Beau Nicholls, CEO, and Aurelien Douyere, CFO, Sahara Mining Services

Sahara Mining Services is bringing its full suite of technologies and services to West Africa so as to provide these locally

Could you provide us with an overview of Sahara Mining Services and the services it provides in Africa?

BN: Sahara Mining Services was formed in 2010 by former employees of the Australian group RSG Global. Sahara started out by providing services for exploration projects. We mostly provided services to companies exploring for gold, but also completed work for a range of commodities including iron ore in Sierra Leone, uranium in Niger and bauxite in Guinea. Today, we provide services for every stage of the mining cycle from exploration to mining to mine closure.

Since the GFC, there has been a reduction in investment in exploration globally. Sahara decided to expand our service capacity in West Africa in 2013. In the last three years, we added a number of new services lacking in West Africa including surveying, geotechnical, hydrogeology, operational improvement along with consulting services targeting higher level JORC and NI43-101 studies.  Sahara introduced surveying services covering both underground and open-pit mining, as well as civil projects. We were the first company to introduce drones (UAVs) into West Africa and have undertaken civil surveying projects for the US Government. We also provide geotechnical services, including the latest technology in cone penetration test (CPT) drills, which are used to assess the integrity of tailings dams, and standard penetration tests (SPT) drills.  These are the latest technology in geotechnical drilling in mine and civil infrastructure and are now available for hire from Sahara within West Africa.

One of our strongest service offered is auger geochemical drilling used in early stage gold exploration. Sahara has 31 Landcrusier mounted Auger drills and an additional seven man portable units, which makes us the largest provider of this service in Africa. Centamin Mining’s (previously Ampella Mining) famous Batie gold project and Semafo’s Siou gold mine were found using Sahara auger drills. Sahara is considered the top 30 meter specialist in West Africa and as such we also have a small air core/RAB rig, and we will soon have an underground diamond rig. We recognize the fact that West Africa is becoming a more mature mining jurisdiction with all of the easy open pit mines discovered and now a lot of new mining is beginning to go underground.  Sahara is preparing for this shift to underground and is improving our on-the-ground capabilities to support underground mining for our clients.

Sahara saw the need to diversify our services as we want and do offer our clients services locally provided by our West African professionals rather than clients needing to call consulting companies in Australia or Canada.

What security services does Sahara Mining Services offer to its mining clients?

BN: Given the increase in terrorist and armed robbery activity, Sahara management have prioritised security as a key issue for our employees and clients. Sahara has formed a joint venture with MS Risk – a professional security services company involved in international security and intelligence mapping. By consolidating MS Risk data with local mining, services and NGO companies across West Africa, we have developed a detailed alert system called D-Risk LIVE Security Alert System, which is being utilised by a number of mining and service companies. This system allows you to go to Google Maps on your smart phone and see if anyone has been robbed on the road you are about to use or of any terrorist activities in the region.  The system is very powerful and will make West Africa a safer place to live and work. With the MS Risk JV we also provide a full suite of security services including security managers along with kidnap and extortion negotiations. MS Risk is fully backed for insurance purposes by Lloyds Bank of London.  

How important is West Africa for Sahara Mining Services and where is the company looking to expand?

BN: 90% of our work is in West Africa and it is the focus for our growth strategy. We have registered offices in Burkina Faso, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, and have operational bases throughout most of West Africa. We also have a branch office in Brazil, where I personally have operated for over nine years.

AD: Twelve months ago, the strategic decision was made to invest in an office in Korhogo, located in northern Cote d’Ivoire, capable of serving clients in Mali, Senegal, etc. Cote d’Ivoire is now seen as a top investment destination in West Africa and will be for years to come. Though the Ivoirians have struggled recently with war, the country is doing exceptionally well and very attractive for international investors and miners alike.

What distinguishes Sahara Mining Services from its competitors in West Africa?

BN: We are the biggest mining services provider in West Africa, and having operational bases across multiple countries means Sahara has a regional advantage. Moreover, our international partners and our range of services allow Sahara to offer the latest technology and expertise locally to our international clients. For example, in recent years, UAVs revolutionised surveying for the mining sector in Australia and Canada. Sahara can now provide UAV Survey services in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Burkina Faso, because we have UAV units in those countries. Anyone can fly a UAV for fun but to provide 3D topography to within 5cm accuracy requires a trained professional surveyor with a super computer and serious processing software.  Sahara have this.  Sahara has also invested in training our local professional staff and has high level professional West African staff, with our geologists fully qualified as “Competent” and “Qualified” persons and able to undertake independent technical reports required by the Australian and Canadian stock exchanges; these roles were historically covered by expatriate consultants.

AD: Sahara has established partnerships with international companies such as Olympus (Innov-X Africa) Southern Geoscience, Halliburton (Baroid) and SMG Corporate Services to expand our capabilities with first world support. These partnerships are win-win partnerships, as they add value to our capability and Sahara offers on-the-ground support for those companies who are active in the region, but do not necessarily have a presence on the ground in West Africa.

Where would you like to see Sahara Mining Services in a year from now?

BN: Sahara wants to become the mining services company of choice for West Africa. We are serious about providing high quality international services locally and want to expand our new services in security, geotechnical, hydrogeology and surveying. We also want to establish solid relationships with our partners to upskill our local staff to benefit from our partners international experience.  We are establishing solid relationships with the government departments and local stakeholders to ensure we establish a long and sustainable future, not only for the Sahara team, but for mining in West Africa in general. We also want find a few more gold mines for our clients!  .

What is Sahara’s final message to the international mining community looking at West Africa?

AD: West Africa has so much potential. With the gold price rising, this is one of the lowest risk regions in the world to invest your time and money. My wish is for greater attention towards West Africa, but I ask those interested not to rush in with poor partners, but to take their time to find quality companies that will service them according to their needs.

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