Francis Kasongo, Managing Director, AEL Mining

AEL Mining is prepared to meet growing demand in the DRC.

In 2013 AEL mining built its first manufacturing plant here in DRC, and also recently opened an office in Kinshasa. What new milestones has AEL achieved since then, and what is your strategy going forward?

The aim of AEL is to implement an industry instead of simply being a trader. Today we have one of the largest operational plants in central Africa based in Kolwezi; this is so we are able to handle any new demand that comes into the country. We have an excess of 40% spare  capacity. Depending on the logistics, we believe this plant can supply the total requirement in the DRC today. Due to those logistics constraints, we are using our regional capacity from AEL Zambia and Tanzania bulk emulsion plants. The other milestone achieved is the opening of the office in Kinshasa in 2014 that gives us a comprehensive view of the opportunities within the DRC. We now also have additional sites in Manyema, Kindu, and in Songololo, Kongo Central Province.

The DRC is known for its cobalt and copper, but do you see potential for growth within the country in other commodities?

The main focus for AEL mining now is the diamond region in the centre of DRC as this is an area which we have not yet infiltrated. We have a lot of experience from South Africa, and we have developed specific explosives for this sector.

Why is Kinshasa critical to AEL mining’s success?

Kinshasa is the main city of the DRC where all new investors land to secure their mining permits with the Government. For us, it is a key place to make connections, and there fore for development. By opening the office in Kinshasa we are able to focus on developing and growing our business by looking for new opportunities.

How has the influx in Chinese investment impacted AEL’s business in the DRC?

Working with Chinese investors is similar to working with investors of all different countries as they are all focusing on cost-effective solutions. There is no need to worry about an influx in competition as long as you are efficient. Chinese investors in the Katanga province are quite demanding in terms of quality of product, efficiency, the environmental impact, and they are also very loyal customers.

How is AEL preparing to meet the demand for its services as production ramps up?

In mid-2016, we already up-graded our plant in Kolwezi, and this was completed when copper prices were down. We doubled the capacity of this plant and added an underground module; the underground product that was previously imported from Zambia is now made on site; and we made it environmentally friendly by adding the waste oil recycling system.

What initiatives does AEL have in place to minimize its impact on the environment?

Our technology allows us to use waste oil produced by the mines. Mines generate tons of waste oil which was previously being stored uselessly in tanks. Our technology allows us to partner with mines by using the waste oil into our emulsion. We have also ensured that our plant has zero effluent and therefore no impact to the surrounding areas.

What is your message to potential investors considering the DRC and the perceived risks?

Focus on the long term is important because the short term will always give you the wrong information when examining the obstacles you face.

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