Peter Tapson relocated from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s sweltering tropics to Siberia’s snowy tundras.
Inspiration from the tropics to the tundras
Peter Tapson, 51, is an EMPR Director at Vostochnaya Technica in Siberia, one of the most isolated and coldest places on earth. What makes his story even more remarkable is the fact that he moved with his wife and two children from one of the world’s most tropical climates, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Peter started on 19 January 1981 in Pretoria, at what was then known as Barlow Noordelike, as an apprentice Diesel Fitter. “To me, a Service Manager position was the ultimate,” he says. “I remember telling my fellow apprentices that one day I would be Service Manager, and they all burst out laughing. I grin now when I think of that.”
He had a strong service background, advancing through the ranks to Service Manager of Mining and eventually Operations Manager in the Component Rebuild Centre. He then decided to take a more general role and took the position of Operations Manager in Kuruman in the Northern Cape. “The iron ore market was doing well, and we laid the foundation to what is now a very successful company,” he says. In 2007 Barloworld entered a joint venture in the Katanga Province of the DRC and Peter was offered the position of General Manager of Mining. “Originally, the job was declined by the first candidate and I just put my hand up and asked,” he explains. “We moved up, growing the six staff to about 150 in three years. These were the days when you took six hours to cover 150km, and there was no infrastructure. It was a great challenge, and you always knew that tomorrow would be different from today. You were just not always sure what that difference was going to be.”
In 2010 Peter was offered the position of Regional Director for the Russian Far East and Yakutia, based in Magadan, probably one of the most remote cities in Russia. At the end of 2012 he moved to Siberia’s Kuzbass region, to Novokuznestk, and took up the position of EMPR Manager, focusing on underground coal mining. “Magadan was a wild and exciting environment – mountains, sea, forests and rivers,” he says. “Novokuznetsk is a very industrialised city in the heart of the coal fields, but there are some fantastic places out of town, and we have the best ski resort in Russia just down the road.” In his spare time he managed to achieve two goals – to go ice fishing on the pack ice out to sea, and to catch wild salmon in the rivers. “I’ve done both, and it was absolutely fantastic,” he says. “I am now trying to ski, but this is proving harder than I thought!”
Peter has always had a sense of adventure, and considered the move a great chance to do and see things very few people have ever seen or done. “I am motivated by achieving targets in harsh, unforgiving environments,” he says. “And no matter where I am, I want my operation to be measured against world class best practices and not measured by region or country standards. Secondly, the company has treated me well. I did not have to break service to do these things and I always knew that if I got into a precarious position they would move heaven and earth to help. The company never backed down on a single commitment.”
He has seen Barloworld make a difference in the areas he’s worked, firstly by making the staff aware of the company’s ethics and values, which rubs off onto their families and eventually into the community. “We are very quickly recognised in both business and social circles as an ethical company with strong company values,” he explains. “We partner with different institutions to help train youngsters who are leaving school, which gives them a good start in life – even if it’s not with Barloworld.”
Peter is often complimented on what he has achieved and sacrificed to get where he is. “Several people followed me to the DRC,” he remembers, “and I think the reason is that I support them, train them and never expect them to do something that I would not or have not done. I always try to stay positive and show my excitement, and I have never turned down a challenge.”
Peter has had quite an experience in his new home, and rates his best personal experience as driving through the wilderness with his wife to go ice fishing. In terms of his work, he says it’s been visiting an underground gold mine in the Arctic Circle and staying there for a while. When it comes to his dreams for the future, he thinks of his loved ones. “Firstly, to have my family live close to me again one day, as without their support I could never have achieved and experienced what I have,” he says. From a professional point of view, he’d love to stand up in front of a young and upcoming group of aspiring managers and motivate them to try and do things that the average person would not even dream of doing. “Then,” he says, “just to test myself, I’d like to walk to one of the poles. I have been in the Arctic Circle, so I realise the challenge involved! I’d like to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or climb to the base camp of Mount Everest, which is actually higher than Kilimanjaro.”
For this dynamic and inspiring Barloworld team member, there are always new heights to scale and new challenges to tackle. “I’m not sure what the future is going to involve,” he says, “but I have a feeling it will be exciting".
Did you know?
The Congo Equipment formed in 2006, which was a joint venture between Barloworld Equipment and the French Caterpillar dealer ‘Tractafric’ as ‘The’ Caterpillar dealer in the DRC’s Katanga Province, a rich mining territory with enormous potential. Primary markets are copper and cobalt mining, limited construction at this stage.
In 1998 South-West Siberia was incorporated in the company’s dealership territories and has since been expanded into a dealership of 9,8 million square km, covering six time zones that also include Eastern Siberia, Yakutia and the Russian Far East. Barloworld reached agreement to acquire Wagner Equipment’s 50% shareholding in our Russian Caterpillar equipment joint venture, known as Vostochnaya Technica (VT) in 2010.
Following the acquisition of the Bucyrus equipment distribution business in southern Africa and Russia in 2012 from Caterpillar Global Mining, Barloworld Equipment now sells and supports the broadest opencast and underground mining equipment product line in these territories.
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