How a strong commitment to R&D has enabled BEAKE Africa Group to offer cutting edge engineering services and solutions to mining clients across the region
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Donovan Smith
If carried out responsibly, mining projects have the potential to transform entire communities for the better, be it through direct employment, training, CSR activities or development of critical infrastructure such as roads, schools, sanitation and hospitals.
And it is big business, a massive contributor to national economies up and down the continent.
In 2016, for example, West Africa supplied 22.6 percent of the world’s rutile (titanium oxide), 11.5 percent of its bauxite, 9.4 percent of its gold and 5.6 percent of its uranium. In 2017, the region exported minerals worth $16.1 billion, 26.3 percent more than the previous year, mainly as a result of the large increase in Guinea’s exports.
South Africa’s mining industry is also growing. The historical backbone of the nation’s economy, mining for the year ending June 2019 generated R529 billion ($35.78 billion), an increase of nine percent on the previous period.
For companies such as BEAKE Afrika Group, a leading provider of engineering services and steel solutions to the SA industry, opportunities are aplenty.
“The industry has survived a lot of challenges and it has developed many pioneering technologies over the years,” comments Abrey Moagi, the company’s Managing Director. “There is still room for improvement to eliminate fatalities and injuries by developing more sophisticated technologies – this will also help to render the industry relevant to tackle global challenges.”
Moagi’s entry into the industry was dictated by his academic ability.
The MD explains that, having grown up in a rural area near the South African capital Pretoria, he received little career guidance, his results in mathematics and science steering him towards pursuing metallurgy, which has since formed the foundation of his career.
But while Moagi did not chose this path at the time, he has developed an ingrained passion for the industry in the ensuing years.
“As you know, mining plays a very important role in the South African economy,” he says. “The inspiration is to create a sustainable, productive mining environment and create much needed jobs in our economy.
“The mining industry, especially in Africa, has the potential to change our people’s lives by developing the infrastructure in the places where it operates. For example, building schools, medical centres, training schools and other facilities.”
Employment is arguably the most significant impact. Set up in 2013, BEAKE Arika Group employs 60 people across its three divisions – BEAKE Engineering Solutions, BEAKE Manufacturing and BEAKE Mining.
BEAKE Engineering Solutions is an interface vehicle which ensures that the company is always present with mining clients to solve their day to day challenges, its key services being continuous process equipment maintenance, plant design and equipment installations.
BEAKE Manufacturing is a steel fabrication entity which specialises in structural steel and plate work. The third entity, BEAKE Mining, is the group’s investment wing responsible for looking into buying stakes in small- and medium-sized mining companies.
Though a relatively young company by South African mining industry standards, BEAKE has built up a sound reputation as a reliable partner to many operators in the country.
Detailing some of the company’s recent project work, Moagi says: “We are currently building underground dams for Northam Platinum Mine in the Brits region of South Africa.
“The scope is engineering design, concrete works, concrete sealing and commissioning. This project is very important as the client is on the critical path of the mine development and is looking to be able to manage all the underground water.”
For Tharisa, a European headquartered integrated resource group, BEAKE recently designed, constructed and commissioned a 15 tonnes per hour ultra-fine chrome recovery plant at its Vulcan project, also in Brits. This is a pilot project being undertaken by Tharisa which, if successful, will lead to the construction of a full-scale plant that will provide significant employment opportunities for the local community.
Developments such as this further provide a boost for the supply chain, often offering local companies the opportunity to impart their expertise.
BEAKE relies on a network of partners and suppliers which help it to successfully operate on a day to day basis, something which Moagi is quick to recognise.
“Our partners and all stakeholders are very important to our business as they add much needed value, be it suppliers who ensure that our deliveries are done on time, or customers who ensure that we keep on giving them our services,” he explains.
“This means it is important that we work with the right suppliers. To ensure this, we carry out a due diligence programme, a process which is guided by our internal contractor management policy.”
Such partners also extend into the world of academia. “We are busy with a research and development project in partnership with University of Johannesburg,” continues Moagi.
“The aim of this is to develop new technology to treat refinery effluent in such a way that near zero metals are pumped into the rivers and wetlands. We are glad to announce that we are already at the advanced stages, and we believe this will have a major impact in our nature conservation and will help to maintain healthy water streams.”
Indeed, this dedication to research and development is, in the eyes of Moagi, a key differentiator between BEAKE and other mining and engineering service providers.
The firm is continuously looking at innovative ways to do things differently, critical if mining industry players are to move with the times and endure in the long term.
“It is a tricky balancing act that owners and users of production facilities strive to achieve every day,” Moagi comments. “To achieve this feat, only innovative and responsive engineering solutions will hold up, and this is what we promise to provide.
“BEAKE is also a value driven organisation that enables clients to meet their business objectives through delivery of responsive mining and engineering services and products, using methods and means that demonstrate respect for our physical and social environment.”
This can be translated into six key promises which form the basis of the company’s value proposition to clients – safety, a one-stop shop experience, client-centricity, quality, speed and innovation.
All of this is made possible by BEAKE’s team of 60 employees, people who Moagi is quick to recognise as the lifeblood of the business. To ensure skills are honed and developed, each individual embarks on a well-structured training and career progression plan, the firm also determined to fill all vacancies locally before looking elsewhere for candidates.
As well as continuing to provide employment opportunities for local communities, the MD is targeting a ramped up R&D operation in 2020, as well as the successful delivery of a continuous improvement programme which he hopes will lead to BEAKE’s fabrication workshop achieving ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 10721 certification.
Developments like this will only help to elevate the regional mining sector to new and improved standards, and Moagi concludes the conversation by declaring that the continent and its mining industry are open for business.
“I would like to urge global investors not to be afraid to invest in our continent,” he says. “There are vast opportunities and untapped mineral reserves that need to be exploited, and we are looking for partnerships to develop and grow Africa’s economy.”