No efforts wasted for top exporter

Utilising in-house expertise, diversifying in tough times and focusing on niche markets has earned GRD Minproc high praise. Jamie Wade writes.

A bold move amid the lull in mining activity several years ago to apply minerals processing expertise to waste management has paid off for Perth-based engineering firm GRD Minproc.

The company, which received two accolades at the 2007 Western Australian Industry and Export awards – including the prestigious Premier’s Award for Excellence – may be blazing a trail in exporting minerals processing expertise, but it was a different story several years ago.

With the resources industry in a lull of activity in the early part of the decade, GRD Minproc looked elsewhere for opportunities and eventually identified waste management technology as an area of potential growth for the business.

“It was the decline in mining activity that forced us to re-think our business outside the minerals sector,” GRD Minproc Limited chief operating officer (engineering) Malcolm Brown told Australian Mining.

“We had this pool of technical people and we said, ‘well where else can we use the same processing and mechanical expertise, as we’ve done in the minerals industry to help us diversify?’.

“After extensive investigation we eventually focussed on domestic waste because we could apply our mining and processing technical expertise to recover resources from waste that was usually just being dumped and buried.”

Following several years of R&D that applied mineral processing techniques and methods to waste management the company developed a process that could extract valuable commodities in the waste stream while significantly reducing the volume of waste sent to landfill.

GRD Minproc eventually built a facility in Eastern Creek in Sydney for sister company Global Renewables employing the waste-to-resource technology and processes known as UR-3R™ (Urban Resource – Reduction, Recovery and Recycling).

The company’s successful venture into waste-to-resource technology continues to develop, most recently with a contract to design and build two UR-3R™ facilities in Lancashire in the UK.

Construction has begun on the plants that will process the household waste of 1.4 million people for the next 20 years and beyond.

The company’s proprietary technology is now an effective weapon in the arsenal of technologies to combat climate change.

“By processing the organics in the waste stream, we divert them from landfill where they would normally emit methane gas for up to 50 years. Through the UR-3R Process® we also capture the gas and use it as a clean source of energy to power our facility ,” Brown said.

GRD Minproc continues to build on the application of its technology with the company involved in bids for at least another five waste-to-resource facilities in the UK.

The Premier’s award at the WA Industry and Export Awards recognised the company’s ability to deliver, design, procure and construct mineral resource and waste resources projects to both a national and international market. However, the honour also commended GRD Minproc Limited’s ability to seek new markets, particularly outside Australia. Brown said the key to company’s success was the ability to deliver quality projects across a range of commodities and in a variety of countries.

“For the last 20 years we’ve been doing work overseas in remote and difficult locations,” he said.

Success in exporting did not happen overnight. From early beginnings in Ghana in the late eighties the company has worked in more than 35 countries.

“We’ve always had a view that we could export our technical and project management expertise to virtually anywhere in the world if we put our minds to it,” Brown said.

“It’s just having that confidence that you’ve got the expertise and you’ve got the people and you’re willing to go and work in challenging places.”

Unique approach

The company, which also won the CY O’Connor Award for Excellence in Engineering at the Industry and Export awards, has a unique approach to its business model in the mineral sector with a strong focus on complex, technical areas.

Expertise in high-pressure acid leach technology, solvent extraction, electro-winning, large comminution circuits, big flotation circuits and uranium systems and processes has attracted customers across the globe.

“We employ the most process engineers of any consultants in the world in the minerals industry,” says Brown.

“We’ve also tried to differentiate ourselves with our technical expertise. For instance, we don’t do much work in commodities where the level of technical expertise isn’t huge. Mine operators in those operations usually know more about their own processes than most consultants anyway.”

Focussing on technical and complex processes, says Brown, has enabled GRD Minproc to develop and adopt more innovative techniques in minerals processing. While many companies are happy just to be reaping the benefits of the current mining boom GRD Minproc continues to expand. The company recently opened new offices in Brisbane and Santiago, Chile.

“We’ve got an existing operation in Brazil and so we’ve really targeted, from a minerals perspective, South America as one of the growth hubs,” Brown said.

“At the same time we have a substantial office in South Africa, 250-odd people and we think there’s a lot of growth still to come in Africa, which we continue to target.

“We’re also continuing to focus on work in the Australasian and South-East Asian regions and that will be helped by our presence in Brisbane. There’s no doubt that we have a lot of growth potential in all the geographic and industry sectors that we’ve chosen.”

Malcolm Brown

Chief Operating Officer

GRD Minproc Limited

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