The volatility of the local mining industry, particularly in terms of Mining Charter III, coupled with political uncertainty and unstable power supply, is directly impacting on consulting engineers servicing the industry, says multidisciplinary engineering company GIBB Mining MD Alan Wingrove.
Moreover, owing to a current lack of investment in the mining industry, there is a lack of opportunities and projects for consulting engineers, he highlights to Mining Weekly. Subsequently, most companies are focused on maintaining capital costs to keep running the business, while new project spend is minimal, he adds.
“Most consulting firms are looking further afield for opportunities and new projects to work on. GIBB Mining, for example, has started to pick up work in Europe, the US and the rest of Africa.” The company has submitted several tenders for work in Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia and Ghana.
However, he advances that it would be ideal to work primarily in South Africa to mitigate the risk consulting firms are exposed to, as risk profiles are different abroad. He adds that the lack of local opportunities means competition in the sector is fierce.
Companies with deep pockets, typically international companies, can lower pricing, which is a privilege most South African companies do not have, he laments.
Meanwhile, GIBB has completed two projects for mining company South32. GIBB did a feasibility study for the Khuthala colliery, in Mpumalanga, which the company completed in September last year. The company also did a feasibility study for South32’s Hillside aluminium smelter, in KwaZulu-Natal, which the company completed in January this year.
GIBB has also been awarded project work entailing project controls, client support and capital cost control for mining company Palabora Copper, and has new projects in the pipeline in the areas of zinc, iron-ore and coal.
The company aims to grow the business organically by tapping into the GIBB Holdings group capacity and deploying its services in various mining projects. It also aims to exponentially expand into the rest of Africa, with a focus on East and West Africa. The East Africa development hub is focused on Tanzania, while West Africa is focused on Ghana.
Meanwhile, Wingrove emphasises that, from a consulting engineering and project management point of view, mine safety is a key focus area and a business imperative.
Engineering designs need to be rigorously interrogated from a hazard and operability point of view to ensure that the final product is safe to operate and easy to maintain, he comments.
“GIBB promotes a caring and compliant culture – that is, if there is a rule in place, stick to it. If there is a good reason to change the rule, we do so through a managed process,” he concludes.