- 19 Dec 2023
- Felipe Reisch
- AvBuyer Africa Articles
Business Aviation and Africa’s mining industry have been tightly linked because of the need for access to isolated locations. But other variables make a private aircraft the travel tool of choice for mining executives, as Felipe Reisch learns…Back to Articles
Africa is a major global producer of many key mineral commodities, which constitute a significant share of the continent’s exports, revenue, and GDP annually. But what part does Business Aviation play in supporting this?
In order to continue its sustained development, countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe share the need for safe and reliable means of transportation to access remote mines. Often these locations lack proper road infrastructure and commercial air connections. This has seen Business Aviation take a prominent role within the mining industry, becoming the partner of choice for ongoing and future mining projects.
“Business Aviation enables mining executives, engineers, and key personnel to travel swiftly to remote, often inaccessible mining sites,” says Philip du Preez, General Manager for ExecuJet Africa. “This saves significant time compared to commercial flights and ground transportation, allowing for prompt decision-making and quick response to operational needs.”
Sizwe Buthelezi, Director of Sales and Marketing for Absolute Aviation, agrees. “In cases where road infrastructure may be limited, aviation becomes instrumental in transporting mining equipment, particularly for cross-border missions involving companies holding mining rights in diverse countries or regions.”
Ultimately, mining requires a diverse pool of efforts to exploit each site. Consequently, Business Aviation serves as a key facilitator to various phases of each project, from executive and personnel transportation, to aerial observation in site surveys, exploration, and site monitoring.
“There is also supply chain continuity for certain equipment and other key capital resources, and even logistics for the extracted commodities themselves - particularly for those of a precious or strategic nature,” adds Morry Davis, Vice-Chair and Deputy CEO for Krimson Aviation.
“The missions not discussed so much are emergency response," he continues. "Whether evacuations, aeromedical services, or disaster recovery. BizAv is essential for mine-related rescue efforts, too.”
Isolated regions without commercial connections usually offer smaller runways and airstrips for operations, which require a certain type of aircraft for successful missions at mining sites.
These are mainly turboprops and a select group of helicopters – although smaller jets have registered an impressive increase in demand to these locations as well.
“Turboprop aircraft like the Cessna Caravan, Pilatus PC-12, and Beechcraft King Air models have consistently been preferred by mining companies in our sales region for their mining operations,” Buthelezi shares.
“Additionally, older models such as the [Beech] 1900 remain popular choices.”
Davis highlights that in terms of rotary wing aircraft, it’s the Bell 407 or 412 and the Airbus H125 which play prominent roles in the industry, though he adds that it’s particularly exciting to see an increased utilization of entry-level and light jets for these operations, including “the Cessna Citation series, Embraer Phenom 100E or Phenom 300, and even the HondaJet HA420, which is gaining more market share on the continent”.
Business jets are also strategically employed to transport personnel from major urban centers to regional airports, creating a seamless connection between metropolitan hubs and the heart of mining operations.
This strategic integration allows for the swift and comfortable movement of key personnel, optimizing travel times and ensuring a smooth transition to the final leg of their journey, du Preez explains.
“Once at regional airports, the transition occurs as mining professionals transfer to versatile turboprop aircraft such as the King Air and Pilatus models.
“This carefully orchestrated travel strategy not only enhances accessibility to remote locations but also demonstrates a commitment to providing mining teams with a streamlined, reliable air transportation network,” he adds.
ExecuJet has a strategic presence in the DRC, South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Ghana, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. “These nations represent pivotal hubs of mining operations, each with its unique challenges and opportunities,” du Preez highlights.
For Davis and Krimson Aviation, South Africa dominates the mining industry's demand for BizAv. “Continuous production of gold, platinum, and diamonds means steady traffic between Johannesburg and mining hubs such as Kimberley, Polokwane and Upington.”
In terms of future demand, Buthelezi anticipates [further] growth in nations like Mozambique and Namibia – due to the oil and gas sectors – and potentially Zimbabwe, as well as various other Southern African Development Community (SADEC) regions.
Africa has some unique conditions that have defined the way the Business Aviation industry has operated there for many years. These bring great opportunity to local players, but challenges (mainly bureaucracy and lack of investment in infrastructure), too. Unsurprisingly, many of the same challenges the BizAv industry faces across Africa exist in the specific locations where the mines are located.
Davis believes that the absence of robust quality fuel supply, insufficient maintenance options in proximity, and inadequate telecommunications are merely amplified at these more remote operations.
“More concerning are the unique difficulties these sites pose, such as inadequate airstrip or helipad provisions, restricted flight and ground operations hours, or the low presence of qualified flight and ground support for the security of people and products, or in situations like inclement weather,” he highlights.
Firefighting capabilities at these locations also present a concern, as remote areas may have limited resources to respond to emergencies, according to Buthelezi. “Operators need to assess and mitigate these risks to ensure the safety of their flights.
“Additionally, meeting insurance requirements becomes crucial, with operators often needing to navigate specific regulations and coverage demands associated with flying to and from these remote locations.”
Ultimately, Business Aviation has been adapting flawlessly to the growing demands of the African mining industry. Meticulous planning, collaboration, and adherence to safety protocols to ensure successful and secure flights in these challenging environments is paramount, empower mining companies to overcome their own challenges while facilitating seamless access to even the most remote African mining sites.
More information from:
Absolute Aviation: https://absoluteaviation.co.za
ExecuJet Africa: www.execujet.com/locations/#africa
Krimson Aviation: https://krimson.aero