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Miners relying more on consulting engineers

An image depicting two consulting engineers wearing bright orange vests and hard hats overlooking a mine site, standing next to a white vehicle

ADAPTIVE MEASURES Despite mounting pressures placed on consulting engineers by reporting standards, Reddy says consulting engineers have adequately adapted to meet necessary requirements

27th May 2022

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Writer


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As demands on the mining sector become increasingly onerous and complex, mines’ reliance on consulting engineers has grown, particularly in terms of health and safety, as well as environment, social and corporate governance (ESG), says engineering consultancy SRK MD Vis Reddy.

Over the past 20 years, most mining firms have, for various reasons, scaled down their in-house technical capability, resulting in their relying more on consulting engineers and scientists.

“It is certainly no understatement to say that the demand for our expertise and advice is greater than ever,” he adds.

Reddy tells Mining Weekly that client requirements have become more diverse, whereby consulting engineering services now include greater involvement at the level of operational support, whereas traditionally, consulting engineers would focus on client requirements at strategic, planning and design level.

As a result, project teams on mining projects now require environmental expertise, social scientists, data scientists and data experts, in addition experts in traditional mining discipline.

Meanwhile, consulting engineers are filling skills gaps in various sectors, and are increasingly relied upon as a repository of institutional knowledge and experience, explains SRK director and principal consultant Andrew van Zyl.

“Consulting firms typically generate and store large volumes of information and technical data and mines will often request this data from us, especially where rapid staff turnover or a change of ownership disrupts the mine’s information sources.”

Consequently, SRK is contributing specialist skills in areas where individual operations or companies cannot warrant having their own experts or where the number of experts that could be employed does not facilitate growth and innovation, he says.

Additionally, consulting engineers in mining have been affected by the steady increase in reporting requirements.

Sparked by financial scandals in the exploration funding space in the mid-90s, he notes that mining codes began to be developed to regulate reporting on resources, reserves and valuation done by mining companies.

Mining companies now have greater responsibility in their reporting processes, which requires independent verification provided by competent persons in consulting firms.

These standards have benefited the mining sector by enabling investors and financial institutions to have greater confidence, which, in turn, reduces the perceptions of risk and can facilitate finance flowing into the sector, adds Van Zyl.

The role of consulting engineers in this regard is to review and sign off on clients’ technical information.

The reporting standards create a historical record of the deposits, which is beneficial for current and future mine owners.

“We, at SRK, are the custodians of a range of historical information relating to several major mines, particularly where these have changed owners,” comments Van Zyl.

However, Reddy says these regulations have also created challenges because there is more pressure on the professional conduct and capacity of consulting engineers.

Pressure has particularly increased for competent persons in mining companies and the consulting fraternity who are required to take greater ownership and responsibility for their work in a diminishing expertise pool.

For example, Reddy says the US Securities and Exchange Commission has updated its requirements for mining companies listed on the NYSE in terms of the property disclosure regulations S-K 1300, which have created additional requirements and responsibilities for competent persons.

“Despite this, consulting engineers have risen well to the challenge.”

Reddy adds that SRK prides itself on its expertise in various mining disciplines, including ESG, stating that integrating

these disciplines into the company’s project team ensures that it delivers holistic solutions that maximise opportunities and minimise risks.

“Our global network of more than 45 consulting practices on six continents enables us to provide valuable insights into international best practice and our clients benefit directly from experience,” concludes Reddy.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor



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