While its parent company faces challenges with its business rescue plan, Basil Read Mining operations continue to go from strength to strength on the back of its product offering and customer support.

GERARD PETER speaks to Basil Read Mining’s executive officer and MD NATHAN WILLIAMS about the division’s ongoing success.

The name Basil Read is synonymous with construction, however, for decades the group has been successfully offering services to diamond, copper, gold, platinum, chrome, uranium, coal, manganese and iron ore mining companies throughout Southern Africa.

This article first appeared in Mining Review Africa Issue 5, 2019
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Such services include drilling and blasting; load, haul and dump; materials handling; and bulk earthmoving.

Basil Read Mining’s recent key contracts include the Tschudi copper and Skorpion zinc mining projects in Namibia, as well as De Beers’ Venetia diamond mine in South Africa’s  Limpopo Province.

Williams attributes the division’s ongoing success to the fact that the business model is very different to the group’s past construction activities.

“What has held us in good stead over the past few years is the fact that we have a big machine rebuild capability and specialised repairs that allows our equipment to last more than one lifecycle,” he says.

“This has helped us tremendously over past few years while cash was scarce in the group.”

In addition, Williams states that the contact structure in mining is different to the construction industry where a consulting engineer is the third party that one has to work through in order to raise issues with a client.

“In mining, you are able to liaise directly with the client about any payment, contractual or operational issues,” he adds.

In view of this, Basil Read Mining appoints a contracts manager that acts as a site interface to ensure constant engagement with a client.

Williams believes that ensuring a good relationship with clients has further added to the division’s success. A case in point: often times Basil Read Mining has been appointed to work on more than just its principal contracts on mining sites.

“We have built tailings dams and leach pads for some of our clients and when these clients open new mines, we are the people they want to speak to,” he states.

Efficiency and availability of plant ranks high on the list of priorities for Basil Read Mining operations. To that end, Williams points out that his division has plant availability upwards of 85% on most of its sites.

What’s more, meticulous attention is paid to maintenance and plant readiness for use. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that most equipment goes through two to three lifecycles before eventually being replaced.

Innovative technology and giving back

Furthermore, Basil Read Mining boasts a good safety record and prides itself on being the best contractor on site when it comes to safety, says Williams.

Safety is enhanced through technologically innovative equipment. For example, the company supplies trucks with on-board monitoring systems that produce information that a client can easily analyse.

In addition to this information, Basil Read Mining regularly provides feedback to the client regarding safety and productivity of its earthmoving equipment.

Meanwhile, Williams adds that enhancing the lives of those communities in which it operates is also a key objective forthe company. It is for this reason that the company has implemented a number of corporate social investment (CSI) projects in these communities.

“Our employees on our contracts are drawn from communities around the mines. As such, not only do we provide upskilling and employment for the duration of a contract but we also reinvest into the community with various upliftment initiatives,” states Williams.

Once such initiative is being undertaken in Lesotho, where Basil Read Mining has a nine-year contract with Firestone Diamonds. Basil Read Mining appointed its own team member to conduct a survey in the community to find out what its needs were.

Together with Firestone Diamonds, the parties came up with a community development programme. Today, the company is assisting with installing lavatories on the neighbouring homesteads as well as providing electricity to the nearby community by using power offshoots from the mine, as a long-term initiative.

So, while the group continues to take financial strain, Basil Read Mining is still on a firm footing to grow its operations throughout the region.