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Africa Outlook

Consulting
SLR

SLR CONSULTING

Diversifying consultancy



SLR provides multi-disciplinary advice from in-house experts on a wide range of strategic and site-specific environmental and sustainability issues

Writer Emily Jarvis
Project manager Nick Norris

SLR is an independent and employee controlled international environmental consultancy that has a reputation for providing high quality tailored services with an expanding network of offices in Africa, Australasia, Europe, and North America. SLR provides multi-disciplinary advice on a wide range of strategic and site specific environmental and sustainability issues. In particular, SLR specialises in the oil and gas, mining, energy, waste management, planning and development, infrastructure and manufacturing sectors.

African Managing Director, Brandon Stobart, says that the strategy for the development of the company is based on organic growth, augmented by the selective acquisition of high calibre companies to strengthen and extend technical and geographical coverage. He stated that for SLR to get involved with Africa Outlook in doing a feature article is part of a coordinated growth and marketing strategy.

"One team approach"
With 100 employees across Africa and 1000 globally, SLR has seen great business development, some strategic highs and improved performance in recent years. SLR is one of a handful of environmental consultancies that draws on knowledge and insight from across the globe and across multiple sectors. "It is our 'one team approach' across the globe that has been fundamental to SLR's success and our people, coupled with long standing client relationships that are our most notable strengths."

Recent Developments and Projects
The African environmental assessment offering has recently been strengthened by the successful acquisition of Synergistics Environmental Services. Although 2013 presented some market-related challenges, SLR continued to grow its offering and was involved in a range of interesting projects in Africa across various sectors.

In Namibia, Mozambique and the DRC, a combination of environmental assessment, social assessment, relocation planning, permitting, geohydrology, hydrology, closure and tailings engineering services were provided to Swakop Uranium for its Husab uranium project, to Auroch Minerals for its Manica gold project and to Banro for its Namoya gold project respectively. These services were focussed on the development of the mines and related linear infrastructure including the access roads, the power supply lines and the water supply lines.

In South Africa the sector spread is broader. Recent projects include an assessment of the impact of deploying carbon capture and storage on national priorities other than climate change; environmental impact assessments for the licensing of EnviroServ's waste treatment facilities at Holfontein (Gauteng), Shongweni (Durban) and Aloes (Port Elizabeth); an EIA for a Municipal Solid Waste to Energy Plant at Chloorkop (Gauteng) which will convert waste to electrical energy; and EIA work for Afro Energy in the Coal Bed Methane gas exploration space.

Working Life Goes On
Being a global company, SLR has access to an international team which enables the blending of local and international skills as required by individual projects. Although there can be local up-skilling challenges in parts of Africa, Mr Stobart is keen to highlight that SLRhas been successful in attracting and retaining great people: "Finding the sufficient number of skilled staff in busy times and conversely, finding sufficient projects in quiet times is an ongoing challenge in the consulting industry, but this is made easier through SLR's 'one global team' approach."

Despite tough market conditions, work still continues through this time. "Key drivers in the environmental market continue to be legislation, the high cost of natural resources - which drives development spending on new assets and remediation of existing assets - new technologies such as shale gas and coal bed methane, security of energy supply in the context of the green agenda, reputational issues, and the limited availability of experienced environmental people in the market," explains Stobart.

The SLR Approach to Diversification
"We are diversifying the regions in which we operate on the one hand, and on the other we are continuing to develop our service offerings across sectors. Where mining was a traditional strength in Africa, growth into energy, oil and gas and waste work are all examples of our successful diversification."

"Local partnering is critical to success"
Mr Stobart is keen to draw attention to the benefit of local skills: "If you want to be successful in Africa, there is no doubt that using local skills is critical to achieve success. As different regions require different specialisms, we always work to find the right local skills." To illustrate this, South African based Francois van Heerden recently won the best technical paper award at the International Mine and Waste Conference and staff member Ntsako Baloyi has been elected as President of the IAIA in South Africa.

SLR plan to use this model in order to continue to grow in their respective sectors and consequently grow their presence in new regions in Africa.