"Mining companies are doing more things themselves and delegating work in the form of short-term contracts."
How has the demand for MCSC’s services shaped up in the past months?
We continue to operate as a mining subcontractor, in compliance with the latest subcontracting law. For example, for the past two years, we have been working with ERG on the Metalkoal RTR project near Kolwezi, which consists of two former tailings dumps containing around 110 million t of reserves. The operators are recovering the tailings washed down the river, and we recently put in a tender to take charge of organizing this project, because that is where our real added value lies.
We have another project in Likasi on the management of a mine, and we are also working on projects with mines that are aware of our expertise and added value. We are trying to move towards partnerships to improve cooperation between us and the mines and create win-win situations. In our field, the mines do most of the PEA and PFS and, the moment they know about it, they launch the tender. We are trying to collaborate more fully and across the whole approach because these preliminary discussions enable projects to move forward more effectively.
Between ESG, safety, and efficiency, what are mining operators’ priorities today?
For the moment, it is all about productivity. In the specifications, the mines set out their ESG conditions, but price remains the key factor in decisions. In some mines, you have to complete “know your customer” (KYC) verifications and prove your expertise in these areas. We feel that this is evolving and becoming more important, but it is not the top priority. At MCSC we are still “lost time injury” (LTI) free, with no incidents resulting in lost time, and that is something we are very proud of. The Likasi project is a good example of how customers benefit from our strong safety standards. We brought in our safety standards to protect our employees and our equipment, and the customer ended up adhering to our procedures.
How do you assess the current business environment in the DRC?
Mining companies are doing more and more things themselves and delegating work in the form of short-term contracts. I get the impression that sometimes this is to the detriment of quality. In this environment, the notion of price is paramount. That gives rise to a pop-up of companies that pride themselves on having expertise when in reality they lack competence. To put it lightly, everyone here is inventing something for themselves.
Fewer large-scale projects are being delegated.
What is the state of the labor force in the country?
Attracting and retaining talent remains complicated. There is a paradigm; people who work for the miners are paid more than those who work for the subcontractors. We have to sign non-poaching clauses because the mines are trying to recruit our best talent. You always have to train and re-train.
On the other hand, the middle class is rising and is more well-educated. Many Congolese return after training abroad.
How has the energy transition impacted the demand for your services?
The energy transition has changed the game. There is an incredible rush to this country, even if it's dominated by China. The USA is making a comeback, and that could reshuffle the deck here. Europe seeks to create partnerships. The way we work here doesn't always correspond to other countries, but it's a country that is exploding. We are interested in following all these “future-facing” metals.
What is your growth strategy in the months to come?
Our priority will be to implement the projects that best suit us. We don’t focus only on the DRC and are trying to keep an eye on what's happening in other African countries. West Africa is a fast-growing region and we want to continue to diversify geographically. Finally, we want to make progress on sustainability. Even if we are one of the good performers, there is always room for improvement.