By: Nelendhre Moodley
As companies surrender to the tough economic climate and the body count along the unemployment line soars, how realistic is government’s preaching that the panacea to joblessness lies with entrepreneurship? Are there any opportunities out there for entrepreneurs and emerging miners – and who will fund these ventures?
According to GIBB Mining CEO Alan Wingrove, the limited number of mining projects in the market and the excess of highly skilled people seeking opportunities heighten the challenging conditions for entrepreneurs looking to carve out a path for themselves.
Furthermore, low investor confidence, political uncertainty and unstable power supply add to the woes of all.
Speaking on the topic of interventions to building a common vision for the future to enable economic growth and revival of the mining industry, panellists at the recently held GIBB Mining media roundtable noted that despite the challenging economic climate, those with true grit and the required skill set will find a way to break into the sector and make a success of it.
According to new kid on the block Lucient Engineering and Construction co-CEO Masego Mokitimi, one does not have to look too far for opportunities: “Africa is bubbling over with prospects and is eager for development and partnerships to achieve that development – it’s a matter of having the fortitude to seek out the opportunities in whichever corner of Africa they may be.”
GIBB Mining, which was established in August 2017 to pursue opportunities in the mining sector, agrees that businesses continue to look beyond the borders, in places including Nigeria, Botswana and Kenya. GIBB Mining has recently completed a shaft upgrade project in Portugal.
“I put it to you that if one goes to any mining jurisdiction in the world, whether it is Africa, Australia, Canada or North or South America, one will find a South African there, leading big projects ,” says Mokitimi.
Given that South Africa’s well-recognised universities churn out graduates at an ever-increasing rate, Mokitimi says the entrepreneur of today needs to be nimble, aiming to deliver out-of-the-box, tailor-made solutions, aligned with individual company needs.
In December 2018, Lucient, an engineering maintenance services provider, was invited by a group of artisanal miners from Zimbabwe to help them find suitable earthmoving vehicles (EMV) maintenance solutions.
“We travelled over 2 000km to meet with diamond and gold panners looking to evolve their mining methods in order to mine more volumes. These artisanal miners were considering clubbing their finances together in order to purchase larger pieces of earthmoving equipment and needed advice on a maintenance and equipment availability solution.”
The entrepreneurs are also seeking out opportunities in Angola, in efforts to capitalise on Angola’s recent push to reposition themselves as a mining power house. “Lucient has been requested to do EMV assessment of equipment at one of the mines in the northern regions of the country.”
Apart from delivering on projects in Portugal and tendering on projects in Bangladesh and pursuing opportunities in Africa, GIBB Mining has set its sights on Europe and Asia.
“However the risks of operating offshore have to be carefully balanced against the desire for winning US dollar-based contracts,” advises Wingrove.
Emerging miner Omang Group’s CEO Bungane Kakana, meanwhile, notes that once opportunities are identified, the key challenge for entrepreneurs and emerging miners is access to funding.
“Where previously (about three to four years ago) an Eskom contract would almost guarantee a contractor the ability to raise money from local banks, today most banks have closed their doors to funding coal projects and even seeking off-shore funding is a challenge for developing coal projects,” says Kakana.
Although a local mining major did come to the Omang Group’s aid, providing a R30-million loan for the purchase of a coal processing plant and mine to get the coal miner’s (Doornrug Colliery) up and running, finding local investors is difficult, he says.
To raise the necessary capital (R150m) to get their export project going, the Omang Group was forced to seek out a multinational trading company in Switzerland to fund its export project.
The Omang Group’s mineral resources portfolio spans across coal, chrome, manganese and other mineral processing opportunities.
“There are definitely many opportunities out there, especially in Africa, but SA Mining Inc. needs to change its approach, adding a strong measure of persistence to its repertoire,” says Mokitimi.