From its bases in Perth, Brisbane and Manila, ECG Engineering is imparting reputed Australian expertise on multifaceted projects both at home and abroad, especially in West Africa
Writer: Tom Wadlow | Project Manager: Tom Cullum
West Africa’s mining industry is picking up some momentum.
According to Research and Markets’ Mining in West Africa 2019 report, West African nations exported $16.1 billion of minerals in 2017, up some 26 percent on the previous year.
Gold is a particularly promising subsector. The region was accountable for 9.4 percent of global supply in 2016, while almost three quarters of all exploration projects here are focused on this precious metal.
Foreign direct investment is vital to this ongoing development of West Africa’s mining sector.
Several large multinational corporations are committed to large projects, while foreign expertise is also being utilised effectively to ensure developments are executed to the highest international standards.
Enter Australia’s ECG Engineering.
Provider of a wide range of services to the mining, utilities and materials handling industries around the globe, its expertise covers the likes of feasibility studies, system studies and audits, design, project management, procurement, construction management and site support.
It is a relatively new enterprise and, for Principle Consultant and Director Geoff Bailey, represented another opportunity to build up an enterprise from scratch.
“I am an electrical engineer and have been involved in the mining industry for 40 years,” he says.
“After owning and running BEC Engineering for 18 years and being bought out by a larger company (Cardno), it was time to set up again with other partners in 2015, once more as an electrical engineering consulting company concentrated on servicing the mining industry worldwide and predominantly in Australia and Africa.”
Around 50 percent of the company’s work is carried out in Africa, in particular West Africa in association with Australian and international mining companies and their partners. Headquartered in Perth, Western Australia, ECG also has a base in Brisbane and the Philippine capital Manila.
“Our clients are supported by a team of highly qualified professionals with worldwide experience in the design, construction and commissioning of various process plants and infrastructure,” Bailey adds.
“Our execution model is built around a ﬂexible approach in collaboration with our customers.”
This is best shown in practice by ECG’s ever-expanding portfolio of projects.
Regarding its work on the African continent, Bailey points to the recently completed Ity Gold Mine for Endeavour Mining in Cote d’Ivoire as a typical showcase of the company’s services.
He explains: “In this project ECG was responsible for the initial feasibility study, negotiating with the government utility for a power connection agreement, detailed design of the power supply system and the processing plant, procurement of materials and installation contractors from international markets, construction supervision, commissioning and ongoing site support.”
This is one of two recently completed projects for Endeavour in Côte d’Ivoire, the other being its Agbaou Gold Mine, while in the same country ECG has worked with Aussie firm Perseus Mining on its Sissingue Gold Mine.
The company has further been involved with several gold mining projects in Burkina Faso and Senegal for the likes of Teranga Gold, SEMAFO, Nordgold and Toro Gold, among other international clients.
That ECG has been able to execute such a solid pipeline of work in the region is testament to both its depth of expertise and willingness to face challenges.
“We are extremely proud of some of the West African gold projects,” Bailey adds. “These developments pose significant hurdles around logistics, negotiation with government utilities, engagement of local employees and workers, safety of employees, work-home balance and family pressures.
“ECG has become known for taking on work that others prefer to leave. We get involved early in mining projects due to our experience with electricity grids in various African countries in particular.
“For example, ECG has modelled the electricity grids in Tanzania and Ghana and in part Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. This enables us to see the pressure points within the grids and support infrastructure that may be required to support additional new loads.
“To this end, we have worked directly with the utility in Tanzania in grid support schemes. We have experience in solar and battery storage power generation systems so can advise on a variety of power source options to our clients including grid, embedded generation and hybrid systems.”
This impressive track record, both at home and abroad, has validated ECG’s approach to business to date, and Bailey outlines several areas in which he believes the company stands apart from competitors.
For example, its structure enables flexibility, a trait which allows the firm to adapt to the particular needs of clients. The organisation is also built with cost-effectiveness in mind – its senior staff in Perth and Brisbane are ably supported by lower-cost functions which are carried out at its centre in Manila.
Another point of difference highlighted by Bailey revolves around stable and productive relationships with governments, utilities companies and suppliers.
Commenting on the latter, Bailey adds: “Our approach to partners is to ensure a good fitting culture.
“This encompasses a variety of attributes including working environment, attitude to safety and ingenuity, and general working relationships. Our model is EPCM and EPC, so we are not afraid of partnering with larger companies to share the risk.”
Bailey also cites ECG’s pool of experienced staff as a major differentiator, many of whom have worked together for as long as 30 years and carry experience that will be influential in the development of new engineers.
“ECG is committed to its future by providing opportunities that will challenge and exceed the expectations of our people through job satisfaction in a stimulating and favourable working environment,” he comments.
While maintaining and adding to this wealth of experience is a key priority moving forwards, it is no straightforward task.
“Sourcing and maintaining good quality staff will continue to be a challenge for ECG as the market improves,” Bailey continues.
“Building our Manila office will relieve some of this pressure, however, attracting senior engineering staff will continue to be a huge focus for us. ECG has just opened an office in Brisbane, and this will further enable us to access the eastern seaboard for good quality senior engineers.”
Enticing the next generation of engineers is therefore crucial.
Bailey states: “ECG will continue to differentiate itself by way of staff benefits, including mentor programmes for junior engineers, attractive employment conditions, favourable site conditions for supervision, commissioning staff to reduce family stress as much as possible, and training schemes.
“This must all be carried out while maintaining the unique culture that has been established here.”
Any new recruits will also be entering a varied and vibrant marketplace – be it in Australia, Africa or Asia, it is a backdrop which leaves Bailey confident for the future development of ECG.
He concludes: “We see the market activity continuing to strengthen through the rest of this year and into 2020 and beyond. We see the gold industry picking up in West Africa, iron ore in Australia and graphite and lithium projects in Asia and elsewhere.
“The market is well and truly alive and the amount of studies and past projects that are coming to fruition means we are going to have to prepare for expansion.”