A positive mood and good attendance at last months’ DRC Mining Week 2019 held in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, is a promising sign for the country’s prospects, according to Susa Maleba, SRK Consulting DRC country manager and mining engineer.
Notwithstanding the country’s many challenges ahead, the new mining legislation was generally felt to be a positive contribution for mining, said Jaco van Graan, SRK principal mining engineer – not least because of how it promotes responsible and sustainable mining practices. He said gold prospects were also raising the value of the local sector.
“The grades mined in certain areas by gold and copper mines make for very exciting prospects, as shown in an interesting presentation on the Kamoa-Kakula project,” said Van Graan. “Despite cobalt prices decreasing during the past year, there is still a strong market for it. As a by-product, it still adds value to copper producers who now produce cobalt products.”
The annual event focuses on the mining outlook for the DRC, aiming to align the growth of the sector with the international trends shaping the mining industry. With an in-country presence at its Lubumbashi office, SRK was one of the exhibitors at the event with 10 of its Africa-based experts at its stand.
“DRC is the world’s largest producer of cobalt and Africa’s leader in copper production in 2017,” said Maleba. “It has therefore always been an important market for us, especially as we expand our services beyond mining and geotechnical into surface and ground water, civils and infrastructure, and environmental and social impact assessment.”
The field of power generation and supply in DRC is also likely to see greater involvement by SRK, in terms of helping build a sustainable energy sector in support of the local mining industry – including renewable energy. He also noted the growing levels of Chinese investment in DRC’s mining sector, where SRK’s presence in Hong Kong and Beijing would add value to client relationships.
The event was a valuable opportunity for various opportunities and challenges to be discussed, said Wouter Jordaan, SRK partner and principal environmental scientist.
“There is still discussion between mining companies and the new government around the new Mining Code,” said Jordaan. “It seems there are many unresolved issues that will need to be addressed over the next year, which will ultimately also influence investor sentiment.”
The topic of reliable power supply remained high on the agenda, he said, and was an area where SRK’s expertise in civils, geotechnical, environmental and other disciplines could be well employed. SRK has already made significant inroads into the power sector, and last year completed the development of an Environmental and Social Management Framework for the Southern Africa Power Pool (SAPP).
SRK’s involvement in renewable energy drew plenty of attention to the exhibition stand, said Candice Maduray, SRK senior engineering geologist.
“There is growing interest in sustainable energy solutions in the DRC, and this is an area in which SRK can contribute our existing skills and experience,” said Maduray. “Many local companies were aware of SRK’s global presence, and were reassured to know that we had local expertise and capacity in the country.”
SRK principal hydrogeologist Benedict Mabenge, also part of SRK’s team attending the DRC Mining Week, agreed that – while the SRK image in DRC is synonymous with mining – the event helped raise awareness of the company’s other services and capabilities. He noted that SRK was one of only a few consulting companies exhibiting at the event.
All in all, the event proved a fruitful way of strengthening links with existing clients in the DRC and the region, and for meeting potential new clients, said Colin Wessels, principal engineering geologist.
“SRK’s DRC office has extensive local knowledge in the various disciplines that feed into the DRC mining industry,” said Wessels, “and their contacts were able to learn more about the range of services that make up our integrated and multi-disciplinary approach.”