DRA Americas has come a long way in the two-and-a-half years since President and CEO Wray Carvelas started a new Toronto office to run projects in North and South America for DRA Group Holdings. The 3,500-employee multinational mining engineering firm is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Carvelas had been a senior executive with an extensive project portfolio.
“DRA has embarked upon a globalization strategy and the region of the Americas is a very important part of our growth plans,” Carvelas says. “I came across to Canada to spearhead growth in the Americas region.” And grow it has, with the Americas region expanding from just six people at its founding to more than 80 today. Carvelas anticipates big things for DRA Americas as he and his team work towards fulfilling its growth strategy. Under his leadership, the company has significantly grown its Toronto office and opened one in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The company plans to open an office in Vancouver soon to support future growth in western Canada.
Focusing on surface projects for junior to mid-tier clients, DRA Americas recently completed an iron ore plant in Labrador, Canada, and is constructing a gold mine it designed in northeast Brazil that is scheduled for commissioning in December 2013. DRA has also been appointed to operate the gold plant facility on a contract operations basis.
The goal is for DRA Americas to be as well known in the Americas as it is in South Africa, a country which is recognized for its advanced and extensive mining sector.
‘Mining is Mining’
Although many aspects of mining and mineral processing are the same regardless of the mine location, DRA recognizes the specialized design and infrastructure requirements for cold climates, remote locations and high altitudes. For example, in the far north plant design and buildings need to be space efficient in order to minimize HVAC costs. Each mine poses a unique combination of challenges in terms of access to transportation, water, power and essential infrastructure.
“Important factors in the design of any mining site include, for example, right-sizing the equipment as well as efficient engineering and electrical design; whether you do that in Africa or America, the same principles apply,” Carvelas says.
“However, when it comes to understanding the unique needs of the client and adapting to the specific requirements of the location, we provide a highly customized service.”
“The difference between us and 90 percent of our competitors is that we offer engineering services which cover the full lifecycle of a project from concept to commissioning and contract operations,” Carvelas says.
This continuity and feedback loop from initial design to operation has allowed the company to refine its overall designs and understanding of plant layouts and equipment placements. It all contributes to innovation and continuous improvement.
Another of the company’s differentiators is that it is one of very few mining engineering firms that also provides comprehensive contract operations services, processing a variety of minerals on behalf of clients. DRA operates 20 mineral-processing plants for clients around the world.
DRA Group’s global portfolio includes clients such as Anglo American, African Rainbow Minerals, BHP Billiton, Colossus Minerals, De Beers, Impala Platinum, Letseng, Labrador Iron Mines, Perseus Mining and Rio Tinto. Many of its clients are listed on the Australian, London or Toronto stock exchanges.
The company has delivered successful projects in a variety of climatic conditions and regions such as Canada, Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States. In Canada, DRA designed, constructed and commissioned an iron ore plant in Labrador and has designed diamond processing and recovery plants for Northern Ontario and the Northwest Territories.
DRA Americas understands the value to clients of providing tailor-made solutions. The company listens carefully to the needs and expectations of its clients and adapts its approach to suit specific project requirements. “We see ourselves as a partner to our clients; when they are successful, we are successful,” Carvelas says.