Turnkey furnace and industrial services provider Dickinson Group aims to secure more long-term contracts in the outsourced mining services industry in Africa in 2018.
According to Dickinson Group sales manager Brighton Mapiku, the company is working on completing three major copper-mining contracts entailing the supply of industrial vacuumation and smelter-wide maintenance services within Southern Africa.
These contracts are part of the company’s expansion strategy into the continent. The company has a particular focus on expanding its footprint in both sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. They are also indicative of the company’s ability to handle long-term contracts, Mapiku enthuses.
To aid its expansion into the continent, Dickinson Group has sufficiently capacitated its branches and agency network and is concluding a joint venture agreement with a well-renowned and leading Egyptian services provider.
Dickinson Group business unit Brokk Mining Services offers mechanised demolition machines, as well as trained personnel to several mineral processing companies and underground mines in South Africa. The machines can be effectively used for tasks, such as scaling, refractory demolitions, remote drilling, dyke mining or abutment in large mining operations.
According to Mapiku, advantages of the Brokk machines include them being remote controlled, which significantly improves the safety profile of dangerous, high-risk demolition tasks and is helpful in confined spaces, such as underground mines. The machines further allow for improved safety and productivity, as well as increased skills development of the labour force.
Dickinson Group Zambia sales engineer Alex Besa adds that the company is focused on expanding Brokk Mining Services in the next five years, particularly in terms of technical supply and labour supply.
Another service the company is currently supplying to mines in the Copperbelt, in Zambia, is industrial vacuumation.
Industrial vacuumation involves recovering and cleaning up industrial waste, including a variety of wet and dry material, such as gold ore or copper slimes, platinum, iron-ore and rock phosphate.
The company’s range of heavy-duty vacuum systems can handle the heavy industrial and mining applications that require the suctioning, transporting and discharging of both fluid and solid material.
The company uses the latest range of industrial vacuum technologies from industrial manufacturer and supplier of cleaning equipment KOKS Group. Mapiku tells Mining Weekly that “the equipment is so highly reliable, safe, quick and efficient that the company is able to step in during emergencies, such as flooding, and recover material”.
Besa further explains that industrial vacuumation is a necessary service that most mining companies need because, during mining and mineral processing activities, there are many instances of spillages. The technology presents the advantage of allowing for material to be effectively put back into the production system, thereby improving plant throughputs.
Dickinson Group has further been providing the copper mines in Zambia with mobile vacuum equipment that is tailored for operations involving thick material, such as copper slime. “The industrial vacuums remove the spillages without interrupting mining and processing activities, ensuring that clients experience continued production,” Besa says.
He believes that the African mining industry should consider industrial vacuum services because it is more efficient, effective and reliable than the alternative slower, labour intensive, less efficient and costly methods of manual recovery of spillages.
New Service Offering
Meanwhile, Dickinson Group has also implemented metallurgical advisory services since November 2017, which is a cost-effective consulting service for the base metals pyrometallurgical industry. The company shares its expertise and capabilities on the metallurgical accounting process, including analysing and accounting for the metal throughout metallurgical circuits, as well as providing diagnostics information required for making effective decisions.
The company is providing this service for mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. “Our metallurgical services have been helpful to our clients in the identification and elimination of inefficiencies and defects in their plants,” says Mapiku. He points out that unidentified defects result in decreases in mine throughputs and financial losses.
The company also began offering catalyst handling services – comprising catalyst unloading, catalyst screening and catalyst loading – as another specialised service in 2013. Owing to the high degree of specialisation, the service requires a critical team to carry out the service. The main market for this service has been the mines in the Copperbelt, but the company would like to offer this service to more companies in the African mining industry.
Besa acknowledges the challenges in offering these services and technologies, the most notable being resistance to change and adapting to new technology. Mine operators are attached to old, traditional technology, which makes it difficult to convince mining companies to apply new technology, he adds.
To mitigate this challenge, the company offers subsidised trial services, which have achieved greater success in Zambia and other Southern African countries. Dickinson Group has been awarded numerous long-term contracts after performing similar trials which provide the client with a unique perspective into the invaluable benefits of industrial vacuumation and site-wide smelter maintenance services.
Although the company faces challenges, Besa trusts that its local presence across Southern Africa, extensive experience underpinned by the group’s 110 years in the industry and the group’s expansion strategy will continue to propel its growth across the continent and result in the company securing considerable long-term and sustained contracts.