"Miners and contractors need to look at the full picture, putting into balance quality, governance, sustainability, and a lower total drilling cost against cheaper but uncompliant tools."
How has Mincon performed over the last year and what is the state of the market in 2023?
Mincon grew by 11% compared to the previous financial year. The market is quite challenging at the moment, with widespread inflation and the high cost of borrowing throwing many mining operators into a cash-conservation state. Mine owners and contractors are drawing on high stock levels, built up during and after the pandemic when the industry made that shift from just-in-time to just-in-case supply chain management. Another symptom of the current cost-sensitive mood is trying to achieve more with less, using various operational enhancements and conservation exercises.
And how do you sense the current level of exploration activity in Africa?
The level of exploration seems to have flatlined in the last year. While top-tier producers like Barrick will always prioritize exploration to secure their long-term inventories, other operators have reduced their exploration budgets. As a non-cash-generative activity, exploration tends to be the first line of cost-cutting. Meanwhile, juniors are tied up to capital markets to fund their exploration programs, so again exploration has stagnated on their end too. In the battery minerals and metals space, where lithium, rare earths, graphite, cobalt, and copper are all the hype, prices remain subdued, as supply continues to exceed demand. This has made the industry extremely competitive. This sector will require significant investment to unlock its opportunities, but current market prices are not sufficient to incentivize those capital deployments.
Mincon introduced a new generation of hammers this year. Can you bring us up to date with your recent product launches?
We have revitalized our conventional DTH range, introducing a next generation of hammers with significantly improved performance, at an equivalent or lower energy use. Our recently launched next-gen RC hammer is doing very well on the market, contributing to improved sampling and a lower carbon footprint. Even though our next generation hammers have been in the market for less than a year, the uptake has been very good. Our innovation efforts are driven by three key imperatives: to increase production by drilling more meters per hour, help our customers cut costs (by using less fuel), and reduce the carbon emissions at their operations. Our customers are relying more on the level of service and technical expertise we can offer them. As a specialized rock drilling tool producer, we are perfectly positioned to deliver continuous R&D and improvements in our field of expertise.
While supporting our customers with their Scope 3 emissions, Mincon is also focused on reducing our own Scope 1 emissions across our global manufacturing sites. Mincon has committed to halving our CO2 emissions by 2030 and becoming net zero by 2040.
What is Mincon’s expansion strategy in Africa? What are some of the challenges you face?
Our strategy has always been to systematically consolidate our presence in each market before moving to the next because we feel that doing everything at once risks diluting our value. Mincon continues to identify reliable and reputable partners in different countries to comply with local content regulations, and we have a strong team of drill masters and technical experts identifying the best opportunities for expansion and developing those local relationships. We have a sustainable growth path forward, but challenges are also there. Competition will always exist in our markets. Miners and contractors need to look at the full picture, putting into balance quality, governance, sustainability, and a lower total drilling cost against cheaper but uncompliant tools. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, so this uneven competition has been highly disruptive in our industry.
Do you have a final message to share with our audience?
Rock drilling tools are an old technology, used for more than a hundred years. It is not enough to simply purchase drilling equipment if you don’t understand what is in the ground and optimize results accordingly. Being purely a rock drilling tool manufacturer, we have the specialized focus to make those investments meaningful for our customers. Mincon has always stayed ahead of the curve by focusing on how we can improve and how we can make things better for our customers – understanding specific ground conditions, gathering data, and adapting our products for the best performance, longest durability, and lowest environmental footprint. This approach has earned Mincon the recognition as “the driller’s choice” worldwide. We have the best solutions to simultaneously boost productivity and reduce emissions.