Mining is filled with big personalities and Claude Schimper is definitely one of them. Claude, who becomes Russia’s new Regional Vice-President (RVP) as of July 1st, has not only been Kupol ‘s General Manager for the past four and half years, he’s also a playwright, director, author and passionate safety advocate.
Claude Schimper (RVP, Russia)
Claude, 47, may be best known for Kupol’s impressive operational achievements, including expanding the mill capacity from 3,000 t/d to 4,500 t/d and introducing cutting edge innovations that won the operation Kinross’ Continuous Improvement Award two years in a row. But he’s also written and directed six industrial plays during his tenure at Kupol, all based on Kinross’ corporate values.
“It’s difficult to talk to a large population, especially in a different language, and deliver a message about safety or values. The plays are a way of doing that, while having a lot of fun developing people who would not normally do those kinds of things,” says Claude, who also developed the music scores, including a version of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” with Russian, Chukchi and English lyrics. The plays all received many standing ovations.
Kinross employees participate in an industrial play focused on safety and our core values in Kupol.
While Claude has participated in a number of arts-related projects over the years, his mining roots run deep. His father was the president of the boilermakers’ trade union of South Africa and at the age of 17, he went to work in Mponeng, the world’s deepest mine, which extends nearly four kilometres underground. At 19, he had an experience that would change his life. While working underground, Claude was smashed in the face by a rock, which crushed his cheek. “I vowed I would never get hurt again,” he says. “I’ve made safety my passion ever since.”
But like his approach to life, Claude’s message on safety is slightly unconventional. For him, safety is about personal responsibility. “I tell every worker, you have to be accountable for your own situation at all times because the person whose life will be impacted is yours,” he says. “Don’t work safely for your supervisor, do it for yourself, because the only person who is going to pay the price is you.”
Employees at Kupol discuss safety on site. Photo credit: Heidi-May Schimper.
After a decade working in South Africa, Claude moved to Canada to work for Placer Dome. He later worked as a contractor and for juniors, before starting his own consulting group in 2008, working largely in Albania. He became Kupol General Manager in 2010.
“I always wanted to be a GM because you can do all sorts of amazing things with individuals in terms of mentoring them and helping to develop them professionally,” says Claude. “I like guiding and teaching, and I really hope I can continue to expand on that as RVP.”