Becoming a sustainable and relevant mining industry service provider requires a genuine effort to meet and address issues of localisation and transformation, while fostering local partnerships to develop extractive projects in African countries, suggests engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services provider Erudite Strategies.
Following Erudite chairperson Vince Raseroka’s presentation on ‘Leading the Change for a Sustainable Mining Industry’ on August 2, Erudite CE Johann de Bruin and Raseroka spoke to Mining Weekly to elaborate on the points raised during the presentation.
Raseroka noted that, while the South African expression batho pele (people first) has been entrenched in the Constitution, another vital expression, vuka uzenzele (wake up, and do it yourself), has seemingly fallen by the wayside.
He explained that Erudite, a relatively new player in the EPCM space, was effectively founded on the principle of vuka uzenzele, as he and the other shareholders noted that the African mining industry was “hungry” for an Africa-focused EPCM service provider.
De Bruin added that opportunity had been created through the substantial consolidation of local EPCM firms during the past decade.
Further, these global service providers with global, institutionalised shareholding faced a seemingly insurmountable transformation challenge.
Raseroka added that Erudite was already a transformed company and, while other EPCM providers would be trying to meet compliance targets, Erudite would be focused on developing partnerships that would enable it to become the leading engineering service provider in Africa.
“We would like to leverage our African expertise and experience to partner with mining companies, investors and other stakeholders to overcome some of the challenges that are uniquely African.
De Bruin noted that it was an opportune time in the industry, as global perception suggested that commodity prices were trending upward, which, when combined with increased urbanisation in Africa and South-East Asia, bade well for the extractive industries.
“Extractive industries are ultimately the industries that create growth . . . whether it’s oil and gas, mining or agriculture, these industries have the ability to create sustainable wealth,” De Bruin stated.
Raseroka cited changes in African leadership, population growth and a general sense of change as factors that contributed to economic growth, but cautioned that business could not become complacent because of seemingly improved economic conditions.
“The worst thing that the business community can do is to sit back and wait for others to resolve our country’s challenges . . . vuka uzenzele.”
De Bruin emphasised that, to ensure the sustainability of the South African economy, businesses needed to actively foster a genuine commitment to transformation.
“Africa does not need another global EPCM. Africa needed an EPCM that is committed to the continent and has Africa as its primary focus, rather than just a “region” in a greater group that can generate hard currency profits to support hard currency overheads,” Raseroka stressed.
“[Moreover], Africa should be seen as 53 unique countries,” added De Bruin.
Erudite meets both criteria as its approach is tailored to each country, founded on the principle of “being relevant to the jurisdictions in which we are active, and underpinned by decades of successful project development experience on the continent”.
Raseroka noted that Erudite intended forming local partnerships when developing projects outside South Africa to firstly acquire local input, gain credibility and, where necessary, further skills development.
“Some of the problems extractive industry players face in a African environment are due to prescription . . . usually international companies approach African projects by implementing best practice ideals or concepts; however, there are unique elements that, if not addressed, may compromise the entire project,” he stated.
De Bruin stressed that Erudite, and the South African mining industry as a whole, had a wealth of knowledge acquired over more than a century of mining, and that South African companies were obliged to take that expertise into the rest of Africa to assist in sustainable wealth generation and industry development.
“We have something particular to offer Africa; we’re not trying to compete with the big multinational EPCMs for global projects. Our focus is Africa!” De Bruin noted.
The local component of a mining project varied from country to country, said de Bruin. “Just because you understand how to build a project in Ghana does not mean you can apply the same methodologies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Thus, Erudite’s partnerships would be country specific.
Further, Erudite appeared to be the bridge that would help new-generation owners create wealth, by providing the technical and social expertise to develop projects from concept through to detailed engineering to construction development and commissioning.
De Bruin noted that the commodity landscape had changed, as battery minerals had become more prominent, and companies seemingly “shifted toward short-term thinking in a long-term industry”.
He noted that Erudite, as a smaller Africa-based, Africa-focused, acquisitive EPCM provider, had the flexibility, knowledge and capability to adapt and grow in a way that global EPCMs could not.
However, Raseroka stressed that Erudite’s Africa focus had not closed it off from international partnerships.