Compared with the rest of Africa, Ghana’s economy and political environment are relatively stable, which is encouraging the expansion of mining companies and suppliers into the West African country, says electric motors and drives supplier Zest WEG Group.
“Zest WEG Group has been active in West Africa for several years and we felt it necessary to offer local regional support to our established customer base,” says Africa country manager Werner Bester.
He tells Mining Weekly that West Africa remains a key focus area for the mining sector, owing to the availability of various commodities in the region, such as gold. “The discovery of oil and gas in the region has also attracted exploration companies and investors.”
Bester adds that Zest Electric Ghana was established in 2010 to provide technical support for new and existing customers and projects in the region. “We currently have a significant percentage of the market share for the supply of low-voltage motors in Ghana,” he says.
The company stocks WEG electric motors and variable-frequency drives (VSDs) in a warehouse in Tema and another in Accra, both in Ghana.
“This is one of the reasons why Zest WEG Group has been so successful in South Africa, as it carries a significant product stockholding, which makes business easier for customers as it eliminates waiting periods,” notes Bester.
To date, Zest WEG Group has been keeping a stock of low-voltage motors and VSDs, which have an installed base in Ghana.
The company also offers customised motor and variable-frequency drive training courses at its training facility, in Accra, as well as on-site training, depending on a customer’s preference.
“A local sales team is available to assist clients in Ghana. We are providing customers with the peace of mind that there is always available stock and technical support when a plant is operational,” says Bester.
He tells Mining Weekly that part of the com-pany’s culture is to continually investigate ways to improve response times and customer sup- port in the outlying areas in Africa.
Part of this strategy requires Zest WEG to listen to customers and provide them with the necessary levels of support. “We are in the business of not only selling a product but also offering a range of products, which can, in many cases, form a packaged solution for customers,” says Bester.
Zest WEG Group says the Ghanaian mining industry has welcomed its investment. “The locals have recognised the benefits of being able to deal with a Ghanaian company for local support,” states Bester.
Response times are also much faster and site visits are more frequent than what they would have been, had they been supported from an office based outside Ghana. Further, investing in a local stockpile of electric motors in Ghana has reduced delivery times substantially, which has benefited mining houses directly.
Bester highlights Zest WEG Group’s estab- lished partnerships with Ghana-based mining companies and says the company undertook several projects in Ghana and West Africa before it established the Ghana branch.
He adds that Zest WEG has particularly strong business relationships with gold mining companies AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Golden Star Resources, Kinross Gold and Perseus Mining, which all have operations in Ghana.
“We believe our relationships with these companies have been fostered through our ability to provide consistently high levels of technical input and support for customers, even in remote locations.”
At the inception of Zest WEG Ghana in 2010, seven permanent staff members were employed to provide local customers with technical support and training.
The company has only employed one South African; the rest of the staff complement comprises Ghanaian locals. “One of Zest WEG’s aims is to upskill local communities,” says Bester.
Further, the company boasts a full-time training officer, based in Johannesburg, and facilitates technical and product training in South Africa and other parts of Africa. “Our technical staff members have received training on our full product offering and they receive ongoing on-the-job training,” he adds.
Bester notes that, through the company’s in-house appraisal process, individuals’ training needs are identified and training is arranged accordingly. Zest WEG Group also offers training for customer personnel.
Zest WEG Group tells Mining Weekly that, as with other African regions, Ghana faces logistics challenges. “Shipping, and clearing goods at customs take longer in Ghana than at other international ports,” says Bester.
He adds that understanding the local culture and finding skilled human resources to fit into Zest WEG Group’s organisational structure can also be a challenge.
“Having been active in this region for some time, we have developed a sound knowledge and understanding of the logistics challenges that need to be overcome to get products and people into Africa.”
Bester adds that Zest WEG Group, which is not a newcomer to operating in Africa, has made a smooth transition into Ghana, benefiting its customers.
Zest WEG Group has supplied the Bibiani gold mine, situated 250 km west of Accra and owned by Noble Mineral Resources; the Tarkwa gold mine, situated in the south-west of Ghana and owned by Gold Fields; the Central Ashanti gold mine owned by Perseus Mining, situated 195 km north-west of Accra; and the Bogoso gold mine, situated 300 km west of Accra and owned by Golden Star Resources.
Zest WEG Group offers these mines low- and medium-voltage motors, low- and medium-voltage VSDs, soft starters, containerised solutions, motor control centres, electrical houses, electrical and instrumentation installation, transformers, generators, sub-stations, the design and installation of diesel motors, heavy-fuel oil and gas power plants, as well as cogeneration and hydropower solutions.
The company has also supplied the Bibiani gold mine with two 750 kW WEG medium-voltage VSDs for pump applications, as well as two 7 MW 6P 11 kV mill motors to the Central Ashanti gold mine for a dual-pinion drive ball mill.