The new Lubumbashi office is an assurance to clients that it is serious about doing business in the DRC, and the company’s presence will be advantageous in attracting future contracts in the country.
SRK Consulting chairperson Roger Dixon says that the company experienced a surge in work during 2009 in the DRC, which is continuing into 2010.
“We felt that our presence in the country would be advantageous for future work. We have now acquired full registration with the DRC authorities to operate within the country,” Roger says.
The company used the ser- vices of international business law and litigation firm Fasken Martineau, of Canada, to handle the registration process.
Dixon explains that SRK sees two major areas of work in the DRC where they can provide specialist services. The first is geohydrology. The mining operations often have vast amounts of water associated with them, which can affect pit slope stability if not handled correctly. SRK can provide an integrated approach through experienced geohydrologists and geotechnical engineers responsible for pit slope design.
The second area of opportunity for SRK, Dixon adds, is implementing environmental management and social engagement plans. “Communication with the local communities is very important when mining operations start up or close down, and more emphasis is being put on environmental management by local and international authorities. The DRC has an unfortunate history with regard to environmental and social management. We are able to assist mining companies when it comes to social and environmental management and engagement in the future,” Dixon says.
The Lubumbashi office, which has an initial staff complement of two people, has the potential to grow in the coming months. Dixon says that, when the time comes, SRK Consulting plans to employ Congolese French and English speaking engineers. Employees will be able to own shares in the DRC company, similar to the SRK model applied throughout the world
SRK Consulting is involved in a number of projects in the DRC, such as feasibility studies, competent person reports, as well as providing specialist environmental, social and geoscience input to individual projects. The principal commodities mined in the DRC are copper and gold.
Dixon says that the company’s mining business unit was not severely hit by the recession, although there was a slight decrease in business. He attri- butes the unit surviving the crisis to many clients looking for bargains in a difficult financial climate. There was a demand for prefeasibility, feasibility and, especially, due diligence and competent person reports – particularly with banks and financial institutions becoming more stringent in the due diligence process before providing funding.
SRK Consulting is already looking ahead and will open another African office, probably in Ghana, later this year. Dixon says that the company is cur- rently doing about 80% of its work in sub-Saharan Africa, with the remaining 20% being done in South Africa.
“We are receiving more and more work from countries within Africa, including Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.”
Dixon says that it is an extremely competitive market at present. He explains that, with the global recession lifting, everybody wants to get their mining projects up and running, but he believes that the consulting engineering industry will be challenged to meet the increased demand for studies to be undertaken.
“We face a huge challenge to meet tight deadlines as many clients are looking for technical reports with which they can solicit capital for projects from investors. Unfortunately, some will lose out on the opportunity, as not everybody can be accommodated at once,” he says.
Meanwhile, SRK Consulting is involved in completing a major prefeasibility study for a large South African company, as well as completing two competent person reports, one of which was for a company in South Africa, for use on the London Stock Exchange. Dixon says that the company has also substantially increased its specialist team of experts in the coal-mining sector. The team grew from only two employees, to 15 employees in a period of five years.