Following the realisation that their mining clients often need advisory services with regard to technical or operational issues at a cost-effective rate, mining services and solutions provider Dickinson Group began offering advisory services to the industry in November.
The company appointed Hans Nolte as Dickinson Group metallurgical advisory services divisional manager, owing to his extensive experience in working for senior consulting firms and an established network of experts he can call on.
Nolte is qualified and experienced to provide advisory services pertaining to technical or metallurgical issues for copper, zinc and lead mines in particular.
Nolte emphasises that Dickinson Group’s advisory services, while on a small-scale, bring value to mines in a more cost-effective way, as opposed to mining companies requesting services on any and every issue from large consulting/advisory firms.
“Services from a smaller advisory firm are also more time-efficient, since less staff are involved in the process and the amount of paperwork is significantly less.”
Nolte points out that mining companies often prefer using the services of large consulting firms, owing to their established brand and good reputation, which makes it challenging for smaller advisories, such as Dickinson Group to gain clients’ trust.
“In the metallurgical industry, especially smelters, companies are always recommending service providers to each other,” he says, noting that word-of-mouth marketing has supported Dickinson Group in gaining mining companies’ interest.
One of the world’s largest diversified mining companies, with copper smelting operations in Zambia, has employed the advisory services of Dickinson Group.
“Dickinson Group also provides refractory and a range of smelter services to the mining group. The additional advisory services are aimed at improving the client’s production efficiencies,” Nolte notes, adding that Dickinson Group’s advisory services were germinated from mining companies requesting help on other operational issues while the company executed installations unrelated to advisory.
Expanding Dickinson Group’s portfolio with advisory services also creates an extra revenue stream for the company, he says, emphasising that it is vital for any mining services provider to innovate and expand.
Nolte laments that many of the well- experienced experts in metallurgy are nearing the age of retirement, which poses a problem for mines, since there is a generational gap of about 20 years where experienced metallurgists are hard to find.
“There are graduates qualified to start working in metallurgy, but the lack of practical industry knowledge leads mines to increasingly make use of advisory firms, which have experienced staff members that understand operational or technical issues.”
Moreover, Nolte says that at a smelter, for example, a client typically consults with advisory firms when they start missing production targets. However, this is often unrelated to technical issues, but rather related to management issues, owing to the lack of practical knowledge by inexperienced metallurgists.
“Therefore, the solution is often restructuring or streamlining the metallurgical opera- tion, rather than fixing a technical issue.”
Dickinson Group also aids companies with improved throughputs and plant efficiencies, especially since mines and smelters have, over the last decade, done away with research and development departments – that normally would provide solutions – to save costs.
“Advisory services needs arise once problems or opportunities come up that are outside the mines’ core operation,” concludes Nolte.