As the only earth sciences consulting firm at the recent DRC Mining Week in Lubumbashi, SRK Consulting said the large turnout and positive mood was a good indication of the country’s mining momentum.
According to Dominique Sambwa, chairperson of SRK Consulting DRC, energy supply and the green transition were key discussion points at the DRC Mining Week’s conference. Hydro-electric schemes underway promise to add some 500 MW to the national grid.
“Increased energy generation in the country will certainly help existing mines to boost production, and will open the door for new projects to become viable,” said Sambwa. “Renewable energy also supports mines’ efforts to decarbonise.”
He noted that there was discussion on the feasibility of introducing battery-powered vehicles in local mines, which provide a potentially cleaner alternative to diesel-powered vehicles – depending on the source of the electricity. Many mining companies active in the DRC are under pressure to become more carbon-neutral, being pushed in this direction not just by investors but by customers.
“Thanks to the new energy law in DRC, private companies are now authorised to become involved in electricity generation. These players are looking at options like new micro-hydro-electric projects which can feed energy to the grid – as well as refurbishing existing power plants to be more productive,” he said.
Increased demand of key minerals
Susa Maleba, country manager of SRK Consulting DRC, emphasised that increased demand for the country’s key minerals – copper and cobalt – was encouraging miners to raise production levels. This trend could only be sustained by adding generation capacity to the grid.
DRC Mining Week was also an opportunity for government to reiterate its policy on local procurement. Maleba pointed out that most of the equipment suppliers exhibiting at the event were based outside the DRC, and that this was set to change in coming years.
“The recently introduced local procurement regulations now need to be applied in practical ways. This is often not easy, as the DRC is not yet well served by banking and financial institutions which can support local businesses to start up and grow.” he said.
There was a continued concern with formalising the artisanal mining sector in the country, according to Wouter Jordaan, director in the SRK Consulting DRC practice.
“Mining companies are forging innovative strategies to do this. There was also considerable discussion around responsible business and mining practices, which is fast becoming a focal point of supply chains and investors,” said Jordaan.
With the growing interest in the DRC among China-based mining companies, SRK Consulting’s offices in the DRC, China and South Africa have been collaborating to support these firms. Pengfei Xiao, managing director of SRK China, said the DRC Mining Week was another opportunity to engage with Chinese firms.
“We have been able to play a valuable role in assisting clients with their compliance strategies – particularly with ESG and reporting. Our global network and local knowledge equip us well to keep abreast of international best practice, to help clients to close any compliance gaps,” said Pengfei.
Having established its DRC office in Lubumbashi 12 years ago, SRK Consulting’s local professionals have been providing a range of services to mining companies, including exploration, due diligence, reviews and competent persons’ reports, as well as hydrogeology and geotechnical work, and environmental and social studies. Speaking at a special event for clients during DRC Mining Week, Sambwa said the company was also working towards greater involvement in the green energy transition.
He was encouraged by the attendance of students at the DRC Mining Week, many of whom were interested in careers related to the mining sector. In addition to its work with mining companies, SRK Consulting also hosted the DRC branch of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM).
“This body is an important vehicle to nurture and develop professional expertise in the country, and we are encouraging students to be involved too,” he said.