Knight Piésold finds an attractive market in the Namibian mining sector.
GL: Knight Piésold’s Namibian office was established in December 2008, with just one member of staff. We now have 14 staff working for the firm. The company has an office in Ondangwa, here in Windhoek, and we are planning to open another office in Keetmanshoop, in November 2013 in the south of Namibia.
Knight Piésold is not only involved in mining but also civil infrastructure projects: water reticulations, hydro-geology, roads, and bridges. Our biggest project at the moment is the Neckartal Dam. We are also doing major flood studies for the town of Oshakati, which has been flooded for four years.
In mining, we are globally renowned for our expertise in heap leaching, tailings dams, water management and environmental studies. Knight Piésold also does mine closures and decommissioning, and from a feasibility point of view we do technical investigations for closure.
Knight Piésold’s slogan is ‘local knowledge, global expertise’, so we are interested in building expertise in Namibia while drawing on our resources throughout the region. Over the next few years we want to train up a geology specialist at the Neckartal Dam because there is limited expertise in-country.
How significant is the Namibian mining sector within the scope of your activities and what kind of projects have you undertaken here?
GL: We only started to focus on mining this year but Veronique has come in to support us and the division is growing well. Many of the mining houses present here have head offices in Australia or Canada, so they are already familiar with Knight Piésold. They are confident that they are going to receive the same level of service here as they would anywhere else in the world.
VD: We have been slowly getting more projects and progress has been excellent. In fact, Knight Piésold globally has been involved in Namibia for several years and we now have the capacity to develop the projects locally and invest locally in the Namibian economy. Knight Piésold has been working on several heap-leaching facilities in Africa and Namibia. For example, we did the design for the heap leach pad at the Tschudi mine, which is now moving into construction. We have been involved also with Tailings and Water Management with Langer Heinrich, Rossing, etc. We also offer services for environmental studies and permitting for junior companies and new project developing in Namibia. Mining is very mobile: Knight Piésold has projects all over Africa and I’m personally involved in projects in Ghana, Burkina Faso, etc. However, our focus is on Namibia; we are here to develop our local expertise and offer local engineering to companies that operate in Namibia. We see significant value in having a presence in country, and in being able to contribute positively to the local economy and community.
How competitive is the Namibian market across areas of service that you offer?
VD: Although there is a wide variety of environmental consulting companies here there are very few with such a focus on mining who understand what the client actually needs to progress their project while complying with the international standard and best practice.
GL: At the moment most of the miners look to South Africa or Australia for these services. However, the government wants to encourage investment in Namibia and make sure that local expertise is developed. Knight Piésold is doing that and our clients like that we are basically Namibian owned. This gives them the opportunity to employ local people and brings them an advantage in negotiating with the government.
Some of our respondents have spoken of the skills shortage in Namibia. Have you found it difficult to hire locally?
GL: Knight Piésold’s Namibian mining division has only just started but our mining division South Africa is very large and we are able transfer expertise. Locally, getting the right people is difficult. However, Knight Piésold has a good name and we are getting there; with Veronique here it makes it easier because she speaks the mining language.
VD: Even though mineral prices went down, the local economy is still active and we are seeing some Namibians that have gained expertise overseas returning home. It is important to attract these skilled workers, but we also train people ourselves. Knight Piésold values professional development and training of their local employees. The company also runs a number of internal short courses, seminars and integrated projects to share our global expertise.
Namibia has followed a policy of adopting South African Environmental standards. How do you assess the efficacy of the government’s environmental management programs?
GL: The government have implemented the environmental act of 2007, it is still in the beginning stages of the implementation and has some growing pains as the time goes the act gets more clearer to the all the stakeholders, when implemented the environmental foot print will be limited with better control.
VD: Because Knight Piésold is an international company, our clients know that we follow national and international standards. Something particular to Namibia are the large parks covering the country. Many mines will overlap or be near to national parks. This brings some very particular challenges to permitting and the environmental work we are doing. Personally, as an engineer, I appreciate the breadth of Knight Piésold’s expertise. The company is a consultant to the mining industry, but also specializes in developing environmental studies and permitting projects; this means that they ensure that all of the right data has been acquired from the start.
What are your expectations for Knight Piésold’s development in Nambia over the next three to five years?
GL: Our market share in Namibia is still quite small but I think there is great potential for growth here. There are a lot of large projects coming up with the government’s Vission 2030 plan. We are currently looking to take on three new technicians, two drafters, and a structural engineer. Our vision for the firm is “Working together to be the very best team of professionals and the most valuable business partner to our clients worldwide.
VD: The mining division will definitely need to expand and have a complete team to address a wide range of assignments, but we will ensure that we grow sustainably. KP was founded in South Africa 1921 and has expanded throughout the world in response to client requirements. We expect to go the same way and keep focusing on our client projects.
This interview was conducted as part of the research conducted on African mining jurisdictions by Global Business Reports (GBR) as part of our partnership with African Mining Indaba LLC. The aim of this partnership is the production of the single most comprehensive intelligence report on the continent’s mineral sector. The Official Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide, will be launched next February 2014, as the only official publication providing country-specific information at Africa’s top mining event, the 2014 Investing in Africa Mining Indaba™ held in Cape Town, South Africa.