Redpath Mining Africa – On the Right Path

We learn how Redpath Africa is bringing in world-class skills from their global Group, as well as seeing what it can offer its counterparts abroad.

Redpath was founded in Canada by Jim Redpath in 1962. The company started as a local mining contractor, later expanding and becoming a global service provider. In 2006 the company was sold and bought by Dr Helmig and his German company, Aton GMBH. Redpath now reports to Aton, a private company owned by Dr Helmig.

Redpath’s global head office is in North Bay Canada, with regional offices in Dortmund, Germany, Reno in the USA, Santiago in Chile and an office in Brisbane, Australia with a satellite office in Perth. Redpath operates across the globe and has projects in territories as diverse as Russia, Indonesia and Mongolia Redpath has executed numerous projects in 8 countries in 3 languages.

Redpath’s African operations are owned by Mauritius based Redpath Africa Limited and operated out of a regional office in Johannesburg. In Africa, Redpath has executed projects in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana and South Africa.

“That’s the global reach of the company,” says Lawrence Schultz, Managing Director of Redpath Africa Limited.


It’s a company that attracts great talent, as Schultz explains, “Redpath is a company that everybody would like to work for. We believe you’re not a number, you’re a person. We believe in our people, they’re the best asset we have.”

Redpath Africa’s faith in its people is reflected among its clients, not only because of the highly trained and dedicated staff it puts on its projects, but because of the global network of expertise, it can draw on.

“We have a lot of clients requesting Redpath execute projects for them because we’re recognised globally. We have different skill sets in different parts of the world and we can reach across and cross-pollinate,” Schultz points out. “For instance, our Australian counterparts are very good decline developers. They are world-renowned for getting the best advance rates. In Africa, we’re the best sinkers in the world and get the best advance rates in the vertical shaft sinking environment. So we cross-pollinate these skills.”

This cross-pollination has been a big focus for Redpath Africa lately, with an inflow of talent from Redpath Australia.

“In Australian development, they specialise in the blasting of underground tunnels to access the ore body and remove the ore. You get decline development – tunnels that go down about 8 degrees from the horizontal – and they’re normally ramped and turn around on themselves to get down to the bottom,” Schultz explains. “Australians are renowned for getting the best advance rates on these tunnels, better than anyone in the world.”

Historically, Africa has not managed to achieve comparable decline development advance rates, especially when using mechanised means. As a result, Redpath Africa has been working with its Australian sister company to bring Australians into South Africa, not just to utilise their skills, but to learn from them.

“The skills transfer between Redpath Australia and Redpath Africa allows us to upskill South Africans working on various projects,” Schultz says. “As part of the collaboration, we are bringing in Australian rig operator and maintenance skills, and cross-pollinating to get to the same kind of production efficiencies in Africa as the Australians enjoy.”

At the same time, Redpath Africa exports its shaft sinking skills to Australia and Canada, as South Africa is renowned for having the best shaft sinkers in the world.

“That’s how we collaborate across the different entities. Redpath Africa is a separate entity, as is Redpath Europe, Redpath America and Redpath Australia, but we all collaborate and share our knowledge and skills where we can,” Schultz says.

Softer Skills

While Australians bring a great deal of expertise to the table, Schultz is the first to emphasize the value and need for local knowledge. The technical skills Australia is introducing to Africa need to be partnered with knowledge of in-country business practices and softer skills and experience relating to local cultural sensitivities.

We don’t just bring in our Australian colleagues and leave them on their own on a project. We assist in managing client expectations and fully manage the nuances that come hand-in-hand when working on-site in Africa. We’re African and we know Africa,” Schultz points out. “When collaborating with our Australian counterparts on African projects, we place a great deal of importance on training and coaching them to cross-cultural sensitivity and awareness. It’s about behaviour more than anything else. In Zambia, for instance, they are culturally not confrontational people. So when we bring the Australians in we have South Africans there to handle the softer issues, such as what language to use and how to conduct yourself in certain settings. From previous experience, we are well versed in cultural competence in a range of African countries, including Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. We’ve been around, we know what the different cultures entail and how to deal with them, so that’s fundamentally our role.”

A Foundation for the Future

Like many companies, Redpath Africa has just come out the other side of a deeply challenging year, but Schultz remains optimistic.

“At the moment, with COVID-19, the second wave of infections and with new strains emerging, many people are feeling nervous about what the future holds. It will come to an end; it is only a matter of the damage being done in the meantime,” Schultz says.

He goes on to add “But after every crisis, there’s always opportunity. We know the global economy has taken a knock, but it will rebound and there will be opportunities to grow with that when it comes. We’re positioned correctly to take advantage of that growth. The future is dependent on how alert we are and how we manage our business. Our goal is to keep our finger to the pulse.”

Whatever happens, Schultz insists Redpath is engaged in essential work.

“We will always rely on mining, the only thing this world doesn’t mine is timber, foodstuffs and clothes. If you look in a motorcar, everything in a car has been mined, the metal, the fuel cells, the new generation batteries. So, there is an opportunity to execute projects and an opportunity for us, provided we stay ahead of the game, to be safer, faster and more competitively priced than our competitors,” Schultz says. “That’s our fundamental goal.”

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