Minopex and DRA Saudi Arabia are proving to be a formidable multi-commodity operator as its African and Middle Eastern ventures affirm the Group’s market-leading status
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Donovan Smith
A year has passed since Africa Outlook last spoke with Minopex, a member of DRA Global, and in that time, the Company has achieved unprecedented growth; expanding both from a commodity and geographic perspective to capitalise on burgeoning opportunities and a favourable mining climate.
The O&M (operations and maintenance) outsourcing provider has affirmed its position as the biggest operator of its kind in the world, not simply through continuous improvement, but by strategically broadening each and every element of its reach – not least in the Middle East via its DRA Saudi Arabia subsidiary.
“In the Middle East we opened up operations under our DRA Saudi Arabia banner three years ago, and it’s been a huge success as the first outsourcing enterprise of this type in the country,” confirms the Company’s Managing Director, Rashid Kader. “Working with the biggest client in the commodity sector we have been able to demonstrate our multi-commodity expertise to complement ongoing developments in Africa across our gold and base metal operations.”
Iron ore and zinc are two additional areas of progression in recent times as an indication of the continuous enhancements being enjoyed across the Minopex group. But it is perhaps through this Middle Eastern influence that the Company has best demonstrated its overall scope, flexibility and appeal.
“Realistically in the Middle East, it’s all about relationships and trust, so we started off in the region on a consulting basis, assisting Ma’aden with their plant and mining operations,” Kader recalls. “We assisted them because the skills base is very low in the region, but from these beginnings our relationship has grown from a consulting role into a operating partner. They realised we could change their loss-making business into a profitable one. And we did.”
While admittedly being something of a learning curve for DRA as much as it was for the client, all of the requisite skills and experiences were in place to make the Greenfields operation a success.
Kader continues: “They didn’t have the local inhouse skills so logistically it was a challenge, but we carried out the work as a local entity – DRA Saudi Arabia – and from there it’s grown.
“The Middle East traditionally has three pillars of industry: oil, tourism and mining. With the former drying up, governments are now putting a lot of emphasis on the latter, but without the readymade skills to fully capitalise, we have become instrumental in applying our skills and knowledge to grow the sector.”
International expansion is no new thing for Minopex of course, the Company having made a name for itself in Africa over the years via its ability to mobilise in new regions quickly and effectively.
From due diligence and strong market research, the rest of its core industrial capabilities are given licence to flourish. And the biggest appeal to prospective new countries then comes from the Company’s track record in training the national workforce and helping to build the domestic infrastructure.
“We know up front that we have to put a lot of focus on training, and uplifting the local communities, converting the number of expats working on-site to a growing number of locals in each operation,” Kader explains. “Corporate social responsibility goes hand-in-hand with the industrial influence we have in each case, and there is a huge expectation among respective governments for us to come in, to help generate more local employment opportunities, and to ultimately help enrich their economy.”
The next advantage then derives from Minopex’s multi-commodity expertise, again making the business a strong proposition regardless of the application required. And to facilitate this turnkey status on an ever-broadening scale, the need for skilled, motivated and loyal personnel is every bit as important to the Company as it is to the country it is operating within.
Kader continues: “Essentially, we try to make sure throughout all our HR schemes that people are custodians of their own lives. They share in the growth of the Company. Because we’re not listed, you work for your own growth as shareholders, and the success of this approach can be seen in the fact that we have very few staff members who stay with us any less than eight years.
“I have been at Minopex for 19 years myself, and if you compare this to the Middle East where the average turnover is around one year, then you can see how successful we are at identifying a skilled individual, developing them, and getting the most out of their skill base in a way that enriches both them and us.”
As strong as ever
Aforementioned notions of diversification not only enhance the overall business proposition, but it helps to safeguard against fluctuating markets and challenging industry trends; as are common place in the mining sector.
Diversification isn’t just present from a geographic or commodity standpoint though. Kader goes on to note that the most significant area of variation derives from its value chain and from being both an O&M and EPCM player where Minopex and DRA have a role to play.
“We can cater for projects from studies, to design, to construction of a plant, and everything in between,” he says. “We will see a dip in some sectors while others pick up, but we are big and flexible enough to mitigate those challenges, and to still remain as strong as ever in the markets that are still thriving.
“Being as widespread as we are from a geographic and portfolio perspective is also great from a supply chain and procurement perspective as well. A single mine owner will look after around seven operations at any one time, maximum. But as an outsourcing entity, we are often buying for as many as 14 or 15 different operations, which gives us much more buying power.”
This is hugely beneficial for its clients too, who are able to leverage this buying power to evolve their sites at the most competitive premium.
For Minopex, it means its attentions from a capital expenditures point of view can be turned more extensively towards acquisitions, as Kader elaborates: “We’ve been very busy over the past year acquiring many companies; each helping us to increase our footprint.
“Additionally though, with each acquisition we inherit an increase in technologies and personnel skills which lends to an improvement of our value-added services to clients. We are able to offer the best technical expertise out there to help clients get up and running, and these acquisitions are playing a massive part in facilitating our recent business growth.”
Agility and scale
Ultimately, as Kader affirms, Minopex and DRA’s overriding advantage comes from its one-stop-shop status.
From studies, all the way through to the construction of a plant, and succeeded by maintenance and operation of said plant, potential clients needn’t look for numerous separate service providers when this one caters for all necessary segments in a package that has an unrivalled track record included.
“There’s no passing the buck,” Kader picks up. “We are accountable and responsible for turning your resource into a profitable revenue stream and we are ready and willing to offer ether the full ‘A-Z’ list of services to achieve that, or alternately an ‘A-B’ customised selection of whatever the client specifically needs on a tailored basis.
“Quite often clients will come to us for just the one aspect but then realise that we can offer a whole lot more, and that’s a big plus point. Different clients, in different markets, in different countries all inevitably need different things; and no matter what that is, we have the agility and scale to find and apply the appropriate solution.”
Further differentiators emanate from the Company’s skill base which allows for almost immediate mobilisation when opportunities arise in different regions. And, furthermore, through the Company’s reputation as a leader in operational safety. Having achieved more than eight years without a lost time injury, its track record has another string added to the bow, as Minopex and DRA strives to compound its market-leading position in the future.
Kader concludes: “We have proved time and time again that we can turn even a loss-making operation into a profitable one, and we want to continue doing so on a growing global scale. Our aim now is to expand, largely in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, where everyone is talking about us.
“We don’t want to grow so fast as to dampen our influence, but from this year to next, even further global expansion is certainly our primary aim; capitalising on an outsourcing option that is becoming more and more popular across all sizes of clients in the mining industry.”