Local exploration consultants

To say that mining consulting engineers VBKom have a passion for Africa would be an understatement.

Particularly unique about VBKom is that the company was only formed three years ago, and has had unprecedented success since that inception. The company’s founding members, having a history in practical mining and having worked on various mining projects across South Africa and Namibia, today give VBKom the distinction of having the most mining engineers under one roof.

It was then the decision to focus on technical side of the business, where the consulting business was born. This month, The African Business Journal spoke with Manie Kriel, VBKom CEO, about the company’s vision, its various divisions, and its involvement in extensive projects.

“Our philosophy going forward is that we position ourselves as mining engineers from Africa for Africa, specifically north of the South Africa border,” said Kriel, “so we have quite a bit focus on the African continent. We believe we understand the culture, the environment, and the challenges that Africa poses and we would really like to become known as the consultant group that really understands and does good work [on the African continent when it comes to mining engineering].”

Company divisions

VBKom sections to four many divisions, including VBKom Consulting Engineers, VBKom Projects, VBKom Consulting Engineers of Namibia, and VBKom Deep.
VBKom Consulting Engineers serves as the main consulting firm of VBKom’s mining engineering projects, rending technical engineering services for the industry. Additionally, VBKom Projects provides “solutions to mining challenges”, specializing in project and risk management for the mining industry. The third arm of the company, VBKom Consulting Engineers Namibia, dubs itself as “mining specialists from Namibia for Namibia”, localizing its services in this market, and most particularly the booming uranium market. Lastly, VBKom Deep specializes in underground mining, a sector in which the company would like to become more involved in for 2011 and 2012.

“We saw a niche to focus on open-pit mining because a lot of underground, deep-level expertise in South Africa, because when the client needed some open-pit work done, they went to the Australians and the Canadians,” Kriel said. That was the starting point, and then we decided that a lot of the studies we are involved in required some integration of different disciplines like geologists and mechanical consultants, so we started to do VBKom Projects, and it really did integrate the different disciplines for our project, so we have been quite successful in that regard.

“We have really focused on open-pit mining, with a little bit of underground work, but in the next two years we will build on those businesses. All the directors in the company actually started their careers in underground mining, so it is not unfamiliar to us and we would like to offer it.”

History of impressive projects

VBKom had been involved with several projects over the years, particularly with clients with whom the company has had a long-term business relationship. One of those projects is Kumba Iron Ore, a client of VBKom since the company’s inauguration. But that’s just one example of VBKom’s extensive works in the industry.

“A recent project we’ve been awarded is the feasibility study for Aquila Steel,” Kriel said. “They have a manganese project in the north. It is in the very early stage. We only started in February and it will be completed by August, so that is a high priority for us.”

Another client, Afrisam Cement, operates about 20 aggregate and cement quarries, in which VBKom assists with the medium- and long-term planning of this client’s operations. Another project saw VBKom complete a feasibility study for Delta Mining, for a gold mining project in Mpumalanga.

Offering services in iron ore, coal, uranium, and more, VBKom offers extensive services in mining-specific project management; providing innovative, effective and strategic mining planning solutions; project feasibility studies; equipment assessment, selection, and economic modeling; as well as operational support. The goal is to “change the way Africa mines.”

Steady growth

“We have an excellent team that has excellent mining engineering skills and we want to build on that and to grow this team in that regard, so we are very particularly when we make an appointment; it should be people that fit into our culture,” said Kriel. “That is really the big focus. We put a big emphasis on the quality of our technical skills, so we really encourage our team to stay abreast in terms of new developments for mining technology.

“We stand out in that we are flexible in our approach with our clients. We satisfy their needs and the one thing we really do is we find value in every project.”