Hard rock opencast mining specialist Concor Opencast Mining is exploring various avenues to grow its business.

This includes geographic footprint expansion and diversifying its commodity focus, MD Chris Botha tells Laura Cornish.

Having established itself as a hard rock specialist in the platinum sector, with major contracts in place, Botha says that the current state of the platinum market has not impacted Concor Opencast Mining’s business. “Opencast platinum mining remains strong and continues to centre heavily on the mix of UG2 and Merensky reef,” he says.

Commodity diversification

With its core business intact, Concor Opencast Mining, a division of Murray & Roberts Construction, is looking to establish a greater presence in other strong performing commodity areas and open up new business opportunities as well. It currently has the capacity to move 3.5 million cubic metres per month. “We are particularly keen on the coal and iron ore markets and can already boast our successes to these industry sectors,” says Botha.

The company’s first coal mining contract with state-owned miner African Exploration Mining & Finance Corporation continues to showcase its coal mining capabilities. “Our relationship with the client is excellent and we have and continue to meet all production and performance expectations.” The project was awarded in November 2010.

The company also expects to see strategic coal supply agreements come to fruition as Eskom’s Medupi and Kusile power stations start operating.

“Our joint venture contract with Basil Read Mining at Assmang’s Beeshoek mine in the Northern Cape has seen us successfully establish a presence in the region,” Botha points out, adding that the award of a second contract is imminent.

Although not a commodity, Concor Opencast Mining believes new business opportunities lie in mine rehabilitation, specifically waste handling. Environmental legislation is becoming increasingly stringent and mines have to execute and finance rehabilitation activities to comply with regulation. “We already have our first contract under our belt, which entails using waste to build a new tailings dam,” Botha explains.

Moving into SADC

Up until now, Concor Opencast Mining has focused its business primarily on projects in South Africa, which continues to support its order book substantially. “We are now exploring sub-Saharan Africa opportunities, primarily in Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Namibia, where we can enter into new territories while retaining our modus operandi. In the past 12 months, we have established a strong management team with good core competencies and experience that has helped deliver substantial growth for the business and will ensure our growth momentum continues.”

The company has already priced several contracts and could have its first African project under way in the next six months. Looking further north, Botha believes partnerships are key. “We are already engaging with a few large international opencast contractors to establish partnerships and pick up new contracts.”

Remaining competitive

While the mining industry at large remains depressed due to labour volatility, weak commodity prices and product over supply, Botha believes there are still plenty of opportunities in Southern Africa, “especially compared to the construction market”.

The company has implemented a three year business plan focusing on further enhancing its operational excellence. “We are spending a lot of management time simplifying, modifying and streamlining our systems and procedures, especially around our operational key performance indicators – productivity and cost measures. We are also looking to improve our Level 4 BEE rating as we grow.”

The company has also embarked on an aggressive training and development strategy for its operators, which it is doing through the Murray & Roberts Cementation academy in Bentley Park. “We will invest in the necessary infrastructure, including simulators, to do the job properly.

“Ultimately, we have an experienced and motivated workforce and performed well in Deloitte’s ‘best company to work for’ survey. We hope to improve our score even further in the 2013 survey.”

Safety first and foremost

Concor Opencast Mining’s entire business strategy is underpinned by a strong safety ethos. As part of the Murray & Roberts Group, we live by the zero harm policy ‘Stop.Think.Act.24/7’, and I am very happy to announce that we are a zero LTIFR (lost time injury frequency rates) business over a 12-month rolling period. We have faith and belief in our systems.”

Sidebar: Working with the unions

In September 2011, Concor Opencast Mining successfully concluded its first management consultative forum in Rustenburg aimed at developing relationships with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members on its project sites. “Based on its success, we want to expand this forum into other areas and include all unions. We have walked this route for the past two years and now have set rules of engagement. It gives us better insight into problem areas and issues, enabling us to be more proactive in solving them.”


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