"SRK has recently transformed its business to comply with the DRC’s subcontracting law; this has also aligned the DRC office with SRK’s own internal model of local employee ownership."
2020 marks the 10-year anniversary of SRK Consulting in the DRC. What have been the most significant milestones achieved within the country?
WJ: Most of our milestones are linked to those of our clients. We have undertaken various high-profile projects in the country and have gained our clients’ trust. We are only as good as our last project, so we strive for continuous improvement and excellence. Two highlights stand out: the first is SRK’s involvement in undertaking the first Cahier des Charges in the country; and the second is growing the skills and experience in our Lubumbashi office to a point where the company is now majority Congolese-owned. SRK’s involvement in the DRC is not only client-focused; our team also contributes to the industry more broadly. For example, SRK’s DRC country manager, Susa Maleba, has been the Chairman of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) in the DRC for a number of years.
What is SRK’s differentiating factor in helping clients during the exploration phase, and how would you describe the exploration sector in the country?
SM: Our differentiating factor is our detailed knowledge of local geology, supported by SRK’s international expertise. SRK DRC collaborates with SRK Exploration Services, a specialist exploration services company, as well as SRK’s offices in South Africa, which supports the team in implementing exploration programs and resource definition in the country. Since 2011, we have been involved in major exploration projects in the DRC, ranging from the certification of diamond resources to resource definitions in various world-class prospects. We have also undertaken resource estimation work for major mining companies with a view to increasing resources and reserves at existing projects to increase life of mine. SRK DRC is nearing completion of one of its largest exploration projects, with nearly 90,000 meters drilled. Our high-level expertise, applied in conjunction with other SRK offices, has brought us closer to our clients while delivering high-quality sustainable solutions.
How well has the DRC staved off the Covid-19 pandemic effects, and how do you see the mining industry considering current fundamentals for metals?
SM: The mining industry has been able to weather the storm in terms of production, however, it is likely that some investment decisions may have been delayed. As SRK, we have been able to continue operating and servicing clients during the COVID-19 pandemic with stringent health and safety measures in place.
How are regulatory updates such as subcontracting laws impacting investment in the country?
WJ: It is still too early to predict the impact of DRC’s subcontracting laws, but in time these regulations should have a positive impact on the local community by stimulating the growth of local companies. There are, however, still critical or scarce skills that are not readily available in the DRC, so companies will still take time to develop these skills. In order to bridge this gap in the medium-term, investors may need to call upon international specialists to provide oversight of local projects.
How is SRK Consulting driving innovation, and to what extent do you believe automation will become part of the vocabulary of mining in the future?
SM: One of SRK’s key strategic initiatives is innovation and we have recently added Data Services and Analytics to our service offering to clients. Furthermore, this group supports existing disciplines within SRK. The key focus is on big data management and analysis, while we are also embracing remote monitoring technologies such as the use of drones and cloud computing.
Could you describe how SRK is helping companies successfully execute their social license commitments?
SM: Part of the requirement of the new mining law is to have a social commitment between the community and the company in terms of the Cahier des Charges. SRK has been assisting companies to initiate the Cahier des Charges with communities, and successfully undertook the first such project in the DRC – for Phelps Dodge Congo’s Kisanfu project. Our DRC office also draws on expertise from our other practices internationally when required, enhancing our ability to evaluate projects and provide objective and informed solutions to our clients.
What are SRK’s key objectives moving ahead in the DRC, and the Copperbelt more broadly?
WJ: SRK has recently transformed its business to comply with the DRC’s subcontracting law; this has also aligned the DRC office with SRK’s own internal model of local employee ownership, which is applied in our country practices across the world. The office is well supported by the South African, Australian and UK practices, which ensures excellence and the continual growth of local skills. We pride ourselves in having established a consulting practice that matches the major consulting practices across the world – with a particular focus on creating capacity to serve the mining industry in the DRC.