Some of the 1,700 workers at the Ambatovy project who are now receiving thrice-daily meals in new eco- and foodfriendly packaging.

The challenge of delivering up to 5,000 meals every day for miners at a world-class nickel project has been simplified with a switch to a sustainable new meal delivery tray, according to British company Bullseye Distributors. The changeover occurred at the $5 billion Ambatovy mine in Madagascar, which is ramping up to become the largest finished nickel and cobalt operation from lateritic ore in the world. The Ambatovy project is a vertically integrated nickel and cobalt mining, processing, refining and marketing joint venture between subsidiaries of Sherritt (40% ownership), Sumitomo (27.5%), Korea Resources (27.5%), and SNC-Lavalin (5%). Sherritt is the operator of the facilities.

Ambatovy has an annual design capacity of 60,000 metric tons (mt) of nickel and 5,600 mt of cobalt. The mine life is currently projected to be 29 years. Commissioning and startup of the plant facilities were completed in 2012. In January 2014, Ambatovy reached commercial production. For the full-year 2014, Ambatovy produced 14,821 mt (40% basis) of finished nickel.

The project’s backers are committed to contributing to sustainable development in Madagascar. That commitment extends to adopting eco-friendly meal trays for the 1,700 workers who need to be fed three times a day.

Peter Prior of Bullseye explained, “Miners work hard and deserve good food. When we were first approached for this project, we identified a number of issues preventing not just a sustainable meal delivery but also affecting the quality of food and presentation. The old-fashioned burger-style plastic food trays they were using not only meant meals got cold quickly but were also difficult to transport, and food quickly became messy and mixed together. Our tailored solution solved all these issues at once.”

At the Ambatovy project, more than 5,000 meals a day are prepared in a central kitchen facility for distribution to workers at the mine and refinery.At the Ambatovy project, more than 5,000 meals a day are prepared in a central kitchen facility for distribution to workers at the mine and refinery.

Bullseye’s trays are made from paper pulp and the separate compartments are sealed with film enabling a typical three-course lunch of meat, rice, salad, and dessert to be delivered to even the most remote parts of the mine without affecting quality and presentation. In addition, before the new trays were introduced, it was not possible to include sauces or juices with food as these would run into other courses in transit. Now the meals, which are freshly made and packed in a central kitchen, can be sealed, stacked and shipped to mine workers without problem and have the big advantage that the used paper pulp trays can then be separated for recycling.

Ambatovy Camp Superintendent Andrew Sumich was behind the initiative to look for a better way to deliver packed meals to the plant and mine workers. Sumich found Bullseye on the Internet and asked them to present a solution tailored to the Ambatovy mine. “We had a problem with our packed meals, which is mirrored throughout the global mining community. Meals were often delivered late, cold and were very poorly presented. I’ve worked in many large mines around the world and I have never been truly able to resolve this problem until now,” he said.

Also instrumental in the success of the switch to the new trays was French-based site caterer Newrest, a major player in multisector catering with more than 23,000 employees around the world. With up to 1,400 packed meals, three times a day, going to the Toamasina mine itself and a further 300 to workers at the project’s refining plant, Newrest was intent upon upholding the standards it had set in other sectors such as airlines, health care and education. It soon recognized though, that however high the quality of cooking, there were limitations placed on food quality by the previous packaging and delivery method. Newrest’s country manager for Madagascar, Pierre Maartens, said, “Andrew asked us to work with Bullseye to deliver the new packed meal solution. So, we developed a new range of menus especially created for the new packaging. Bullseye worked directly with us to install the sealing machines, train the operators and organize the distribution process with insulated bags that they had created especially for us.”