With its operational base in Lubumbashi for over 10 years, SRK Consulting’s DRC office has always been locally managed and staffed; its recent step to majority local ownership now ushers in new era of transformation for the company.
“Since our inception in 2010, SRK Consulting in the DRC has always been operated by local professionals, who have grown our technical consulting service offering to the sector,” said Susa Maleba, country manager of SRK Consulting’s DRC office. “Being run by local professionals is part of SRK’s global ethos for all its offices, and the evolution of the business to become majority-owned by DRC citizens has been the next exciting step in this journey.”
The move has aligned the company with DRC’s localisation policies governing service providers to the mining industry. Globally, the mining sector has been placing increased focus on enhancing the local impact of mining operations and the services they procure. For its part, the DRC has been promoting local ownership in mining – not only in terms of financial benefits but in order to improve local skills and create more sustainability within the country’s business sectors.
“This fits in with SRK’s philosophy of being an employee-owned company and ensuring that we can service our clients regionally with local expertise,” said SRK Consulting South Africa managing director Vis Reddy. “Most of SRK’s clients in the DRC are mining companies, and we are complying with this regulation to keep doing business while assisting our clients to remain compliant.”
10 years of progress
On its establishment in the DRC a decade ago, the SRK office had five local staff members, focused initially on work related to environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA). The complement has since expanded, extending its activity into exploration, geotechnical, geological and tailings work for mining companies, as well as mining feasibility studies. Clients have included both mining majors and smaller firms.
Maleba highlighted that almost all of the initial SRK DRC team is still involved with the business, with the addition of professionals focused on social impact assessments and geology, as well as a larger network of independent local contractors.
A key figure in helping establish the Lubumbashi office was then-chairman of SRK’s South African arm, Roger Dixon.
“We were fortunate to have someone with Susa’s ability, experience and DRC knowledge in the Johannesburg office at that time,” said Dixon. “Being from the DRC, he knew how the mining industry worked there, and also understood SRK’s philosophy and what we could offer.”
Maleba noted that SRK has been one of the few consultancies in the DRC that were licensed to conduct environmental studies, a status that required registration with the DRC Ministry of Mines.
“More recently, regulations have demanded that companies carrying out feasibility studies also need to be registered with the department – and we have complied with that,” he said.
This has given a strategic advantage to SRK Consulting in the DRC, when compared to some competitors, he noted. The company recently took a pioneering step with a mining client to conduct the country’s first Cahier de Charge, and have it approved by government. Since 2018, a Cahier de Charge – or Social Term Sheet – is compulsory for all mining companies in the DRC, requiring consultation with local communities and stakeholders in preparing five-year plans for local social development. SRK is expecting that more of this kind of work will be forthcoming from the DRC market.
“The quality of our technical work has always been vital to our success – and this has been enhanced by our collaboration with colleagues in SRK offices in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia and China, for example,” said Maleba. “Each of our professionals is closely linked with other experts in their field within the SRK group, ensuring that best practice is always applied.”
Among the DRC office’s key collaborations in recent years has been with Wouter Jordaan, partner and principal environmental scientist in SRK’s Durban office and a director on SRK’s DRC Board. He has worked closely with Maleba on developing the market and creating teams within the SRK group to support projects in the DRC.
“Clients prefer to work with one team on their projects, and SRK is well set up to do this,” said Jordaan. “On a recent project, for instance, the DRC office was able to gather a close-knit group of SRK consultants including a mining engineer, a geotechnical engineer, a geohydrologist and an environmental scientist. The client could see the benefit of them working well together.”
The DRC office has already spread its wings to work for clients in West Africa and is targeting other francophone countries.
Looking forward to the coming years, Maleba expects more activity in the tailings field as mine infrastructure work picks up; SRK remains a leader in tailings design and monitoring.
“Our exploration planning and management work has also been exciting,” he said. “At one stage we had 20 drills in operation on one project alone.”
There is also likely to be a greater focus on social aspects of mining’s impact, requiring the office’s local knowledge and experience – while drawing on SRK’s global expertise in ESIA.