Powered by more than Coal
Not only is Londani Coal ambitiously expanding operations, it is also determined to continue empowering staff and engaging the local community
Writer: Dani Redd | Project Manager: Josh Mann
South Africa is a country powered by coal. Last year it produced 258.9 million tonnes, around 70 percent of which was used domestically (taking care of 80 percent of the country’s needs), with the rest being exported, activity which accounts for nine percent of the world’s supply.
Needless to say, coal mining is a major contributor to the country’s GDP, also providing around 100,000 direct jobs.
But that’s not to say the mining industry is without its challenges. According to Selim Kaymak, Chief Executive Officer of Londani Coal, net investment in the industry has declined by 15 percent in the past eight years, while major energy producers face their own difficulties – high debt levels and operating costs, capacity constraints and aging equipment.
And then, of course, there’s the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
“The demand for electricity and liquid fuel products is dropping and the producing entities have limited stockpiling space for stock feed or end products,” Kaymak says. “This will in turn impact or disrupt current coal supply streams which will have an adverse effect on a market already under pressure.”
It is hard to imagine how companies can survive, let alone thrive, in such challenging conditions, but Londoni Coal is doing just that.
A young and dynamic company
The firm was established in 2006 in the South African province of Mpumalanga. In January 2017 it re-commissioned a processing plant and a mine, Nndanganeni Colliery, which is located in the Witbank/Middleburg coalfields – production started shortly afterwards.
The complex consists of two open cast mining pits and a DMS processing plant, and produces around 770 kilo-tonnes of saleable, high quality export product per annum.
Londani employs around 380 full-time employees and contractors who work in the mine, processing plant, material handling and on-site laboratory. It is managed by a dynamic team, overseen by Kaymak, a political science graduate who first became interested in mining when he moved to South Africa to complete a Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Pretoria.
“After completing my MBA, I decided to stay in South Africa,” he adds. “I saw the mining industry as a very attractive, professional endeavour which requires an understanding of the global energy sector. On the other hand, it was also a good space to exercise and implement the knowledge I had gained from several international activities and in interacting with various government entities and NGOs, as well as business industries.
“Through my academic education I was afforded an opportunity to work for several international entities, which enabled me to understand both European and African economies. Londani Coal allowed me to make practical use of these experiences – the job opportunity was the perfect match.”
Investing in Technology
Since inception of Londani Coal, the CEO has focussed on increasing profitability at the mine by hiring an expert team, and by expanding operations.
During 2018, the company opened up a new box cut within its current mining right, giving it access to high-grade coal that in turn created market opportunities abroad. Then, in 2019, it launched an exploration drilling programme.
“The main purpose is to identify additional resources and to extend our current mining operations within the immediate right,” Kaymak explains. “This will enable us to fully utilise our established complex and maximise returns on invested capital.”
Currently, Londani is actively conducting studies in the surrounding area, hoping to identify new coal reserves.
“We are therefore always open and willing to work with neighbouring mines and reserve owners,” Kaymak continues. “Through this, standing relationships have already been established and value has been created. We would like to maintain this momentum and exploit all possible opportunities.”
The CEO is aware that as a junior mining company, it is vital for Londani Coal to form synergies with other mining outfits to survive in a challenging industry environment.
The firm has also been investing in technology to ensure the safety and productivity of its operations, including active vehicle tracking and camera monitoring solutions.
“Investigation of incidents, with the aid of these technologies, has aided a lot in identifying root causes and enabled us to install permanent corrective actions or measures to prevent incidents,” the CEO says.
Technological advances also help with production and measuring, improving efficiency and accuracy. Here, Londani Coal makes use of fly-over surveys and partners with leaders in the field for accurate measuring, image-making and 3D modelling.
“This real-time data is used in our costing models, where each aspect of the operation can be quantified and qualified,” Kaymak explains. “We also have full-time geologists with specialised software that assess each step of our current and future mining areas to ensure we gain as much as possible by minimising coal losses.
“Monthly production areas are constantly coupled and measured against initial geological models of the area, and we manage mining gains and losses very accurately.”
Helping in the community
Such attention to detail is fundamental to a mining company’s longevity.
However, for Kaymak, mining isn’t just about profit – it’s also about people. Londani Coal fosters a positive working environment where staff are encouraged to take ownership of their area of responsibility, thereby empowering them to reach their full potential.
“We strive to maintain a participative leadership culture throughout the business where we work together and support each other from top to bottom, irrespective of title or position,” he explains.
“Through the years we have mastered the field of dealing with diversity within the work environment. We are a very diverse team with vastly different backgrounds and demographics, but we make it work and use it to the full potential of the business.”
The company’s caring attitude extends beyond its staff to society as a whole. It is committed to ensuring that the community living within its area of operations are engaged and empowered. As well as stimulating the microeconomy by providing jobs, Londani takes an active role in helping local people.
“Our aim is to provide the best opportunities by working hand in hand with local government and non-governmental organisations according to an approved SLP plan,” Kaymak explains. “We believe that each skill or infrastructure development has a lasting impact on the lives of our local people, which will remain for future generations to come.”
Londani Coal has helped organise events for World Aids Day, Mandela Day and Women’s Day, as well as establishing quarterly health campaigns in the community. It also pursues and conducts skills development as part of ongoing business operations. It trains community members to use mining machines and organises formal apprenticeships to boost employability and empowerment.
Kaymak also proudly reports that Londani Coal built a hall for Ipani Primary School, which is alongside the community and can accommodate up to 400 learners. It also helps with ad hoc projects for the students.
Importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic has not dampened Londani Coal’s spirit. As the conversation draws to a close, Kaymak reveals plans to utilise the company’s mining right in full, alongside ambitious plans for expansion.
“As mentioned, we are actively looking for new reserves and partners to extend our current footprint in the mining industry. This is high on our list of priorities over the next 24 months,” he says.
“We will furthermore aim to grow on our existing customer base and want to establish more large-scale offtake agreements, both on the export and local market. Having said this, it will only be achievable by establishing joint ventures or partnerships with industry-leading companies.”
As the company expands, it will also work towards reducing operational costs and increasing profitability, moves which will help it to improve financial returns for its stakeholders. It will do all this while concentrating on maintaining positive relations with suppliers, contractors and the surrounding community, as well as keeping its people motivated.
And it is here that Kaymak ends the conversation by reiterating Londani Coal’s people-first values.
“In closing, we have always and will continue to focus on attracting and retaining the best employees in the market,” he says. “Our employees are the heartbeat of this company.”