Able to deliver a range of services, National Group is recognised for its end-to-end offering. This is driving rapid company growth across NSW, Queensland and WA.
“Timing is everything. If it has to happen now, we’ll do it.”
National Group hasn’t built its reputation as one of the world’s premier mining services companies for nothing.
The consistent ability to deliver for its customers on time and on budget has enabled the company to establish sturdy relationships in an industry where connections are critical.
Len Pipiciello, National Group’s NSW business development manager, said the contractor’s ability to shapeshift and do whatever is needed to meet customer deadlines is a product of the National Group capability and culture.
“Working with the Tier 1 mining companies that we do, there is an ever-changing scope of work on-site,” Pipiciello told Australian Mining. “All of a sudden, you’ll have to jump in a certain direction and come up with equipment but also come up with the people.
“Mark (Ackroyd, National Group managing director) has created a company and got people around him that are really loyal and committed to their jobs. What comes with that is a genuine desire to do the right thing by the company and the customer.”
This creates positive symbiosis within National Group, where employees feel valued. This leads to improved performance and stronger industry relationships.
“This is the difference between us and other companies, I believe,” Pipiciello said. “It’s the culture and loyalty of our people, but I’ve also got a straight line to Mark when I’m doing business and I keep him abreast of everything.
“He’s kept up to date with what’s going on and he’s always value-adding: ‘I know that guy, he’s a great guy, tell him I said hello’. It’s things like that; it’s reputation in the industry.”
As National Group has evolved its business and kept pace with its customers, the company has been an early adopter of semi-autonomous technologies, a position accelerated with the acquisition of Wolff Mining in 2019.
Wolff Mining supplies remote dozing solutions to the Australian mining sector, something that has been key to the success of a National Group contract in New South Wales.
When a customer wanted to repair its tailings dams and keep its operators out of harm’s way, National Group had the perfect solution.
“Tailings dams can be unstable environments, so we’ve supplied remote dozers to come in and work in these high-risk areas,” Pipiciello said. “We haven’t only supplied the remote dozers, but also the control centre, operators, and operator facilitators.”
This is alongside more than 70 other machines National Group has operating at this gold mine, spanning everything from a roller to a 994K wheel loader – the largest loader Caterpillar manufactures.
National Group also has a strong footprint in the Hunter Valley region of NSW. This includes a contract with Yancoal subsidiary Moolarben Coal, where the company’s contract-mining arm – National Mining Services – is providing works such as the safe pre-stripping of up to 15 million bank cubic metres of overburden each year at the Moolarben coal mine.
National Mining Services has used National Group’s ultra-class mining equipment on the contract, including Liebherr R9800 excavators, Liebherr T282 dump trucks and other ancillary equipment.
Looking ahead, Pipiciello’s key objectives in NSW are to maintain and grow his relationships with existing customers, while also canvassing new opportunities where possible.
This includes earmarking emerging greenfield projects that could require National Group’s services. Constant communication is critical to gaining the necessary plaudits to elevate National Group from tender to a new contract.
National Group also continues to grow its fleet in Queensland, where the contractor is working closely with several Tier 1 mining companies. This includes being a key equipment supplier to the Bowen Basin region.
National Group recently had its contracts renewed with long-standing partners such as BHP and Rio Tinto, the latter of which was a five-year extension to continue supplying equipment to the Weipa bauxite operation in far north Queensland.
Anglo American Australia also recently extended its National Group partnership in the Bowen Basin.
Having supplied the Capcoal operation for three years, the latest contract doubled the amount of equipment National Group delivers to the Lake Lindsay and Oak Park mines.
National Group Queensland business development manager Warren Jensen said the company’s successes in the state demonstrates its strong relationship with its customers.
“Customers trust us that we’re doing the right thing, we’re working safely, and we’re delivering on what we say we’re going to deliver,” Jensen told Australian Mining.
“Our reputation for supplying equipment and then maintaining it is really what drives our business. A lot of what we do is because of our reputation.
“Without a good reputation, business is nothing.”
And National Group’s ability to sustain its contracts not only comes down to supplying equipment on time and on budget, but also the maintaining of that equipment.
“We’ve got a very experienced maintenance division that know how National works and the way National runs,” Jensen said.
“The maintenance team makes headaches go away for our clients. But if you are the headache, they’ll get rid of you, so we try to be as easy to deal with as possible and are committed to getting the job done.”
National Group’s maintenance team are spread across Australia, strategically located in the mining regions that National Group services.
Maintenance staff have a close relationship with the contracted miners, implementing preventive maintenance plans to avoid costly equipment breakdowns.
Alongside National Group’s work on the east coast, the mining services company is also growing rapidly in Western Australia.
National Group has worked closely with a major miner as part of its autonomous haulage project in the Pilbara region of WA.
The project – first announced in October 2022 – has seen a long-term research and development collaboration agreement established for the continued advancement of autonomous technologies.
National Group has been supplying the loading and auxiliary equipment to support the autonomous fleets, including excavators, graders, water trucks and the like.
Like the company’s remote dozing work in NSW, servicing autonomous mining projects is not new territory for National Group, as WA business development manager Craig Binstead explained in more detail.
“We’ve provided equipment to autonomous mine sites for 10-plus years,” Binstead told Australian Mining.
“Whether that’s an excavator, a dozer or a grader, we supply the manned equipment to support driverless machines.”
While National Group’s equipment in this instance is not inherently autonomous, the mining services company works closely with the major miner to understand what is required to ensure its offerings complement the precise autonomous technologies at play.
Binstead said this demonstrates National Group’s versatility and ability to evolve with the new technologies and methodologies driving the Australian mining sector into safer and more efficient territory.
“National Group is constantly growing and evolving,” he said. “Through our various companies, we can offer an end-to-end solution.
“Alongside National Plant and Equipment, we have our haulage division – National Heavy Haulage – and affiliated companies that can deliver a range of diversified services.”
National Mining Services is the company’s wet hire, whole-of-mine offering, while Wolff Mining provides the autonomous expertise.
For machinery sales and sourcing, National Group can leverage National Machinery Xchange (NMX), and International Global Logistics specialises in worldwide shipping and transport logistics of heavy plant and equipment from origin to destination.
It’s a holistic end-to-end offering that’s the envy of other mining services companies and it enables National Group to have clarity across the business when delivering services and supplying equipment to tight deadlines.
This feature appeared in the September 2023 issue of Australian Mining.