As mining companies cut back in efforts to remain viable under COVID-19’s demanding conditions, crushing and screening specialist B&E International is proposing a bold new approach to streamline mines’ supply chains.
According to Ken Basson, Director of Plant and Engineering at B&E International, mining suppliers and service providers need to be proactive in helping mines find sustainable solutions to the current challenges.
“COVID-19 will undoubtedly reduce demand for certain commodities, and, with geopolitical uncertainty, we are likely to see increased commodity price volatility,” Basson says. “This is leading most mining companies – especially juniors – to try to strengthen their balance sheets.”
To do this, there are inevitable cuts in capital expenditure and even operating expenditure. He says the time has come for mining suppliers to streamline the delivery of their services and products, and even to assume more of the day-to-day risk facing mining operations.
“At a time when mines are demanding even higher efficiencies and more plant uptime due to tough trading conditions, the post-COVID environment is expected to present a number of logistical and supply chain constraints,” he said. “To cut through this double-whammy, suppliers need to be helping to consolidate supply chain networks. This is the only way of minimising procurement expenses while limiting process plant outages due to critical spares being unavailable in time.”
A range of other imperatives also need to be addressed at the same time, he says. These include the growing demand for mines to support in-country job creation and local skills development, as well as local manufacturing and procurement. This means less reliance on costly expatriate skills, whose movement around Africa may, in any event, be restricted by COVID-related regulations.
“To streamline the supply chain, B&E International is forming strategic partnerships with key suppliers, to integrate their respective service offerings with ours,” he says. “This gives the mine the advantage of dealing with fewer supplier interfaces. We also take over the responsibility of ensuring that our partners – and their products – perform to expectation.”
He highlights that B&E International – with a 40-year legacy in contract crushing, screening and mineral processing services – has expertise across the process supply chain. With experience across commodities including coal, copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, manganese and aggregates, the company engineers cost effective solutions in various conditions around Africa, he added.
As one of the few companies in South Africa that both builds and operates its own equipment, B&E International is extending its level of vertical integration through this collaboration with strategic partners.
“Not only do we design, manufacture and install complete processing plants across various commodity sectors, but we also operate and finance these facilities,” Basson says. “This places us in a unique position to partner with mines to reduce their capex, opex and risk.”
The company offers a build, own, operate and transfer model of plant procurement, ensuring a mining company of its planned throughput while also fixing the exact cost of that production, he says.
As part of its market offering, it already conducts optimisation and debottlenecking studies for mineral process plant operators. It also provides plant maintenance contracts, in which it will operate and maintain a customer’s process plant on a toll basis, charging a fixed rate per tonne. Other current services include plant audits, optimisation studies, dust extraction, sampling and breaker systems for oversize run of mine treatment.
“A vertically integrated service offering to mines holds great value for both greenfield and brownfield sites,” Basson says. “As important is our experience in developing local skills wherever we operate – with both formal and hands-on training.”
He highlights that this approach empowers the customer to retain their future options in how they will operate their plants, depending on their internal success and broader economic conditions.