INTERVIEW: Mike Adendorff, CEO, AARD Mining Equipment
Can you give a brief overview of AARD Mining Equipment (AARD) and some recent milestones of the company?
AARD Mining Equipment (AARD) has been associated with mining capital equipment for over 30 years. The business was established in the 1980s as part of the Boart International group of companies. After a decision to become more specialized, Boart Longyear sold the business in 2008 to a consortium comprising Nedbank Capital Private Equity, Matasis Mining Equipment and Management. The company was renamed AARD Mining Equipment. In 2018, the Company underwent a restructuring resulting in Matasis Mining Equipment becoming the sole shareholder.
Over the years we have developed a comprehensive product range to complement drilling, blasting, loading and support operations in both low profile and standard height mechanized underground mining environments. The company designs, manufactures, services and supports this wide range of mining equipment in sub-Saharan Africa, but also exports some products to Canada, the United States, Russia and Europe.
As a manufacturer of underground mobile mining equipment, we are focused on maintaining high health, safety and quality standards and complying with ISO and OSHAS certifications.
AARD employs in excess of 200 full time staff at our manufacturing facility in South Africa and in our regional sales and support divisions. Historically Disadvantaged South Africans (HDSA) comprise 60% of our workforce, with 14% comprising of women.
What percentage of AARD’s business is in South Africa?
AARD is well represented in sub-Sharan Africa by a number of branches, satellite warehouses and wholly owned subsidiaries in both Zambia and Zimbabwe. Our headquarters and manufacturing plant is located in South Africa, and more than 90% of our business is done within the country. Our locations in Mufulira in Zambia and Harare in Zimbabwe are purely service support operations.
How much of AARD’s sales are custom made products?
AARD designs and manufactures a wide range of equipment for the underground mining industry. We custom design this equipment to meet the specific requirements of our clients. The entire range of products that we manufacture has been designed in-house. We have an engineering department, comprising both R&D and current product development, which is tasked with bringing ideas into reality. The product development process commences with customers approaching us with particular mining vehicle requirements. We will initiate research and develop ideas that we present to the customer. After evaluation and customer acceptance, the process of designing and manufacturing the vehicle is initiated. AARD is not a production line company but rather a manufacturer of equipment tailored to the specific needs of our customers.
We can be differentiated from our competitors in that we will do modifications to our existing products to suit customer needs. We strive to keep our machines simple to operate, easy to maintain and suitable for African mining conditions. The company has a strategy of launching at least one new product per year in addition to upgrading and improving our existing product range continuously.
What is AARD’s expansion and growth strategy moving forward?
AARD is focused exclusively on underground hard and soft rock mining equipment, which excludes any surface mining equipment. Within the underground mining space, there are two differentiators: standard height mines and low profile mines. Standard height mines include hanging wall heights of greater than 1.8 m, which are typically the base metal mines, and low profile mines, where hanging wall heights are between 1.6 m and 1.8 m, typically the chrome and platinum mines.
Moving forward, we will continue to develop products that are needed for these environments. New customer requirements develop over time, and AARD will continue to address the demands that we receive from the market by continuously undertaking research and development and continuing to manufacture equipment that meets customer requirements for improving safety and productivity whilst at the same time minimizing the impact on health and the environment.
What are the limitations to EV vehicles and drill rigs?
In my opinion, the biggest limitation is having the necessary mine infrastructure to support the charging of electric equipment fleets. EVs are an exciting development within the mining industry and can produce significant benefits, but the infrastructure to charge EV’s has yet to be developed and installed in the African mining industry.
What are AARD’s vision and objectives for the future?
AARD wants to be recognized for providing safe, innovative and cost effective mechanized mining solutions for underground mining. Our objective is to grow the company through the implementation of innovative ideas and strategies that will improve the interests of our stakeholders, contribute to the economic sustainability of mining companies and improve the safety of underground mines. Our strategy includes horizontal expansion and diversification and identifying opportunities to achieve vertical integration.