Going for Gold
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Arron Rampling
ZMET Technology and Projects has maintained its position as a leading exponent of a niche mining domain, subsequently winning awards for its innovative business model and abilities, while also broadening its horizons outside of Africa.
Long renowned for its ability to carry out specialised design, optimisation and construction works within the metallurgical space via its ever-diversifying and advancing technological solutions, the Company’s established successes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, South Africa and Ethiopia are now being compounded by exciting opportunities in Turkey and Armenia; the latter becoming AZMET’s flagship project to date.
“AZMET is still continuing the same story as last year, progressing as a business that was launched during a global recession, targeting medium-sized projects than traditional EPCs were in Africa at the time,” Marketing Director, Ruan Kukard explains. “Due to the sluggish industry and commodity prices, this interest in smaller projects has exponentially increased, making our niche market a bit more competitive. And while the market is showing glimmers of movement in 2017, we’re not seeing any records being broken.”
This is where the advantage of being a small, flexible and versatile business comes into its own though, with the Company proving its dynamism in finding opportunities and positivity in an otherwise volatile sector.
“Our business model lends itself to coping with changes like this, as it’s a philosophy of AZMET to be efficient and employ multi-skilled engineering staff,” Kukard continues. “I think that gives us a competitive edge in keeping overheads low; employing 10 multi-skilled people instead of 50, without compromising quality.”
Foray into new regions
It is this agile model which has stood the Company in such good stead since inception in Africa, being able to take on projects in areas potentially unattractive to the established sector elite. Historically, company size was intrinsically linked to company capability, but AZMET has bucked this trend and is now leveraging its reputation for carrying out world-class processes on metallurgical projects.
“Our business model hasn’t changed. We keep core skills in-house and subcontract the rest, and on any given project at any time, our overheads range from 80-350 people that we are managing; without carrying that constant scale within the business.”
Already successful across Africa – and especially via the Ethiopian LSTK AZMET gold desorption and recovery plant Meli gold project – AZMET ‘s foray into new regions has taken the Company to another level, kick-started by its work on the Eti Bakir project in Turkey; also an LSTK AZMET gold desorption and recovery plant, including containerised reagent plants.
For the Eti Bakir project, “we’ve also designed our own goldroom scrubber system to reduce ammonia levels emanating from the electrowinning processes, ensuring a safe working environment in and around the goldroom,”, Kukard notes.
He continues: “In Q1, 2016 AZMET was awarded a contract for the design, supply and commissioning for a 2t carbon batch gold desorption and recovery plant, incorporating carbon loading and attritioning, acid wash, elution, electrowinning, carbon regeneration, mercury retort, goldroom (civil design), MCC & PLC, and security,” the Company’s website states. “Our plant design is of the highest quality and makes use of only reputable mechanical equipment suppliers. AZMET’s desorption and recovery plants hold numerous CAPEX benefits which include, but are not limited to; design cost (EPCM) savings, a reduction in project site establishment and P&G costs, on-site installation and fabrication cost reduction, and overall project schedule reduction.”
Meanwhile, the seeds were being sown in Armenia to embark on its largest project to date; the gold/silver heap leach operation incorporating adsorption, desorption, a recovery plant and associated reagents, with treatment capacities of up to 1,100 cubic meters an hour.
Kukard details further: “It equates to around 10.5 million tonnes of heap leach ore annually with a 10-year mine life. Unique features includes: bolted tank design for quick installation; flared carbon in solution columns (CIC) with the AZMET patent pending bubble plate design to provide even flow distribution with minimal pressure drop over a wide range of flows; a pressurised AARL elution circuit which will be followed by zinc precipitation (Merrill Crowe) to handle the high silver content; and smelting to produce doré bars.”
Business of the Year
Advanced technologies and process optimisation in new countries is one thing, but conveying the principle and idea of new innovations to said countries is a whole other proposition, with various regulatory and language barriers to contend with.
As a solution, AZMET has adopted an agent strategy in each new country of interest to act on the Company’s behalf and to help advertise the products, services and skill-sets of AZMET in a translatable way.
In the coming months, this same approach could lead AZMET to the borders of Chile, Canada, Peru and Russia as the Company once again looks to promote its niche capabilities to as wide-a-footprint as possible.
And there is no shortage of new innovations or business service options for these agents to promote either, as AZMET continues to diversify in order to fully capitalise on various market nuances and peripheral sub-sectors.
“We are busy with various ‘internal projects’, one being the potential of operational contracts,” Kukard says. “We find that many medium sized mining companies in remote destinations don’t always have the local process knowledge to operate processing plants at optimum capacity. So we want to focus on getting into this space where we will be able to assist with plant management, training, knowledge transfer and skills development of local labourers in order to make their facilities as operationally successful as possible.”
This idea is already being put forward on existing tenders and is also compounded by AZMET’s exploration into the treatment of fine carbon and aiding companies on this front as well.
Kukard continues: “For carbon fines treatment, we’re looking at a business model to provide a product that clients will keep on site so they can get most of their gold value – which they usually loose due to high transport costs.”
Innovations of this kind are responsible for AZMET’s positive industry standing to this day and represent the diversification and expansion that can still be looked forward to in the years to come. And with each new project completion, recognition escalates also, recently culminating in the Company being named Business of the Year by First National Bank at an awards ceremony in Johannesburg.
“We received first prize in the engineering category and it is testament of our aim to service excellence and providing world-class engineering and product management services, as we look forward to new potential projects both locally, and as far afield as places like Kazakhstan and India,” Kukard concludes. “There are opportunities in the pipeline with potentially significant values attached, but first we have to execute the projects we already have successfully, as you’re only as good as your last project.”