CSA Global is targeting the Americas to further increase the company’s global reach.
The Perth location represents CSA Global’s cornerstone office, but the company has a presence around the world. How do you intend to expand the business geographically?
We acquired a firm called A.C.A. Howe International last year in Toronto that is crucial to bolstering our existing capacity in Canada as part of a broader intent to expand our presence in Latin America and the Americas generally. In general terms, the TSX companies spend most of their money in the Americas, and globally 50% of exploration funds are directed to the region, around 25% of which goes to Latin America. Additionally, several ASX listed companies operate in the area and wanting to accomplish more. Therefore, we are looking at a number of Latin American countries to establish a presence that will enable us to grow our capabilities in that market.
Whilst the Americas is a focus, it is not the only area that we are striving for growth. Australia, Africa and Europe remain significant and growing markets for us and we are keen to achieve further sustainable growth of market share. We are investing in Central Asia and the Middle East and we are pleased to see increased activity in SE Asia again.
What is the importance of greenfields exploration to the future of Australian mining and how does CSA Global support this form of exploration?
Greenfields is crucial to the success of any mining industry, and it is critical in Western Australia where there has been a significant reduction in greenfields investment in response to equity markets. Retail and institutional investors are not rewarding companies for taking long-term risks because they want to see near-term cash flow; either through an operating mine or a project that has development potential. To demonstrate that potential, a company must search for extra resources typically by undertaking brownfield exploration to add to the existing project resources. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for the discovery of significant new deposits to replace those currently in the pipeline. The role we play is fostering top talent that aids in conceptual greenfields targeting by providing specific expertise and being a repository of information for companies. We also work with governments to do subcontinental geological studies so that countries can highlight the investment potential of particular regions. A key component to successful regional exploration is government commitment to pre-competitive geoscience data to provide free or low-cost regional information to attract exploration and mining investment.
What outlook does CSA Global have for WA involvement in commodities such as lithium, graphite, and cobalt that have close ties to the renewable energy sector?
Western Australia is very well-endowed for minerals used in the manufacture of batteries, and our geographic proximity to Southeast Asia means we are particularly well-suited to supply the battery manufacturing industry in the region. Beyond our hard rock lithium projects that are being explored and developed, we also have significant nickel-cobalt laterite resources, huge bauxite operations as well as some graphite deposits.
In terms of renewable energy, there has been huge growth in the take up of domestic and industrial solar systems and this increases the demand for the minerals that go into that like silica and bauxite, which Western Australia also contains. With additional (yet small) increases from other renewables such as wind and wave power, the trend for renewable power continues to be upward. I believe the WA mining industry welcomes this – anything that adds competition or flexibility to the power industry is welcome and the extra transmission lines and batteries require more copper and other minerals – increasing demand, so all good.
How have new innovations improved the industry’s safety standards?
Augmented reality has been used to enhance safety training and allow better visualization of what the project looks like. Technology enables us to provide a 3D model of the mine that can be viewed on a smartphone. Standing over a site, one can look into the earth and see what the deposit looks like. From a safety perspective, this also allows hazards to be more easily identified. Virtual reality can be used in training to run through different emergency scenarios from the safety of a controlled space, similar, to how pilots are taught in flight simulators. Seeking to improve an individual’s response time and reaction to crises by simulating that an experience will hopefully resulting in better outcomes in the event of an actual incident.
How must the mining industry evolve to keep up with the rapid pace of technology and what role does CSA Global play in aiding that process?
Our clients are increasingly outsourcing more of their IT functions to service providers. Investing too heavily in in-house IT infrastructure risks a greater level of redundancy because the technology changes at such a rapid pace. CSA Global’s own IT used to be part of back-office support, but we now offer IT and technology as a service to augment our technical services.
A large proportion of the mining industry is comprised of juniors that do not have that capacity, and subsequently may be at risk of data loss or cyber-attacks. The top tier accounting firms see this as a huge risk and CSA Global shares this view. An exploration company’s value on the stock exchange is based largely on their data. If that information is not adequately protected or backed up, then millions of dollars that went into collecting that data can be lost. We therefore encourage our clients to move away from older hard drives and server backups to cloud-based services with multi-storage locations and encrypted security. But just as quickly as the solutions are put into place to cope with cyber risk, new threats emerge. It is a very dynamic environment where you have, to be constantly ahead of your game and you should not limit your options.