you have an established team?

— Actually, we have a relatively low turnover. It’s true that the younger generation are sometimes unsure about this type of work. Sometimes it is difficult for them, because you need to closely monitor the process, you can’t get distracted.

Initially, all our operators for sorption and desorption were women. When we launched the overflow sorption, that requires more physical effort to control the drainage units and replace meshes on the cleaner screen, we decided to hire more men. They are doing well; they perform all their duties and are not disappointed in their career choices. We are continuing with the trend of recruiting both men and women for the new sorption unit.

— How are your efforts to reduce labour intensity going in such a creative team as yours?

— We have our own leaders making proposals in Kaizen, A3, and TOP formats. We are trying to engage more staff, motivate them and communicate our incentive system to them. I think, on top of financial stimulation and certificates of achievement, people feel good about improving their workplace and quality of life.

— What is your goal for the mill’s operations?

— I want it to be consistent and keep up the volumes. I want people to feel comfortable working anywhere at the mill, enjoy their work and think less about negative things. All managers want that, I think.

Svetlana worked part-time in the research lab at the Kuranakh Mill during her school years. After she finished school, Aldanzoloto sent her and her peers to St Petersburg Mining University. She graduated with a degree in Metallurgical Engineering and returned to the mill.

The Kuranakh Mill is one of the oldest mills in Russia. It has undergone repeated modernizations throughout its history, with its largest upgrade currently underway. The scale of the upgrade, and the decline in gold content in ore, which has been observed for several years, does not prevent the mill from growing in capacity and throughput.