Pine van Wyk, Managing Director, Gecko Namibia

MACIG Connect Series

Pine-Van-Wyk-BLOGCould you provide an overview of how Gecko’s operations have evolved in Namibia since we last met?

Pine van Wyk (PVW): Gecko Namibia is presently the largest drilling exploration company in the country and provides services to a broad spectrum of mines. Gecko Namibia has secured major drilling contracts with companies such as Paladin’s Langer Heinrich mine, Swakop Uranium and Rossing Uranium and has provided drilling services for most uranium juniors in the country and various Base metal exploration projects. Recently Gecko Namibia introduced blast-hole drilling as a new service and had projects at Langer Heinrich and the Neckerdal Dam Project. We also developed our own metallurgical laboratory over the last 18 months, which is based in Swakopmund. Through this new facility, Gecko Namibia covers in-house analytical needs and also provides laboratory research and development (R&D) services to external clients. Now, we are doing metallurgical tests and investigation with Swakop Uranium and Bannerman Resources. Apart from the above, Gecko Namibia has established the construction division over the last year and has been involved in a number of large bulk earthwork and civil contracts in the mining industry and for government. Recently we were awarded the Bannerman Mine Pilot Plant construction contract.

Gecko Namibia also focuses on developing its own mineral rights within Namibia and growing our service provision through the mining industry. We have mineral licenses for industrial minerals including limestone, salt, sodium sulfate, sodium carbonate, as well as graphite. Significant progress is also being made on our Vision Industrial Park project, where we continue to develop the environmental impact assessment (EIA) and optimize port designs. Some projects have most of the environmental studies completed and submitted and are waiting for clearance. Gecko Namibia will continue to grow its capacity to deliver services such as drilling, mining, laboratory services and exploration.

Sister South African companies, Genet Mining & Genet Mineral Processing, support Gecko Namibia. How far across the country and region is Gecko Namibia able to provide support to the mining industry?

PVW: Genet South-Africa is Gecko Namibia’s support base in South Africa and fuels our growth within the country. Through the head office of the Gecko Africa Group, which is based in Namibia, we have serviced projects in Angola and Zimbabwe with additional plans to expand into Zambia and Portugal where we have interests in grass-root exploration projects. New venture companies with exploration rights are constantly approaching Gecko Namibia for potential partnerships, which allows the opportunity to provide drilling services and have equity in the projects. Gecko Namibia is always looking for opportunities across the region. When we work in other countries, we generally provide key core skills from South Africa or Namibia and then source local skills for technical operator level jobs.

How important is the mining industry for Gecko Namibia as opposed to other industries, such as oil and gas?

PVW: The portfolio of mining services is directly linked to market prices. If the mining industry is in a tight cash-flow situation, it affects whether they are exploring, drilling or expanding, which affects Gecko Namibia. In terms of Gecko Namibia’s own mineral rights, the projects are not yet generating revenue and require further investment. Our objective is to take two of our own mineral rights projects to the next phase of operation and generate revenue within 24 months. South Africa also provides a substantial revenue base, which is reinvested in development within Namibia.

What are the main challenges that you face in the country while servicing the mining industry?

PVW: The mining industry in Namibia values long-standing relationships. If they have used the same laboratory or key partner for ten to fifteen years, we must give them a good reason to change. Market entry is challenging, but once Gecko Namibia established a solid reputation, it became much easier.

Gecko Namibia has access to a fleet of over 600 pieces of yellow equipment (Plant) within the group. How many machines does Gecko Namibia have access to within the country?

PVW: At the moment Gecko Namibia has around 90 machines in Namibia. The number is constantly increasing due to the needs of our own operations, as we continually secure construction projects. The moment that we secure a large project, we can consolidate very quickly with the support of the Group. Though some of the equipment is bought on financing or lease agreements, Gecko Namibia owns most of the equipment that it uses. Most of Gecko Namibia’s equipment is currently allocated to the coalmines in South Africa or to construction projects in the region.

Gecko Namibia has a strong commitment to social responsibility by committing to allocate 10% of all net profits to the Gecko Foundation. Could you please expand on this business model?

PVW: Given that Gecko Namibia is still heavily investing in the development phase of the business, our commitment to sponsor community projects is tailored to the level of revenue that we are generating presently. However, we make sure to stay as involved as possible. We currently run a number of bursaries for students that we are sponsoring in South Africa. At this point the focus is on engineers, and we will be employing them when they complete their studies. We have also been heavily involved in the sponsorship of sports events and make sure to partake in three to five sponsorship events throughout the year. Once the foundation receives capital on a more regular basis from our commitment, we will look at more value-added projects.

Do you have a final message for our international MACIG readership?

PVW: We want to develop Gecko Namibia as a cash generating entity within the next two years. Within this timeframe Gecko Namibia would plans to see at least two of our mining mineral right operations go into production and generate revenue. For this to happen, we will invest substantially in our own mineral projects over the next two years and grow our human capacity and systems to support the next phase. Namibia has historically relied on international service providers for mining services, drilling and construction. Gecko Namibia has positioned itself to fill the gap as a national company that is capable of fulfilling these needs for the industry. We would encourage international investors to contact Gecko Namibia, to see how we can help make their projects a success by looking at the most cost effective way in providing services to them. We understand their challenges, given that we are also in the mining industry. We are here to build that capacity and to become on of the largest mining service providing companies in the country. Gecko Namibia has the passion and skills to build a successful, truly Namibian company.

This interview was part of research being conducted by GBR for its upcoming Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) 2015. To participate in this report, please contact Sharon Saylor at ssaylor@gbreports.com.

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