Mining Mirror May 2018 - Page 28

In the stope Manie Kriel: driving diversification Diversification has been key to the success of the strategy followed by mining consultants VBKom, writes Leon Louw. Your company VBKom has followed a diversification strategy ever since you and four other mining engineers from the University of Pretoria decided to start your own mining consultancy 10 years ago. What was the initial focus of the company? When we developed the business plan for a mining consultancy house, our initial focus was on opencast mining services specifically. Although all five of us had a strong underground background, we felt there was a big gap, and a big demand, especially in Africa, for consultants in the opencast environment. Our research suggested that most of the mining companies in Africa used Australian or Canadian contractors and consultants for surface projects. On the other hand, the underground space in Africa was well known and well covered by South African underground expertise, with years of experience in deep-level mining. So, we were initially known as opencast specialists. Over the years, however, we have diversified operationally and geographically, and ironically, underground mining has become a key component of our wide range of offerings. The company started out in 2008 — probably the worst time for any mining- related venture to see the light, bearing in mind the near meltdown of the global economy. VBKom made it through those tough times; [26] MINING MIRROR MAY 2018 what has been the extent of the recovery since then? The year 2008 was extremely difficult, but we made it through the worst downward cycle in the past 10–20 years. Soon after the 2008 slump, there was an upward cycle again, followed by another downward cycle that started in 2013. Although not completely unscathed, these downward cycles strengthened the organisation and we are excited about the next few years. Last year, we experienced our third-best year ever, and hopefully this year will be even better. We started seeing an upswing in March and April last year. The most encouraging trend is that our traditional clients are looking at exploration projects again. This gives us a lot of scope and courage for the new year and will enable us to embark on more long-term planning for the future. You really drove the diversification strategy hard. What other services did you add to what you initially set out to do? In 2009, the company added a project management and project support service to the operation. We identified and appointed an experienced project manager. Most mining houses do have in-house project X[Y[Y[X[\]\Hٙ\[H\ܝ[\›ۈH\]X]HX]]Y\ZB]\[]H[XHHڙXX[Y\Y\\܈\[\ۂH[Kݙ\[YKH\Y[\Z[š[\X[[[Y\[^KH]HH\Hۙ[\X[[[Y\[X[KX\H\[B[\][X[[[BY\\H\H\^\\KX[H]]\Z[[[XX[ۛYK[[]^B[Z\HZ[[\\ˈHBو[][][ۈܚ[]XK]\]X]H܈\Y[8%ۛH[\[H[ܞHقHZ[H\Yۈ][YBH\Yۈ[X[ۋH QY]™[X\\[\[\HB[X\H[\H[B[\ݙHH\ˈ[Y][ۋBYYHۙ[[X[[[[œX [Y\[H\\HۙXX[K]\XY\]H؝\\[\Y][\X [\ܙHZ[B[\ݙHHݙ\[\[\ۛHHXX[\X˂[HY[[ۙYX\Y\]\H\H[]Y[\\[^ܘ][ۋ\\[YB]YXO•H\]YX\]HY[X[BY܈[\[^ܘ][ۂ\[Y\]H\™^ܘ][ۈܝ[]Y\ˈ]\B\Y[[\\H[^ܘ][ۂX]]HX[K\XX[H[]YXK\H\[Y\]HY[[\[[^ܘ][ۈ܈Bۙ[YKH\\[HۈB\ۈ[X[[\HܙHY\[Hܝ\\K[[\\[œڙX]H]HY[[Y]\]][X\YY[ZYBZ]\Z[[[^ܘ][۸&\ŠTQJH[]][]BZ[HH[[H^H[B\\\K