The mining industry is constantly moving: despite projects taking years to fully explore, develop and prepare for production, not to mention the lengthy mine-life once production is underway, companies must still always be looking to the future. What’s more, technology and processes are always improving and underdevelopment – especially with an increasing focus on greener, cleaner operation. This makes the industries that support mining as interesting as the mines themselves, and one such company is Cartledge Mining and Geotechnics. Without geotechnical advice, mining companies wouldn’t get very far: we spoke with Keith Mandisodza, CM&G’s Principal Geotechnical Engineer, to learn more about what the company offers and the difference this makes.
With such large investments at stake, the mining industry doesn’t want to make guesses in the dark. The more data collected and understood, the better, and that’s exactly where companies like Cartledge Mining & Geotechnics (CM&G) come in. Focusing solely on geotechnical consulting services for this heavy industry, the company specialises in pit-to-port and exploration to mine closure. That’s a broad spectrum, and one to which CM&G aims to offer practical, sensible and, most importantly, safe solutions.
Stationed in one of the mining hubs of the world, the company’s headquarters are found in Brisbane Australia. However, it is not surprising to hear this company has clients all over the world – after all, even amongst Australian mining firms, this industry is an international venture. As well as Australia itself, CM&G works with clients in Canada, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Kazakhstan and Turkey, to name a few.
We spoke with Keith Mandisodza, the company’s Principal Geotechnical Engineer, about what CM&G offers and what sets it apart from its rivals. “We are unique in the mining industry in our breadth of capabilities,” Keith told us, “And that we specialise in only servicing the mining industry. Some competitors have similar capabilities but support other industries (eg civil infrastructure and roads, etc.)
“Our approach is to deliver mining solutions for mining problems. Our team have vast operational experience that allows us to engage with our clients to ensure that we are delivering practical solutions that work with their needs. We don’t force our opinion on clients but rather work with them to ensure a safe and practical outcome.”
Wide-ranging abilities often lead to wide-ranging operations but staying focused on one industry allows CM&G’s team to tackle everything it approaches with more detailed, expert knowledge. This specialist expertise means their clients can expect each CM&G team member to have a deep understanding of the industry, and the importance of good geotechnical advice.
As the world looks to a greener future, the mining industry is going through some significant changes, and turning to consultants for answers. It is CM&G’s job, therefore, to be up-to-date on new frontiers of thinking, to best support their clients with the right information and insights.
Keith told us a little about this move towards new technology as well as the greater focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance:
“CM&G has committed financial and in-kind support to ARC Training Centre for Space Resources: Innovation, Technology and Exploration (SPRITE), in partnership with the University of New South Wales. We are determined to be at the forefront of innovation in our industry.
“ESG is also an area that is becoming more prominent with the push for zero-emissions mining and a greater focus on other environmental and social issues. We have recently worked with a client in Canada to support the native landowners in their review and approval for the expansion of a gold mine. It was a fascinating project working with the landowners, listening to their concerns, and learning about the culture and how we need to better develop controls to protect their history. This has also been a concern here in Australia with Jukan Gorge and Rio Tinto. These issues are becoming more prominent, and as an industry, we need to learn to be better at understanding the concerns and protecting first nations history.”
This is heartening to hear. After all, responsibility isn’t just about the environment (though that’s a crucial factor) – it’s also about respecting the local peoples affected by mining efforts. More and more, we see mining companies taking this seriously, and it’s fantastic to see an awareness for its importance present in mining consultants as well.
However, this more conscious mindset and its impact on the industry is not without its challenges. For example, a global push towards renewable energy has delivered a major boost for mining, thanks to the essential minerals required for most green energy solutions. This boost, now that we are post-Covid, is a strain that is good for business yet creates new challenges for CM&G, with its Australian base of operations, to meet:
“Coming out of Covid, which closed borders in Australia, we are struggling to find suitably qualified people to employ as the mining industry recovers. This will be an ongoing challenge as demand spurred on by growth in renewable energy will see a strong mining industry for years to come.”
For suitably qualified individuals, Cartledge offers work in exciting new areas as well as a supportive, ethical workplace. Keith told us that the company is looking to increase its own green practices as the company footprint broadens and expands, while it continues to take on charitable ventures and make a real effort to look after its staff.
“CM&G endeavours to pay competitive salaries as well as bonus and overtime policies to recognise the hard work that our team put in. While we are still a young company, we are moving towards an employee-owned structure that will further encourage staff to share in the prosperity of the business.
Our company philosophy is that CM&G is there to support our team members in their professional development pathway. We actively promote internally and support our employees to develop their skills and their own client base.
Our focus is also very family-oriented. We encourage a flexible work arrangement to support families and people’s lifestyles. The mining industry is very demanding and requires us to be away from home, at least on occasion. So we need to give back to our families at home, and ensure that our team are able to support them and give back when they can, because they give a lot to us.”
Successful or not, Covid certainly had an impact on both the mining industry as a whole and those within it. The big hit for CM&G was the strict closures and monitoring of the Australian borders, both internationally and between different states. Of course, these issues were further complicated by the borders and regulations of the countries CM&G were operating in: “We were working with a client in South America that was delayed due to COVID. We are hoping to re-engage with them now that borders are re-opening and work with them in delivering geotechnical support for multiple gold mines in Brazil.”
With measures now lifting, the company is bringing in new employees from both South Africa and England, as well as looking to grow its footprint: “After a difficult few years due to COVID and staff shortages, we are working on bringing in new employees from South Africa and England. As we engage them in the business, we hope to expand into the Western Australian market and increase our number of international clients. We would like to have an office in Perth within two years and an international office within five years.”
Keith has only held his role at CM&G for two years, but he is passionately dedicated to the company and team. After the challenges presented by a global pandemic, and a very busy way ahead, it is important now more than ever for effort, zeal and good leadership. “The key to effective leadership is leading from the front,” Keith told us, “And having empathy for the people around you. Persistence and grit are the key drivers to success. Leadership is doing those things that others don’t like doing and having the consistency to keep going when things are not favourably to our advantage.“
With the world back up and running, it’s full steam ahead for Cartledge. Later this month, Perth is hosting the Mining Leaders Forum, which will allow the major names in the mining industry to mingle, discover new suppliers and consultants and build new connections. CM&G will be there, making the next step in its evolving plan for growth, bringing its focused and dedicated expertise to more mining companies both local and abroad.