"The mining business in West Africa continued operations uninterruptedly and it has been stimulated by high gold prices. Moreover, many of our clients increased their replenishment orders for consumables and equipment to avoid running short in case of lockdowns or disruptions to shipping etc."
How has the coronavirus affected Mincon West Africa?
The events of the past months have been unprecedented, but I am glad to say that in certain aspects they have helped us improve our efficiency by taking advantage of the communication tools available, which we simply did not fully utilize before. We replaced physical travel with remote B2B digital communication, realizing that about 60% of the trips we were doing before were probably unnecessary. The mining business in West Africa continued operations uninterruptedly and it has been stimulated by high gold prices. Moreover, many of our clients increased their replenishment orders for consumables and equipment to avoid running short in case of lockdowns or disruptions to shipping etc. Therefore, our revenues increased during this period. Mincon operates mainly through supply agreements with fixed prices over a period of a few years, and our clients benefit from this contract because they can do their internal, long-term planning with more precision.
In which West African countries do you see the most opportunity for growth?
Before the recent coup, I would have said Mali is the strongest contender. However, I maintain my optimism for the country because Mali has gone through a lot of turmoil since 2012. Ivory Coast is also developing aggressively in gold mining, while Burkina Faso, a more established gold producer, is a buoyant market, despite some of its security challenges. I believe these three countries, together with Guinea and Ghana, are strong growth markets for us.
Mincon was incorporated in Senegal as a base for its West Africa operations before the office was moved to Las Palmas. What was the rationale behind choosing Senegal, and then moving base after 6 years in the country?
When I was approached by Mincon 10 years ago, the plan was to incorporate the company in Ghana, but we decided that the regional office should be in a francophone country, as the mining market in West Africa consists of more francophone than anglophone countries. We excluded Mali because it was landlocked and Ivory Coast because it was still politically unstable, and so Senegal became the best choice, especially due to its efficient port. Indeed, I did not mention Senegal as a country of strong focus in my previous answer, because Senegal has become something of a “quantified” market, that will be influenced by Massawa Gold coming into production. Senegal did not invest enough in infrastructure development, becoming more inefficient over the years. Currently, Mincon has over 75% market share in rock-drilling tools in Senegal, and we have had contracts with Teranga Gold since 2010. For now, we moved operations to Las Palmas, but it is possible that in the future we will reconsider our base in West Africa.
What are the most recent R&D developments at Mincon?
Mincon launched the biggest drill-through-ring (DTH) earlier in March, within our geotechnical construction sector. Mincon is ultimately an engineering and manufacturing company, and we have a strong focus on developing new ground-breaking appliances. Our product line has come a long way and we have a late-stage R&D project on a green hammer system, currently under development in Australia on an iron mine which I am sure will revolutionize mining blast hole drilling once commercialized, but I am not able to disclose more information about this yet. The drilling industry has not made significant advances over time and a lot of the traditional methods have not changed at all. At Mincon we seek to develop conventional methods to increase speed, but also to reduce the environmental impact through lower use of fuels.
How is Mincon differentiating from its competitors in the sector?
I believe that despite the current size of our global group, we have been able to maintain our passion and focus, whereas many of our competitors, while they perform high-quality R&D and develop competitive products, they have a long turnaround time and are not as responsive to industry needs. Mincon’s turnaround is shorter and we spend a lot of time to understand our clients’ daily challenges, specific to their site, in order to manufacture a custom product based on their needs.
What are Mincon’s future priorities and what would you like investors to know about Mincon West Africa?
Our priority is to position strategically to the global mining business all over the world, producing the same quality in various locations. Besides harmonizing our manufacturing processes, it is important to maintain the short turnaround time between identifying a need and delivering a product. Mining will continue to represent a big part of our business.
We do not want to become a big corporation so internally focused that we lose sight of what we are: an engineering company that manufactures quality products for our customers. We are here for our customers, and we constantly work to improve quality, increase our product availability, and offer the best expertise and service.