Interview with Ivan Muir, Managing Director, SGS Inspection Services Ltd on the challenges of operating from the Copperbelt and SGS’s visions in the region.

Ivan Muir, SGS Inspection Services

Ivan Muir, SGS Inspection Services

“Our facility in Zambia is equipped with the same standard quality control procedures that exist throughout our network of over 110 laboratories.”

“Being independent is important, as it entails having no affiliations with mining companies, commodity buyers or sellers or government entities that could be construed to affect our independence or impartiality.”

SGS provides inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Could you provide us with an overview of the company in Zambia?

SGS entered the market in Zambia 2005 and began focusing on inspections for the mining industry shortly thereafter. We are part of the SGS global laboratory network and provide geochemical analysis to mining and exploration companies in Zambia and throughout the Copperbelt regioIs SGS planning on providing onsite laboratories going forward?n. Our multidiscipline laboratory in Kalulushi, just outside Kitwe, provides access to our extensive mineral testing services worldwide. All our laboratories use the same global testing methods, analytical codes, and sampling preparation techniques to ensure a uniform approach. SGS also performs environmental analysis for water and soil samples as well as oil samples and soil analysis.

Which of your analytical services are most popular with the local mining industry?

The laboratory in Kalulushi maintains a broad suite of analytical techniques to suit clients’ mineral testing requirements. Our facility is equipped with the same standard quality control procedures that exist throughout our network of over 110 laboratories and our technicians maintain high standards of quality and procedural excellence to ensure the data is accurate, repeatable, and timely. The Kalulushi on-site analytical capabilities include:

  • Exploration and geochemistry assaying and analysis

  • Sample preparation

  • Fire assay ICP-AES (Au)

  • Acid digest (Au)

  • Accelerated cyanide leach (Au)

  • Cyanide BLEG leach analyses (Au)

  • Atomic absorption spectrometry (AAS) for some base metals.

  • ICP-AES multi-element packages (Table 1)

  • On-site laboratory

  • Precious metals assaying and analysis

  • Check work

  • Environmental analysis

Additionally, the Kalulushi laboratory also functions as a complete sample preparation laboratory, reducing all samples to pulps for ease of transportation. Samples can be shipped to any of our analytical Centres of Excellence located globally including Johannesburg, South Africa, and Vancouver, Canada. Both facilities conform to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard for specific registered tests.

SGS prides itself as being an independent analytical advisor. Why is that so important?

Being independent is important, as it entails having no affiliations with mining companies, commodity buyers or sellers or government entities that could be construed to affect our independence or impartiality. Generally, to sell the ore on international markets, analytical results have to be independently verified and this is why SGS and the market take independence so seriously.

What are some of the challenges of operating from the Copperbelt?

Zambia is a landlocked country and logistics is the number one challenge. Finding skilled labour is also challenging, principally because of the remoteness of the region and it is hard to find employees willing to relocate. We have, however, been successful at training local employees and do provide in-house training. SGS commences by hiring chemical and metallurgical engineers and then operates a 6-week intensive training programme for these new hires. Generally, we are finding the level of education of our Zambian workforce appropriate since the Zambians are well-educated, humorous people and keen to learn.

What are your visions for SGS in the region?

SGS is consolidating its leadership position when it comes to mineral inspection services in the region. Customer service is very important to the future of our company. SGS is customer-service-oriented and we emphasize this focus in the current economic climate. Quality and turnaround times for analysis and preparation are also important. Zambia already receives considerable attention as a mining investment destination and, if there are changes in the economy and increases in the price of copper, the general consensus is that there is much room for growth in the sector in Zambia.

Is SGS planning on providing onsite laboratories going forward?

In West Africa, SGS already operates 28 on-site laboratories and will provide on-site labs in the region to meet demand. Turnaround time is the name of the game and in the area of on-site analysis, SGS brings the same procedures and quality management to the mine site that we do within our commercial laboratories.

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