Global Business Reports interviewed Aaron Green, Director of Australasian Operations at CSA Global in June 2019 on the growth markets, issues surrounding skills shortage and the state of the minerals market in Australia.
CSA Global has over 35 years of international experience in most mineral commodities. Which growth markets, with respect to geography and service offerings, have you focused on developing?
Our strategy is to be the leading mining consultancy globally, and to achieve this we need to continue to grow our range of services, our capacity and our geographical spread. Whilst growth of our business in the Americas is a key part of our strategy, we are also continuing to invest in Australia and the region, as they are very important markets for us. With our highly integrated and collaborative operating model, our capabilities and client networks here are crucial to support our growth and international expansion.
In Australia, the company currently employs approximately 75 full-time staff members in offices in Perth, Brisbane, Kalgoorlie and Darwin, complemented by many more casual employees and contractors. The sentiment and activity levels in the mining industry in Australia remain very positive, and the services industry is again experiencing good times. Our strategy in Australia is to maintain and grow our expertise in our core service areas, e.g. geology and resource evaluation, whilst focusing on our growth areas across geometallurgy, hydrogeology and engineering. This is both to service our local client base as well as to support our expansion globally.
CSA Global plans to continue to broaden its services across the mine value chain so we can provide integrated services to our customers. We want our customers to be with us from exploration right through to mining. During the last downturn we invested in building our team for a new period of growth. This has been successful, and we have seen our business evolve to the point where brand recognition is very strong globally, and we now have people coming to us from a recruitment point of view. CSA Global is now one of the leading companies with regards to public reporting and resource estimation, and we are in the top 10 companies in the world for mining studies and reserve estimation. Our client base has also changed significantly, and even though we are still heavily involved in the junior sector in Australia and overseas, we now have a far greater proportion of our business with mid-tier and major mining companies.
Do you believe that outsourcing will become more common in Western Australia’s mining industry given the current issues surrounding skills shortage?
Outsourcing is a continuing trend, particularly with the high level of innovation happening within the industry. Many mining companies are planning on automating more of the activities at their mines, which means that the skillsets required on-site and offsite are changing. This opens the door for more services to be outsourced, and CSA Global sees this as an area of great opportunity.
During the cycle downturn, CSA Global was very lucky to pick up some extremely talented people, which has drawn in more talent to the company. Our focus moving forward is to continue building out our team, and to move away from being Perth-dominant so that we do have a much broader talent pool to rely on around the world.
Over the last few years, as the market has tightened with the availability of professional and skilled people, more and more major companies are approaching CSA Global for services which they previously had in-house.
How has the dawn of ‘Mining 4.0’ and the new technologies that come with it impacted CSA Global’s strategy?
CSA Global has been impacted to some degree by Mining 4.0. Part of the company’s strategy has been to partner with innovators as if we are not bringing new techniques to our clients they will look for services elsewhere. We have also seen a significant increase in interest from industry for ‘machine learning’ courses and other technology-specific consulting services.
Investment dollars in exploration reached a 30-year high in 2018. What other minerals are gaining traction in WA?
The precious and base metals markets remain robust and currently, anything related to batteries, such as lithium, copper and nickel, are receiving a lot of attention. Although nickel prices have not increased as much as we expected, a significant number of explorers are again entering this market. The demand for lithium is continuously growing, and we believe that demand will increase for some years to come. In terms of copper, there have been some exciting discoveries in Australia over the last 12 months, and the major explorers are again interested in the red metal.
It is work on precious metals (gold) and base metals (copper, zinc, nickel) projects that form the bulk of our business. Graphite, cobalt and lithium are a smaller but important part of our business, generating approximately 10% to 15% of the company’s revenue.
What are CSA Global’s objectives moving forward, and could you provide a final message to our readers?
We must learn from previous mistakes, and as an industry, we have to evolve and innovate. There has to be a cultural change within the mining industry, and the aim should be to identify how we can improve the environment and the lives of the people around us. As each new project comes online, we have to look at the potential risks and if and how these risks can be mitigated.
Mining generates significant wealth and prosperity for our communities. However, it faces many challenges, and small events can significantly impact the industry. Moving forward, sustainability and innovation will be critical for the ongoing success and viability of the mining industry.
Director – Australasia Operations
Aaron is a geologist and a partner with more than 20 years’ mining industry experience. Aaron’s main focus is ensuring the Australasian teams work together to deliver the best quality advice to our clients by ensuring strong communication and collaboration across offices. A large part of his role is managing the Perth head office, which houses our largest and most technically diverse teams. Aaron works daily with our international teams enabling CSA Global to provide our Australasian clients with local and international project access to our global pool of experts.