Nicolan Govender: big on ‘green’ screening

Nicolan Govender, regional manager for sub-Saharan Africa at processing equipment manufacturer CDE, spoke to Robyn Grimsley about wet processing in the region, the challenges and opportunities, and the company’s plans for the future in sub-Saharan Africa.

Can you tell me a bit about your background?
I am a mechanical engineer, and my background is in materials handling. I have been in mining and construction for about 14 years now. Before I joined CDE, I was national sales manager for a South African mining and quarrying equipment company, where I specialised in crushing and screening. I joined CDE in 2015 as the head of the business unit for sub-Saharan Africa. I then put a team together, which we will slowly build over the next three to four years. As part of our 2020 Vision, we are aiming to have a fully established team and office in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as potentially multiple smaller satellite offices throughout the region, which will give us direct access to the customer base.profile

What sets you apart from your competitors?
A few areas set us apart. We work with our customers to maximise their return on investment and gain competitive advantage while minimising the environmental impact of their operations.

CDE is unique in Africa when it comes to our range of tailor-made products, which are both high tech and simple to use. Unlike many original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), we create custom-made, bespoke solutions for the customer, based on a modular range of components. At the heart of every plant that we put up, there is a basic range of about four or five key products that can be sold separately, but for larger projects, we take those units, put them together in different formats, and then come up with customised solutions suited to the customer and their operations.

You mentioned minimising environmental impact — what benefits does CDE technology offer in this regard?
There are significant environmental benefits to using CDE equipment. For example, the AquaCycle water recovery system recycles up to 90% of the water used in processing. Even a small operation like a sand washing plant uses more than 100 000 litres per hour, which is clean water being converted into waste water, so this is a significant saving — and particularly relevant, given the recent drought.

What are some of the challenges involved in operating in this region?
Wet processing is a highly specialised field, and there’s a high level of skill involved in putting a plant or solution together. When CDE initially entered the African market, we had an approach of working with various dealerships around the world. It was a UK-based company that wanted to expand globally; the dealership route — basically nominating dealers for specific regions — seemed to be the most obvious route to take. However, because of the specialised nature of the equipment we sell, this did not work out as successfully as we thought it would.

The direct approach turned out to be much better for us. CDE is thriving globally based on its localisation strategy, and we have business development representatives based in their own countries of origin to ensure that they are close to the customer base geographically, linguistically, and culturally. This makes a huge difference to our relationships with our customers.


We work with our customers to maximise their return on investment and gain competitive advantage while minimising the environmental impact of their operations.


The economic climate also makes investing in large expensive plants that cannot be moved once they are set-up a more difficult sell. To address this, we also offer some semi-mobile plant solutions. If you look at our product range, our big innovation in the past five years is the M-Series, which is basically the M2500 and the M4500. They are self-contained semi-mobile plants, and if the customer really wanted to dismantle this and move it after six months, it would be a piece of cake. Both units comprise an EvoWash washing unit and double or triple deck rinsing screens. The M2500 has a capacity of up to 250 tonnes per hour, while the M4500 has a capacity of up to 450 tonnes per hour. In fact, the CDE M2500 was the first all-in-one wet processing solution in the industry.

Also, we are going to be launching a new product that will service the entry-level sand washing market: a semi-mobile plant that includes water recycling on one chassis. It will have the capacity to process 70–100 tonnes of sand per hour, producing two grades of sand, and will include the CDE AquaCycle thickener. So, if you have a really small space on your site, or you are going to do an eight- or 12-month project, you could put this up and then, when the project is over, dismantle and move it within two days.

The AquaCycle can actually be added to any existing sand washer; it doesn’t necessarily have to be paired with a CDE product like the EvoWash. For example, we recently sold one to a company in Polokwane that had an existing sand washing set-up. They had been running for about a year, but were running out of water very quickly — their boreholes and dams were drying up, and they were under pressure from government to sort out their water recycling. So, because our components are modular, we were able to put together a proposal to add an AquaCycle tank, together with the dosing system, to their existing plant.

What is the advantage of wet processing and why has it not caught on in South Africa, or in Africa?
Our focus is on upscaling low-value product at a typical quarry and mine, and on minimising costs, both in running the plant and in using the end product. The major problem is the commodity downturn and that companies don’t have the capital to invest in new products.

Aside from sand washing and C&D waste recycling, in what other areas can CDE equipment be used?
Well, on the mining side, there’s a huge trend to recycle old dumps that were created during a time when mining processes were less efficient than they are now. The cost to mine underground is huge, and during a time like this when commodity prices are low, among other factors, it is easier for companies to go back and mine old dumps than establish new mines or expand existing ones. And if the grades are really high, it pays to set up a small crushing or washing plant and recycle the fines to extract the remaining minerals. In fact, we are busy with a dump recovery project on an old dump in the North West Province, which should be up and running soon.


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