Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Copper boom leads to infrastructure investment in Zambia

Mining-focused engineer-ing project house TWP Consulting is in the process of establishing a Zambian base of operations in order to create efficient delivery infrastructure and consulting services for engineering, procurement and construction management contracts in the region, TWP Consulting’s Zambia manager-designate, Henry Jonker tells Mining Weekly.

Jonker says that TWP is cur- rently registering the new Zambian operation, namely TWP Con-sulting Zambia, which will provide a more effective system of client communication and delivery of consulting services, enabl- ing the company to participate in the hive of activity on the Copper- belt and the broader mining industry in Zambia.

TWP is currently exploring different locations in the Ndola and Kitwe areas in which to establish its Zambian offices, which will be strategically placed to take advantage of the flurry of exploration and mining projects under way on the Copperbelt.

“In recent years, there has been a lot of exploration activity in Zambia over and above copper, including nickel, uranium and gold. We will be focusing on increasing our presence in Zambia and tap into the many opportunities there,” states Jonker.

TWP Consulting principal consultant and head of mining engineering Jim Porter says that the Zambia mining industry has a need for Zambia-based engi- neering consulting services, owing to the increase in mining activity on the Copperbelt and in neighbouring countries.

Porter states that existing operations have undertaken recapitalisation programmes in improving and increasing mining, concentrator and smelting capacity.

“Also, new mines have started up, which have taken up infrastructure capacity, which has resulted in a premium being placed on facilities and services from accommodation to road infrastructure,” he adds.

Porter mentions that TWP seeks to establish offices in a manner that will mirror the way the company conducts its work in other regions, and also assist in both attracting and retaining staff.

Porter adds that the identification of people and companies who are Zambian resident, and the nurturing of existing relationships are another critical success factor for TWP’s Zambian base of operations.

Growth Node
Jonker says that TWP’s investment into the Zambian mining industry has been facilitated by the company’s listing on the main board of the JSE in November last year.

He says that the listing has enabled the company to expand its presence in Zambia, and other South African Development Community countries.

“We started our growth initiatives in Australia about a year and a half ago and the decision to focus on African growth, specifically Zambia, which is the current focus of the company, was made earlier this year,” mentions Jonker.

He adds that the development of a delivery capability in Africa is a strategic growth objec- tive for TWP.

“Our long-term aim is to execute projects on the Copper-belt from our Zambia base, and our goal is to have 70% local employment in the region,” states Jonker.

Projects Under Way
TWP has been contracted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) for several projects related to their recapitalisation and expansion programmes.

These projects range from mining concept studies to engineering design to mining technical services.

KCM, which is owned by metals and mining company Vedanta Resources, has a unique copper orebody.

The current No 4 Shaft project is designed to increase total mine production to 7,5-million tons of ore a year.

“We have been working on various concepts since October last year, that involve developing mining strategies for increasing tonnage over and above the current expansion activity at Konkola’s No 4 shaft,” mentions Porter.

He says that TWP has com- pleted the design of the headgear for the No 4 Shaft, which also involves the provision of shaft steelwork, underground pumping, underground crushing and ore handling, a surface substation and electrical reticulation.

TWP has also been contracted by Canadian mining and metals company First Quantum Minerals to assist in the design and imple- mentation of mine dewatering strategies in its Zambian and Democratic Republic of Congo- (DRC-) based mines.

Porter says that TWP is involved in three of First Quan-tum’s operations in Zambia and the DRC, including the Frontier mine, which is quickly developing into a large openpit mine.

“Together with mine staff, we have developed the long-term engineering design for the dewatering of the pit,” men- tions Porter.

He also points out TWP’s equity stake held by TWP Finance in mining company African Eagle Resources may create future synergies that will result from the company’s involvement in this venture.

TWP finance CE Dean Cunningham says that the acquisition of 4,48% interest in African Eagle Resources reflects TWP’s commitment to becoming increasingly involved in early-stage exploration projects around the globe.

“We regard this development as an initial stake in African Eagle and intend increasing our involvement in the medium to long term to develop a strategic stake in the company,” he says.

Regional Outlook
Jonker says that the current political stability in Zambia and the continuation thereof present a positive outlook for mining activity and investment in the region.