As industries advance, technologically and organically, there is increasing pressure to maintain a leadership position that does not compromise the service or ethos of a company. And so it is with Minopex – a mineral and metal processing business that, for the past two decades, has been recognised for its excellence in outsourced operation and maintenance in the coal, platinum, gold, iron ore and diamond sectors.
The company could well have chosen to rest on its laurels, continuing to produce the standards its clients have come to expect. Minopex, however, has chosen a different approach to growth. Despite a globally depressed mining environment, the company has introduced what some would consider radically unique and original strategies, particularly in an industry that is often perceived as purely mechanical.
Gerhard Hendriksz, MD of the Minopex Group, prefers to be considered the spokesperson for an executive team that motivates diversification and delivery of the organisation’s Quality Laboratory Services division; engineering arm EnSerSa; plant operator M & E Plant; and DRA Operations. The latter, in particular, has enjoyed considerable success in the field of global contract operations and maintenance of metal and mineral processing facilities.
‘Over the past three years we have applied a rule that says “we will do it FASTIR” than anyone, and this is the backbone of the Minopex 2020 strategy,’ says Hendriksz. ‘FASTIR is a play on the words focus, accountable, safety, technology, integrity and respect.
‘Together these elements answer in our minds why a client would use our expertise over our competitors’ and encompass our company values. But FASTIR is much more than having the edge – it addresses the manner in which we prefer to take our business into the future, especially in a depressed market environment.
‘I have been in mining for the past 30 years, and that experience has taught me that the sector is cyclical – it will improve and recover. Obviously the effects of other recessive markets need to be considered. But because Minopex is more focused on an opex-based income, with long-term rather than short-term contracts, we are able to weather the industry challenges better than most.’
Subtle signs are emerging that the mining industry may be on a recovery path. Copper, for example, is often a leading indicator of what is happening in the rest of the commodities market, and the copper price has been moving upwards slightly.
The Minopex team is cognisant of industry trends such as this, yet it’s not what essentially drives them to implement world-class procurement, maintenance planning, safety and financial systems that support not just their own but their clients’ businesses.
The Minopex philosophy – of the company being a partnership business – has helped drive the industry view that their services are essential, valuable and aligned to the same end goal for the mining projects they collaborate on.
‘We believe that we are part of the owner’s team and not merely an on-site contractor. With international experience, we also have the capability to adapt very quickly to varying conditions – be those external economic factors such as the exchange rate, industry-specific technological advances, or even just preferred or different mining techniques.’
Minopex has what they refer to as their own SWAT (specialised work and training) team. Deployed around the world, this small group of highly experienced process engineers and operators have hands-on experience in every conceivable aspect of mineral processing. Their mission is to go on-site (new plants especially) and ensure the operation is up and running to nameplate capacity before handing it over to the client.
‘With an executive team of young, dynamic minds, Minopex is looking at innovative thinking to improve the current service offering to the marketplace’
‘There’s always a gap between construction completion and actual operations, which is also known as the commissioning period. This is where the SWAT team plays a vital role in assisting and training at the same time,’ says Hendriksz. ‘The team bridges this hiatus to ensure all operations work – be that design challenges or process engineering issues.
‘They concentrate on ensuring that the plant is fully operational, streamlined and that there’s a skills transfer, the latter of which is quite a challenge in various African countries where mining is a fairly new activity.’
Hendriksz argues that skills development is often given insufficient attention, and many government interventions are simply not broad enough for an industry where heavy and complicated machinery is the basis for production. ‘This has actually created many opportunities for DRA Operations to get involved in global projects because we provide skills training for a wide variety of mining and mining-related technologies,’ he says.
‘In the economic climate we find ourselves now, it has become the private sector’s responsibility to support services and products with skills transfer.
‘This means ensuring our own people are well equipped with the knowledge of mining operations. And while it may be that we invest enormous amounts into training only to lose staff later to other organisations, we are ensuring the future of the entire industry, especially with regard to the likelihood of increased mechanisation.’
In Hendriksz’s opinion, however, there will always be a requirement for skilled operators and well-trained artisans, given that equipment will have maintenance and repair needs.
Industry-related technology is forever evolving, but as the essence of mineral processing remains hydrometallurgy-based, the actual technical processes will continue to be aimed at producing the same result: converting metal bearing ore into a saleable product for the market.
‘With international experience, we have the capability to adapt very quickly to varying conditions – be those external economic factors, industry-specific technological advances or different mining techniques’
By nature, mining is typically associated with energy – especially the generation of power from coal. Research has shown that the world’s dependence on the mineral is not expected to decline hugely, particularly considering that the energy market is still a long way from generating power without it completely.
‘There aren’t many industries that are not dependent on some or other mineral in their operations,’ says Hendriksz.
‘The demand for industrialisation in many countries and the dependence on various minerals means mining is going to be part of our future for a long time. But that in itself has made the Minopex team think about the specifics of energy and other needs that the planet has, industrial or otherwise. This led us to our diversification programme, which will focus on water – yet another resource that producing industries require.’
While Minopex is interested in being involved in energy operations, it also considers water plants and agriculture as big opportunities through which to expand and diversify operations.
‘We’re placing a lot of emphasis on being creative and finding more effective ways to reduce the demand on water,’ says Hendriksz. ‘Water is becoming a rare resource and more effort should be made to preserve it.
‘The Minopex team is asking what we can do to ensure we use less water in our processes without compromising on quality – and how are we going to broaden our efforts into a much wider market so that we can make an impact on individual lifestyles.
‘We are seriously concerned that not enough is being done to preserve our water resources. With an executive team of young, dynamic minds, Minopex is looking at innovative thinking to improve the current service offering to the marketplace.’