SRK Consulting, a firm of scientists and consulting engineers, opened an office in the Democratic Repubic of Congo’s (DRC’s) second city, Lubumbashi, earlier this month, in a bid to tap the opportunities offered by the sprawling Central African country’s mining industry.
Lubumbashi is located in the mineral-rich Katanga province.
The new office is headed up by DRC national Susa Maleba, who told Mining Weekly in Lubumbashi, at the official opening ceremony, that the ultimate aim was for locals to control a significant portion of SRK DRC’s equity.
The Congolese mining sector is undergoing a significant shake-up, with President Joseph Kabila’s government having ordered, in 2007, that all mining rights awarded during the civil war that raged from 1992 to 2006 be reviewed.
Maleba also said that there was increasing international pressure from nonprofit organisations to take into account a potential mining investor’s commitment to the development of local communities.
“This presented a unique opportunity, as very few companies in the DRC included local participation on the scale that SRK proposed from the inception of the company in the country. This was in line with SRK’s ongoing commitment to adapt to local requirements and sustainable development.”
Senior hydrogeologist Ivann Milenkovic said that, in preparation for the opening of the DRC office, he and Maleba, both French speakers, spread word about the company’s impending presence in the country and managed to generate significant interest within the local mining community.
“Katanga province is a gem in the DRC and offers a lot of potential to mining companies. The DRC office will also service the needs of Zambian mining companies in the neighbouring copper-rich North East province, which is home to Lumwana, currently Africa’s biggest copper mine,” said Milenkovic.
Looking forward, Maleba said that the company would soon become cash positive and start contributing positively to the group.
SRK DRC already employs five people, including a geologist, who previously worked for Metorex and BHP Billiton mines in the country, and two mining engineers.
“The opening of the DRC office is a key development for the company, as it proves that there is significant demand for the ser- vices that it offers outside its traditional geographical areas,” said Maleba.
A representative of the DRC Ministry of Mines for Katanga province echoed Kabila’s call for the people of the DRC to be empowered and to start taking ownership of the future of the country. There were also high expectations for SRK to assist mines in environmental rehabilitation, particularly with regard to the rehabilitation of water, which is of major concern in the DRC, as many rural communities have limited access to clean water.
Meanwhile, SRK’s plans to expand into gold-rich Ghana are progressing well, and chairperson Roger Dixon told Mining Weekly in Lubumbashi that the company had already identified a potential country manager for Ghana and was in the process of finalising his appointment.
Ghanaians would eventually own part of the planned office’s shareholding.
“Ghana is important for the company as it opens up Africa north of the DRC. The company has already done significant work in West and North Africa; however, this was always run from South Africa or the UK,” said Dixon.
The company hopes to open SRK Ghana within the next two months.
Dixon said he was optimistic that Zimbabwe would provide the company with yet another growth opportunity
Jonathan Faurie was in Lubumbashi as a guest of SRK Consulting.