Valuable Solutions for a Volatile Market
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Arron Rampling
Entering a volatile and slow-moving mining, resources and engineering market over the past few years would have been no mean feat for any prospective start-up, but for AZMET Technology, its vast and rapid success has derived from entering the industry with specific solutions to said challenges as its actual business model.
A professional engineering and project management Company, AZMET Technology and Projects (Pty) Ltd has only been in operation since March, 2014 but has thrived as a consequence of its pinpoint strategy to counter what has become a prolonged and increasingly problematic industry slowdown in Africa.
“Founded in March, 2014 and introduced into a market that is facing an economic crisis; future growth could only be obtained to strive for excellence through dedication, motivation and technology innovation,” enforces the Company’s Marketing Director, Ruan Kukard.
“AZMET’s vision is to add value to its clients during this current global recession of budget cuts and long-term stoppages on capital projects. This outlook has led to the development of numerous innovative and cost-effective products and processes that have positively impacted on operating expenditure (OPEX) and capital expenditure (CAPEX) for Greenfield and Brownfield projects, converting uneconomical projects into viable projects.”
Managed by four directors with more than 60 years’ collective experience, bringing to the table more than 18 execution projects and 38 project studies - across 14 countries - the subsequent scope and flexibility of services and products that the Company can deliver the grateful metallurgical and mining sectors are comprehensive to say the least.
“Being flexible and understanding your clients’ needs and budgets is key to add value in this volatile market. Being a younger EPCM company with low overheads lends itself automatically to being efficient and flexible,” Kukard continues. “It also provides a platform for entrepreneurialism and AZMET has spent a lot of time and focus on developing new process technologies.
“These technologies can add value not only to mining companies but also to larger EPCM companies. Everyone seeks large capital projects, but in the current market, [we all] found ourselves a niche market in improving on current recoveries and OPEX with short pay-packs on CAPEX requirements.
“Although these optimisation projects are fairly low in value, the merit of promoting AZMET’s skills and vast knowledge within the global mining and metals industry will instil confidence in our capabilities in executing major future capital projects.”
Capabilities across project scoping, feasibility studies, process plant designs, project management and implementation, commissioning, production optimisation, plant expansions, evaluations, engineering operations, testwork management, process technologies and recovery modular plants form a potent combination and turnkey attractiveness that has consequently led to an array of significant projects over a short period of time.
In 2015 alone, an SMPP desliming cyclone installation project at Kibali gold mine in the DRC, as well as both an LSTK gold room scrubber installation and a crusher upgrade project at Tongon gold mine in the Ivory Coast demonstrated what AZMET could offer the industry; conducting various modifications, fabrications, shipments, erections and commissioning in line with each contract’s unique requirements.
Moving into 2016, for an Ethiopian gold plant, “AZMET has been awarded a contract for the design, supply and commissioning for a two tonne carbon batch gold desorption and recovery plant, incorporating carbon loading and attritioning, acid wash including hydrochloric acid reagent dosing, elution including caustic reagent dosing, electrowinning, gold room, MCC and PLC,” Kukard explains. “This plant offers numerous advantages for gold and silver end users and EPCM companies.”
Similarly, from a study perspective, AZMET has showcased its experience and expertise in carrying out a copper and cobalt tailings retreatment technical assessment and a stockpile treatment desktop study across the same commodities; assessing in each case not only the identification of optimal flowsheets and recovery statistics, but also looking to the best options moving forward incorporating efficiencies and revenues.
New process technologies
The ongoing tracking of commodity prices and global mining activity is inevitably essential to achieve the successes the Company has done and to instil such a sense of collaborative progression in each project, and is compounded by a willingness to diversify its specialities and commodity expertise where necessary too. This is then facilitated internally by a series of ongoing capital expenditures and operational excellence improvements.
Kukard notes: “Our current focus is still to pursue any opportunity with an added-value approach and to promote our expertise within the global sector to gain some market share.
“AZMET has been focused on the development of new process technologies specifically within the gold, copper and base metal industries. With the downturn in commodity prices the need is increasing for alternative process routes with lower operating costs, as well as finding solutions for “difficult to treat” complex ores.”
The Company has resultantly been developing a range of technologies over the past two years, with a view to attaining patents on a new AZMET cyanide recovery process, AZMET basic leach technology (AZ-BLT), AZMET reduced leach technology, and an ultra-fine screening classification testwork procedure.
From an equipment perspective, “AZMET’s Modular Gold DR (desorption & recovery) Plant offers numerous advantages for gold and silver end-users and EPCM contractors,” Kukard details. “It is assembled and cold commissioned prior to shipment. Thus, time and cost to install and hot-commission on site is limited with minimal changes.
“The sustained growth of AZMET over the past 24 months has forced the dynamic Company to relocate to new offices mid-2015,” the Marketing Director continues in relation to the Company’s literal growth. “The new modern building is centrally located between Johannesburg and Pretoria and also allows for the expected growth of AZMET, and enables the Company to ensure the continued delivery of great service to their existing and future clients.”
The extensiveness and turnkey nature of AZMET’s services holds unbound potential for the Company’s own aforementioned development; with the economic commodity crisis a global one in actuality as well as just name. The Company’s footprint therefore has very little restriction as Kukard looks towards the next stages of its evolution.
“Isolating Africa, AZMET has no restriction on its capabilities in executing projects all over the continent,” he says. “Recent study, plant evaluations and project work were conducted in Cote D’Ivoire, Morocco, DRC, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
“Although our main focus is on Africa though, we are foreseeing possible opportunities in Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada, South-America, Australia and Turkey.”
Of course, logistical challenges come hand-in-hand with such ambitions, and the business would be required to replicate its already strong commitment to localisation and retention when it comes to its personnel and hiring strategies, but with a model already in place to ensure work quality to the highest standards, on time, and within budget, the business has very little to fear looking forward.
“It’s a numbers game. Our services by all measurements are as good as any other reputable EPCM contractor. Our vast experience and subsequent track record should be testament thereof,” Kukard states. “The fact that we employ versatile key people that can design and manage various engineering disciplines, together with using subcontractors when required for some external engineering disciplines would most likely result in AZMET having marginal overheads compared to the ‘standard structure’ of a typical engineering firm.
“This enables AZMET to execute smaller projects, often neglected or declined by larger companies. Our products and process technologies, together with our EPCM capabilities, do make us quite unique and differentiate us from others within the sector.”
The Marketing Director glances ahead: “In the next five years AZMET would like to be globally recognised through its service excellence, process technologies and products to be experts within the gold and base metal industries. We would like to be known as an added-value Company that can execute any size project within time and budget.”