MACIG Connect Series
Dave Gravett (DG): The motivation to set up in Zambia came from a board level decision that for the company to continue expanding it was necessary to move into new markets. Mining in South Africa continues to contract but it is booming in other areas. Our first step was to establish an office in Peru, which was swiftly followed by agency representation in India and Australia. From this point, Africa was the next logical step, and Zambia was the perfect place to start. The full range of NCM products is available here but our main product lines are underground roof supports, split-sets, Hydrabolts and Welded mesh. Recently, NCM has been approached by other South African companies without operations in Zambia to market their products. We are happy to accommodate such arrangements as long as they are in line with our core business of underground roof support.
From Zambia we service the local market as well as mines in the DRC and Tanzania. We experienced solid growth from the outset until January 2015 when the industry underwent a sudden slowdown, which reflects a global drop in commodity prices. Nevertheless, we recognize that mining is a cyclical industry and what goes down will eventually rise again.
Beyond the sale of tangible products, what kind of after-sales services is NCM Zambia able to provide?
DG: We have a team of underground observers, each of whom is assigned to a particular shaft and goes underground every day. Their main function is to check and assist with the usage and maintenance of our equipment and ensure that the underground operators are installing our products correctly. We like to identify and rectify any issues with our products as quickly as possible. That way, we can take appropriate action before any serious issues arise.
In the wake of a series of accidents in Zambian mines, how do you assess the level of safety in the coun-try’s underground operations?
DG: Recently there have been some accidents in the mines, but this is not part of a larger trend: they are isolated events. The mines operate to a very high standard.
The Copperbelt plays host to some of the world’s wettest mines. Does this environment require specific products?
DG: We do have specific products that are more suited to damp environments. A coated support product can last the life of the mine if it is installed correctly whereas a normal black steel bolt could rust through in a matter of months. It is the mine personnel who decide which products are most appropriate for each location.
As NCM continues to expand into new markets will you be establishing new manufacturing bases outside of South Africa?
DG: Most of our products are manufactured in South Africa. We do have a small production facility here, which will be expanded once we move to our new, larger premises. Looking forward, we plan to expand the range of coatings for our products.
Since January, Zambia’s usually stable operating environment has been shaken up by the introduction and subsequent withdrawal of higher royalty rates. Will this uncertainty continue or will the coming months see a return to stability?
DG: Moving forward, there not will be any major changes to operating conditions for Zambian mines. Zambia has a fairly stable economy, which will continue going forward.
As a fairly young operation in Zambia, what are NCM’s plans to develop the company over the next two years?
DG: We want to become the leading supplier of underground roof support equipment in Zambia. In parallel, we hope to bring several new products into the Zambian marketplace. New Concept has several products, which have been highly successful in South Africa and are a good fit for Zambian mines. We see our role as a partner, helping the mines improve their underground operating conditions through our superior products and long experience developing better installation methods.
This interview was part of research being conducted by GBR for its upcoming Mining in Africa Country Investment Guide (MACIG) 2016. A pre-release report on the Central African Copperbelt was released in May 2015 and can be accessed here. To participate in this report, please contact Molly Concannon at firstname.lastname@example.org or +243(0)826300684.