Diggers & Dealers: Ausdrill seeks expansion under new leadership

Ausdrill's Andrew Broad.

Ausdrill is targeting another phase of growth as it prepares to welcome a new leader.

The company, the first publicly listed mining services group to ever present at a Diggers & Dealers Mining Forum, farewelled long-serving managing director and chief executive officer, Ron Sayers, last month.

Ausdrill will welcome Mark Norwell as its new MD and CEO in September.

It will start the new era focused on continued growth, with expansion into new regions and development of technologies two key targets.

Norwell offers Ausdrill significant mining services leadership experience gained in several international regions, something the company plans to leverage with him in the role.

His experience in the Americas was particularly attractive for Ausdrill’s board during the selection process, according to chief operating officer Andrew Broad.

“The Americas is certainly one of the focuses,” Broad told Australian Mining at Diggers & Dealers. “South America was a happy hunting ground for us for a long period of time; we operated in Chile, Peru and Nicaragua.

“There seems to be lots of opportunities opening up for us in those regions as well at the moment. We are even starting to see some acquisition opportunities coming out of those regions, (but at a) very early stage.”

A potential move into the Americas would add to Ausdrill’s presence in Australia and Africa where it will continue to pursue expansion. As Broad said during his presentation, Ausdrill operates in just nine African countries.

Ausdrill has already secured growth and development in technology this year.

The company launched operation of a Chrysos Corp photon technology, which is described as a faster, safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to the fire assay technique for gold analysis.

Broad said Ausdrill, which has a 10 per cent investment in Chrysos, liked the potential of the technology to disrupt something in the industry that hadn’t changed in a long time.

“Fire assay has been around for many years. It does take 24-48 hours to run a process, with lots of nasty chemicals involved,” Broad said.

“To take the people element out and reduce that sample time to two minutes, we saw it as something that will have a major impact on the industry going forward.”

Ausdrill will launch two more Chrysos machines in Kalgoorlie next year, adding capacity for 1.3 million samples a year.

The company also acquired a 19.9 per cent share in HiSeis, a seismic hard rock exploration services provider that plans to improve the drilling process with its technology.

HiSeis was established in 2009 to commercialise the technology, developed by a pair of professors from Curtin University of Technology in Perth.

“The purpose of HiSeis is not to replace drilling but it is to tell you where you should be drilling,” Broad said.

“We all know that mines aren’t getting any shallower so if you get a technology like this it opens up that exploration potential and focuses the dollars so you are drilling in the right area.”

Broad said Ausdrill’s planned growth, whether expanding into a new region or developing technology, would be complementary to its existing portfolio.

He does not expect the company to diversify into a new mining services sector.

“You can look across our portfolio at the things we do, the sort of acquisition we look at the larger ones will be across the portfolio and maybe take us into a new region or add new skills,” Broad said.

“We would rather grow within what we’ve got. In the absence of organic opportunities we would certainly look at M&A activity.”

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