While the mining industry in Africa may be slow to recover from the lag effects of a recession that first gripped the sector 10 years ago, outsourced process plant operator Minopex has made significant strides in leaving this past behind it and has spent 2018 building momentum within its business, with great success.

The company today boasts 17 active sites across Africa and the Middle East and is preparing to grow this further in 2019, writes LAURA CORNISH.

Executive vice president and MD at Minopex, James Smith, appointed to his position in June 2018, joined the company with the mandate to take a strong business and build on its successes further.

Smith has over 20 years’ experience in the mining, industrial and financial sectors where he has held various consulting, investment advisory and operational leadership positions.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 12 2018

In his current role, he will be responsible specifically for driving the growth and development of DRA’s contract operations and maintenance business, which includes Minopex and the company’s contracts operations in North America.

Executive vice president and MD at Minopex, James Smith

Smith joined Minopex at a good time considering the company is actively busy at present.

“We are currently assisting with the commissioning of four new sites (Gamsberg, Sedibeng, SAOB and Metalkol) which has increased our total active sites by four in this year alone – not many companies in our field can boast similar achievements from this past year.”

Gamsberg

Minopex was awarded the contract to provide management, procurement and support services for the Gamsberg project.

Situated in the Northern Cape in South Africa, the project comprises the largest single stream zinc concentrator (4 Mpta) worldwide.

It is owned by Vedanta Zinc International and is currently being commissioned.

The concentrator will be using, for the first time in a zinc application, the new staged flotation reactor (SFR) technology of Canada’s Woodgrove Technologies.

Benefits of the technology over conventional mechanical cells reportedly include a much more compact footprint, reduced power and air requirements.

The process plant at Vedanta Zinc International's Gamsberg project under construction. Photo courtesy of VZI

The future for Gamsberg also looks bright with a potential second phase targeting an additional concentrator with a throughput of 4Mtpa and a smelter complex.

The Minopex and Northern Cape Metallurgical Operations (NCMO) team are on site and have focused intensively on driving this project forward despite some of the traditional challenges experienced on mining projects in Africa.

This primarily includes safety. Multiple safety initiatives and campaigns are planned for the near future and have been well received by the client’s team with the request to include personnel from their operations team to be involved.

The Minopex and NCMO team will consist of 129 personnel upon recruitment completion. A strong focus on local employment is being maintained as well as gender equity.

Sedibeng

In 2018 Minopex commenced with commissioning activities for Sedibeng Iron Ore’s Sedibeng modular iron ore washing plant, also situated in the Northern Cape near Postmasberg.

Construction of the modules is well underway and recruitment for filling key positions has begun.

SAOB

Following completion of the construction of a new metallurgical plant for South Africa Ore Beneficiation (SAOB), situated 3.2 km from Phalaborwa Town in Ba-Phalaborwa Municipality, Minopex will commence with commissioning activities on the plant. It is designed to recover magnetite.

Metalkol

Situated in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Metalkol is a copper/cobalt tailings retreatment plant that Minopex is providing commissioning and operational readiness assistance to.

Minopex has been actively involved on training activities for the operation which focused on induction, safety manuals and process operating manuals.

After completely upgrading the facility earlier in the year, Minopex is now able to host 227 learners comfortably, lectured by six trainers in six different training rooms.

It is currently standing at +- 9000 hours of training. Four out of the six rooms are for the normal classrooms training and one is equipped with 20 desk tops, which cater for IT training.

“Our success is due to the result of compilations of different strategies implemented and put in place by being practical in reducing the gap between the theory and practice.

To sum up: task planning, communication, daily report/follow-up and understanding our challenges,” project manager Richard Viljoen highlights.

Safety an uncompromised priority at Minopex

“Safety has been a big focus for us in 2018 after some notable LTI incidents in the early part of the year.

Through focus and commitment, I think we have made some significant progress in safety, is a priority that filters into every project we undertake, regardless of the scope of work we have committed to,” Smith highlights.

“We are committed to a safe working environment for all our people and are investing in leading systems and programmes to deliver this. We are driving initiatives to build a total safety culture in Minopex through various people-based safety drives.”

This bears testimony to the value Minopex places in its personnel. “People will always be at the heart of our business and we need to ensure we have an engaged team that is motivated to achieve their best at all times. Training, development and career pathing for our people is a high priority for us, as is the attraction and retention of talent at all of our sites. We acknowledge the need for greater communication and to this end are planning our staff engagement programmes for the rest of the year and 2019,” Smith continues.

What to expect in 2019

“Looking forward to 2019, I can see an exciting year for Minopex. All indications are that the global resources cycle is turning which bodes well for a strong project pipeline in the future which we intend to take full benefit of by driving our business to achieve excellence in what we do, and how much we have planned to grow the business to greater heights,” Smith concludes.

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