"Shared value is defined as a management strategy in which companies find business opportunities in social problems. Shared value focuses company leaders on maximizing the competitive value of solving social problems in new customers and markets, cost savings, talent retention, and more." Michael E. Porter and Mark Kramer, “Creating Shared Value," Harvard Business Review. In this series we focus on young entrepreneurs defining shared value in their technical spaces.
Meet Thulani Mahlangu, Metallurgical Engineer (Wits), International Advance Lump Ore Beneficiation Certificate (ALOB) holder and BCom Supply chains & Operations management (2nd YR/PT) student. He is also a candidate for the Professional Engineering status with South Africa’s engineering counsel. Thulani is currently driving shared value through his company , ThulaSizwe Technologies Pty (Ltd), a newly established South African company that provides engineering and project management services to clients requiring specialized services in handling and management of mine and mineral waste.
We caught up with Thulani recently to learn more about this thriving mining based company.
“I consider myself to be an aspiring innovator; I am always looking for ways to do things better and differently. Not everything that is effective is good, one has to find balance between effectiveness and efficiency. I’m a believer of hard work because talent on its own is not sufficient. I love working with young people because they are fresh minds, dynamic and tend to bring different perspective on things.”
1) What type of experience have you obtained since graduating?
I have gained extensive experience in process optimization, metallurgical projects, business improvement, establishment of plant controls, plant commissioning, execution and implementation of operational strategy.
2) Have you always wanted to go into business? Has your engineering degree assisted you in this regard?
Yes, I did not see myself working for someone else the rest of my life. My engineering degree was just a stepping stone to where I wanted to be in life, and certainly not my final destination. My exposure to engineering has driven my need to go into entrepreneurial endeavors since there is a huge market gap for engineering expertise in the mining sector. I love what money can do, we can only change our black communities by re-investing and that translates into entrepreneurship. However, I still believe that a lot needs to be done to educate engineers about business during training. We are only trained to be technical people and that’s why engineers die poor. Well, not all of them.
3) How did you get started with #ThulaSizwe ?
I started consulting privately for a small lab testing services company that required metallurgical analysis and recommendations for the samples they had collected from different mines for auditing purposes. They paid me well and I realized that there is a gap for my technical skills. And that I could make money from these. I then chose a metallurgical topic that is close to my heart , waste management and went for it as it was clear that opportunities existed.
4) Tell us more about the business and the product?
ThulaSizwe Technologies Pty (Ltd) is a newly established South African company that provides engineering and project management services to clients requiring specialized services in handling and management of mine and mineral waste.
We seek to provide solutions that will:
- Assist companies to manage and handle their mining waste in an cost effective and environmentally friendly manner
- Turn their waste stream products into valuable product stream products,
We have developed integrated mine waste management processes that focus on the reuse and recovery of waste material, through dedicated and optimized treatment systems, ranging from mechanical processes to biological processes. The developed products & services embrace customers operating environment and the on-going demand for environmentally, social and financial sustainable solutions. ThulaSizwe Technologies has the capability to carry out environmental, economic and technical feasibility studies to determine the most viable solution to turn waste stream into a viable product stream. The company operates from three key fields: project management, operations management and environmental management
5) What led to the product idea?
The traditional approach to mine and mineral waste in South Africa has been to dispose in a cheapest way as possible, paying little concern on impact the generated waste will have on the environment. With the stringent environmental regulation this scenario is beginning to change. The mining industry usually has large budgets every year and must spend in order to comply with government regulations and customer’s needs. Despite the fact that these budgets may increase or decrease depending on available revenue, they provided an excellent indication that ThulaSizwe Technologies is entering a well-financed market with large capital to be spent
For example in South Africa, Amendments to the National Environmental Management Waste Act (NEMWA) have caused a stir in the mining fraternity. Mineral waste facilities were designed and operated based on risk, which took into account site-specifics, the nature of the characterization of the waste material. Mineral waste now falls under the NEMWA – this implementation came in effect on December 2014 NEMWA. Strictly applying the NEMWA regulations to mineral waste facilities mining houses will now be required to have mine waste licenses. The new regulation suggests more ‘fit-for-purpose’ solution, which is more aligned with the risk-based approach. The regulations further include transitional arrangements that give legal status to current or future mineral waste activities or a facility described in the mine’s approved EMP.
Accommodating these requirements will require mining companies to give opportunities to companies like ThulaSizwe Technologies to redo previous work due to the change in legislation and to also develop and provide solutions that are practical and cost effective.
The development of new technologies aimed at improving mine waste management plans has become a necessity and critical in driving value chain for mining companies globally, mine waste management is currently undergoing a major global paradigm shift. Mine and mineral process waste no longer be viewed as an unwanted by-product, but rather as a renewable resource, suitable for re-introduction back into the process plants or mining operations.
6) What is your current success rate? Do you have major clients? Plans to expand?
We are still a small business, but I believe we have a lot to offer.
We have done:
- Hernic Ferrochrome: Study for Recovering of Chrome from slag- Using ZEx Jigging technology
- Mbuyelo coal: Discard Dump screening
- Partnered with the Technology Innovation agency (Department of Science & Technology): Development Tailings dewatering technology (R 2 Million seed)
- Department of Water Affairs (Pro-Bono work) : Feasibility of desalination treatment technology and scoping
- Sishen Mine: Tailing dam surveillance programme (on-going)
We plan to target small mining operations that are in a need of our services and we planning to approach Eskom with our new synthetic liner for their Ash dumps.
7) What are the barriers to entering the market?
The mine and mineral waste management industry has historically been dominated by larger and more established international owned companies, which has prohibited the entry of new SMME’s. Emerging start-up businesses are considered high risk and do not enjoy the same opportunities as more established companies. Other major barriers to entry include:
- Lack of appropriate skills
- High tender participation costs
- High project values
- High risk
- Lack of credibility and contacts;
- Demands on management schedule
8) Has the mining charter assisted in anyway? Do you feel more government support is required?
Not yet, most companies still need to comply but we believe there will be socio-economic benefit to SMMEs willing to take up and offer services to mines. As ThulaSizwe Technologies we are ready to hit the ground running.
9) Lastly, what would you say to an engineer, curious about starting a business but clueless on how to go about it in the resources business ?
Identify a product or a process in the market and engineer to improve it. The process itself will give you direction as to what you need next.
It is clear that opportunities in the mining small-medium enterprise space exist but do require attention to detail to identify existing and viable solutions and business models. It is critical that we create an environment wherein engineers can start and thrive in business thus promoting shared value. Learn more about ThulaSizwe at http://www.thulasizwetech.co.za/.