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The trend for small and emerging miners to outsource their openpit or surface mining to a contractor is well established, but what should they look for when trying to find a competent partner?

“The first rule would be to avoid looking only at the cost quoted,” says SPH Kundalila managing director Jeremy Petter-Bowyer. “It is vital to look in detail at each prospective contractors’ capacity, experience and reputation.”

He recommends that miners should ‘qualify’ each contractor according to how well they meet the most important indicators – in a similar way that government demands its contractors meet certain conditions before they can earn any infrastructural projects.

When choosing a mining contractor, he urges emerging miners to visit and score each contractor’s workshop facilities, for example.

“Ask them for their Lost Time Injury Rate, and their safety policies and protocols,” says Petter-Bowyer. “Responsible and reliable businesses will also be legally compliant, so ask them for evidence of this compliance – such as their regular payments to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and the Workman’s Compensation Fund.”

The applicant’s balance sheet also needs to be viewed, to satisfy the miner that the contractor indeed has the capital to purchase and maintain suitable equipment for the project.

“Finally, the miner needs to see some of the projects that the contractor is conducting, and to speak to existing or previous clients about the contractor’s performance,” he says. “Too much is at stake to simply take a contractor’s word for it – their ability to deliver must stand up to close scrutiny.”

SPH Kundalila has been in business for over half a century, with some client relationships exceeding four decades.

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