JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The awarding of studies for potential mining projects is on the increase, says DRA CEO Paul Thomson, who spoke to Mining Weekly Online on the eve of his company’s thirtieth anniversary celebrations.
The head of the 3 000-employee project house, which began in Johannesburg in 1984 in tough economic conditions not dissimilar to those prevailing now, says that DRA is currently in a recruitment phase to meet the increasing tempo of demand for its engineering and project management services.
“We’re starting to come out of the dip,” says Thomson in the attached Mining Weekly Online video interview.
More than half of the business of DRA, which was originally called Dowding Reynard & Associates after co-founders Brian Dowding and Tony Reynard, is now conducted outside of South Africa.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of project studies and we’ve been awarded a number of studies,” Thomson reports.
Mining companies in Australia and Canada with tenements in Africa are increasingly drawing on the engineering capability that DRA offers at competitive South African rates.
“We’ve just begun with Liqhobong diamond mine in Lesotho, we’re working in Liberia on the New Liberty gold project and we’re about to start on another gold mine project in Ghana,”
An advantage is that South African project houses, such as DRA, are able to secure part funding for studies from South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry, using Export Credit Insurance Corporation protocols.
There is no commodity that DRA steers clear of and the company regards getting in as early as possible as key.
“For me, it’s all about the engineering. That’s where the passion is,” says Thomson, who reports “huge interest” from West Africa in the company’s services.
While the first 30 years of the growth of DRA have been overwhelmingly organic, as it expands its Canadian and Australian footprints it is opting for acquisitive growth.
It is hoping to be able to deliver some significant acquisition news “in the very near future”.
“We’re very close to signing a deal,” says Thomson.
While large infrastructure companies are themselves acquiring minerals capability, DRA is keen to keep its independence and be able to work with any of the large companies on any of their projects.
“We don’t want to be joined at the hip with any specific infrastructure supplier or constructor.
“But the industry is becoming more and more integrated and we’re going to have to partner with a lot more people as the projects get bigger and you need bigger balance sheets.
“You’re going to get a lot more consortium-type business taking place, especially in the West African region, where you’re going to have to have three or four or five partners probably together with government to be able to deliver a project,” Thomson comments in the Mining Weekly Online video interview.
DRA has a number of large projects on the go and is completing Randgold Resources’ Kibali gold-mine project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Glencore’s huge Tweefontein coal project in Mpumalanga.
While some companies only want a portion of what DRA has to offer, it is able to provide a full spectrum of capability, embracing shafts, headgears, winders, mine planning and mine optimisation, through to processing plants and even maintenance and operations, carried out by group company Minopex, which employs more than half of DRA’s 3 000 employee complement.
Minopex runs mines, procures and maintains mineral processing plants and surrounding infrastructure on behalf of mine owners, which Thomson sees as adding a unique string to DRA’s bow.
There is growing demand for infrastructure around mines and DRA recently completed its first hydroelectric plant for Kibali and is currently managing the construction of another two at the DRC mine.
More than half of the business of DRA, a private, employee-owned company, is repeat business.