By Nelendhre Moodley.

The downturn in local and global economies has seen more mining houses calling for solutions driven results that target lower costs and improved production rates, Axis House CEO Justine Stubbs tells Modern Mining.

Justine Stubbs Axis House CEO“Owing to the pressure on metal prices, an increasing number of our clients are looking at ways to improve their processes and thereby save money. In turn, this demand – and especially demand for further technical support – has led to growth in Axis House business, locally and in the territories in which we operate.”

The reagent specialist, with branches strategically placed across the globe, has expanded its technical expertise team which is integral in meeting the growing demand for improved plant efficiencies.

Axis House operates as a lean business and recently lifted its skills base by 20%, with its South African operations employing some 65 people and the territories in which it operates employing 120 people in total. The company has also employed several senior managers including a number of extremely talented operational staff.

“It has been exciting getting to know our recently acquired operational staff who are passionate about their territories and keen to share their knowledge with us, which we in turn bring back to the sub-Saharan African segment of our business.”

According to Stubbs, a benefit of keeping “a lean staff complement” is that it allows the company to maintain its key values.

“Regardless of who the client is, the territory in which we operate, what problems or metals or minerals the client is processing, as a team, we benefit from our values as they talk to being highly service centred and having a collaborative approach embedded in our company DNA.”

Axis House beds down on its five-year plan

Having set out a five-year business plan last year, Axis House is focused on ensuring that it meets its stated objectives of guaranteeing that it offers best service in all its areas of operation, driving product enhancements and expanding its product offering beyond its traditional business lines.

According to Stubbs, as experts in reagent solutions in sub–Saharan Africa, the objective is to provide its offering to the territories in which it operates and the rest of the world.

“To date, we have been successful in achieving our stated ambition of geographical expansion and have a fully operational team in the Middle East, which currently services North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe and, on the back of robust appetite for our product lines, our team in the Middle East continues grow. Moreover, our operations in Australia are also on a steep growth curve which has seen us employ more in-house staff and more infrastructure to meet the expanding needs.”  

A second component of its five-year plan has been a focus on expanding its product offering to different metals and minerals, including lithium, nickel, platinum, zinc, rare earths, phosphates, tin and gold.

“Our strategy to expand our offering to new minerals and metals sets has been exciting for everyone in our group, especially the technical department. With each new product line that we bring to the market, we have an opportunity for further cost savings, greener solutions and improved plant efficiencies; hence improved margins for our clients.”

As a case in point, Stubbs flags the platinum group metals sector which is increasingly encountering oxidised material and has been turning to Axis House for solutions to its latest challenges.

“In the past, platinum mines had a simple way of processing sulphides; however, they are increasingly encountering more oxidised material. Given that we offer unique technology solutions to copper and cobalt operations, we have been able to tweak these to meet the needs of the precious metals industry and have since been achieving exceptional results on the oxide flotation circuits for clients in the gold and platinum industries.”

Last year the company undertook multiple projects related to oxidised PGMs and gold ores, which has resulted in “some really exciting outcomes at lab scale, pilot plant and at full scale”. Following this testing phase, some of the oxide collectors and reagents used at platinum and gold mines have been fully commercialised.

Furthermore, since establishing an office in Turkey in 2019 to service the phosphate and fluorspar markets with its decadmiation product range, the company has expanded its footprint to encompass the Northern African and Middle East industrial metals market.

According to Stubbs, innovations have led to “big improvements” in cadmium removal from phosphoric acid and in cobalt leach solutions.

“Over the Covid period, for this market we developed a relatively new reagent range for polymetallic flotation, which we started rolling out last year.  We commercialised the product range and have supplied it to clients in Turkey with copper, lead and zinc operations.”

The company recently established satellite teams in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco, offering these territories new opportunities in chemical developments, including shorter routes to market.

“We started holding products in Spain and Morocco to allow us to distribute our products much faster. Our objective for the short-to-medium term is to investigate opportunities for establishing manufacturing hubs to meet clients’ needs in these new areas of operation. To date, our territorial growth efforts have been extremely successful and on the back of our growth in these markets, we continue to seek strategic alliances and new partnerships.”

Holistic solutions provider

Axis House ’s holistic approach focuses on how its products impact the entire mining value-chain.

“Our specialist teams take pride in offering an all-inclusive solution, modifying reagents’ suites and dosages to optimise a particular plant or situation. In addition, as a chemicals solutions provider, we offer clients our full supply chain service, including off-balance sheet stock holding, new routes to market and innovative storage solutions.”

Hand in hand with providing a holistic solution, Axis House is committed to driving research for sustainable chemical alternatives. “We recognise the importance of aligning with our clients’ ESG practices,” explains Stubbs. The R&D team at Axis House works to reduce the environmental impact of the company’s products. The company is also gaining traction in advancing developments related to cyanide replacement with products trialled last year being used commercially at two gold operations in South Africa. Stubbs expects the uptake of this cyanide replacement - D20M3 to soar within the next 12-18 months.

“Many mining operations overdose, and we are actively working to reduce the quantity of chemicals that go into minerals processing. Companies frequently believe that by using more product than necessary, they will achieve better results, which is not true.  In fact, in some instances we find that clients overdose by up to 40-50%. Essentially, we look at our processes holistically – not only the chemical portion, but the entire value chain – to ensure we make a difference in lowering our carbon footprint and those of our clients,” concludes Stubbs.

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Nellie Moodley 
Email: mining@crown.co.za
Phone: +27 11 622-4770
Fax: +27 11 615-6108

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Rynette Joubert
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