Mineral discoveries in Africa have been on the increase in the past ten years and one of the major challenges for mines is finding expert solutions in countries that have developing mining ecosystems, says global boutique consultancy The Polyglot Group renewables and resources senior consultant Jason Todd.
The Polyglot Group provides humancentric services in terms of human resources, talent acquisition, payroll outsourcing, language support and business setup. In Africa, the company is currently active in Morocco, Sudan, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. The company is also active in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
According to information stemming from various junior mining companies in the past year, those operating in parts of West Africa are currently contributing to new discoveries and development in the region, outcomes which many welcome emphatically, notes Todd. He adds that there have also been new discoveries of minerals such as neodymium and praseodymium in Tanzania, spodumene in Zimbabwe and Mali, and other battery minerals such as cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, although artisanal mining of the latter makes supply difficult to predict.
“As Africa continues to open up, many industry experts believe new discoveries will continue to unfold,” he advances.
Todd tells Mining Weekly that mining exploration is “flourishing” in Africa, creating additional needs in foreign environments, which are “loaded with risk”.
One of the ways in which outsourced services companies have strengthened their capabilities in Africa is by establishing key sets of value chain partners in these foreign environments, he points out.
“The value of this cannot be under- estimated, as it goes a long way towards mitigating risk for expert mine owners and junior mining companies wishing to operate in challenging environments.”
He notes that, in Africa, minimising risk is always high on the agenda, and outsourcing services often gets board approval, even if it comes at a significant cost premium.
“The value of partnering with someone who is ‘sector savvy’ in progressively diverse regions reassures mine owners, shareholders and other investors considerably. As a business, we’ve noticed [and catered for] the significant increase in demand for human resource solutions from large corporate mining houses and junior mining companies.”
Todd advances that mining companies tend to outsource similar critical business requirements – The Polyglot Group has observed an increase in the need for hydrology, drilling, blasting, loading and hauling experts.
Further, the need for energy experts in the next decade may increase, since mines generating their own energy could be extremely beneficial, with associated energy generation costs currently a substantial operational expenditure burden, he puts forward.
“I expect the demand for outsourced energy solutions to grow exponentially in the next 10 to 15 years,” he highlights.
Meanwhile, the need to outsource mining services is business critical amid a lack of skills in burgeoning mining markets in Africa.
Todd mentions that Africa “comes up short” in terms of skills supply for the mining sector and in general. He stresses that this needs to be addressed by transferring skills from expats to locals. Further, and more importantly, as a long-term goal, Africans need to be given the most fundamental of tools – energy and education.
He explains that access to twenty- first-century education is intertwined with energy supply. He believes that Africa needs to mine battery minerals such as cobalt, lithium, nickel and vanadium. These are indispensable for large-scale battery storage systems, which will ensure a seamless supply of energy to African communities. This will, in turn, support education.
“The skills transfer must first happen through expats. Gradually, energy generation and supply will evolve in Africa until such a stage where local skills supply is abundant. Of course, along with energy supply comes economic growth, further boosting the need for other resources to be mined. Through education, Africans will be far more empowered to adapt to progression in any field.”
Meanwhile, The Polyglot Group is working on new projects in the spodumene space and tendering for a few large ore projects. The company believes that Africa offers an enticing business case of three years and longer for regional investment, “though nothing is set in stone”.
“As a result, our longer-term strategy would likely mean more regional exposure east, west and north in Africa, in addition to working on site with our clients, that is. We will consider setting up operations in countries the directors find enterprising enough to do so.”
Expansion into Africa also requires thorough compliance considerations, which enables The Polyglot Group to offer prospective clients valuable ‘inside knowledge’ when they too choose to set up in the same countries. This is just one of the company’s host of services, Todd concludes.