September the 21st, 2023 – The Istrian company Novatec, which has headquarters in Labin and offices in Zagreb, Belgrade and Johannesburg, has entered into an enormously expensive job.
As Poslovni Dnevnik/Suzana Varosanec writes, Novatec is strongly continuing its activities on the African market through a new business in what is currently the largest mining project on the entire African continent.
With the world-famous corporation Vedanta Zinc International, the Istrian company Novatec contracted work on the creation of a central plant control system (MCC) for zinc processing and a medium voltage power system, as part of the Gamsberg 2 project in South Africa. It is a plant for the extraction of zinc and lead from ore.
The investor, who will invest more than 600 million US dollars into this project, is the company Black Mountain Mining, owned by the Indian consortium Vedanta Zinc International. Novatec will be responsible for works worth about 12 million dollars which relate to the creation of a medium voltage distribution system and a central drive control system.
This is the second big deal for Novatec in Africa
This is actually the second major deal done by the Istrian company Novatec in Africa. Back in 2017, this company from Labin also participated in the project of the Vedanta corporation, making this a logical continuation. That project was worth 400 million dollars in total and related to one of the first digitisation processes of zinc mines in Africa.
Novatec was responsible for the creation of a process management and automation system. This included the design of hardware and software, the creation of 200 meters of electrical cabinets, and the commissioning of the plant for the beneficiation of ore, zinc and lead from the mine. The result of two years of hard work is a sophisticated and fully digitised mining facility in South Africa.
The total value of the contracted work entrusted to the Istrian company Novatec stood at about five million dollars. Novatec’s board consists of two experienced engineers – Vladimir Peršić and Dino Buršić – and numerous world-famous corporations (ABB and WEG) competed for this job.
A boost for the Croatian technological image
“We’re happy with the new business we’ve contracted on the African market. Despite the fact that we come from Croatia, a country with an immeasurably weaker image when it comes to high technologies than, for example, Sweden and Switzerland, the customer trusted us and awarded us the job. However, we must point out that without all our engineers and other employees and partners, of whom I would like to highlight Siemens Croatia, this sort of success wouldn’t have been possible”, noted Peršić.
The project was awarded to Novatec because the owners were very satisfied with the quality of the work performed on the very similar Gamsberg 1 project. The investor initially planned to start the construction of this plant immediately after the completion of the first phase (2019), but due to the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic back in 2020, the entire job was significantly prolonged and started only this year.
In addition, compared to the previous large project in which the Istrian company Novatec was a subcontractor, in this second phase, it will be the direct contractor. This further strengthens their references and attracts attention due to their exceptional innovation. This feature has been a key determinant ever since the company was founded 25 years ago. That is including the decision to have its headquarters in Labin, an Istrian town with an extremely rich industrial heritage. Today, Labin is becoming an increasingly prominent ICT centre, and the expansion of its network of offices is only continuing.
A lot of trust was put into this Istrian enterprise
“Innovation has been particularly visible in the areas of system integration of automation and process control systems in industry, HVAC and industrial automation. In addition to all of that, innovation was also noted in the development of software solutions applicable in the mining, metal processing, construction, shipping and renewable energy industries,” said Buršić, adding that they employ experts in certain areas of automation, supervisors of electricity, hydraulics, mechanical engineering, hardware and software experts, software engineers, electrical engineers, project managers as well as other experts in related activities.
They currently have around fifty employees, most of whom are engineers and other highly educated personnel. However, business is growing with an emphasis being primarily placed on cross-border operations, especially in Africa. They’ve also been busy completing extremely valuable contracted jobs for rolling mill facilities in Bangladesh and iron ore processing in Liberia of late.
The majority of the Istrian company Novatec’s income is realised through projects carried out outside of the Republic of Croatia, a trend dating back to 2011. This was owing to a crisis in Croatia which saw management turn to opportunities to enter foreign markets, especially those with large mining industries. An in-depth analysis of the market showed that the South Africa is the area with the densest concentration of mining companies of all. The same number of mining corporations as across the entire European Union can be found in an area of a mere 100 square kilometres in that African nation.
In order to penetrate this closed market, it was decided that Novatec would open an office in South Africa and obtain new business arrangements. That period was far from easy. Namely, a big obstacle to getting jobs was the fact that they come from Croatia, a country without a known tradition of mining.
However, after a short time, they received several jobs that they realised with the highest marks. This is how clients’ trust was gradually gained. An important lever is therefore Novatec SA (South Africa), which operates independently of Novatec Hrvatska (Croatia), realising various large and small projects from the same sphere of activity as the parent company.
Siemens Croatia deserves a special mention in the story
“Other Croatian companies will also participate in these works, and Siemens Croatia should be mentioned in particular. Given that Novatec is a long-standing Siemens Solution Partner, we also have unquestioned support in this project in every respect. The satisfaction is all the greater given the fact that we’re talking about 100% Croatian knowledge and a Croatian export product in its entirety”, explained Novatec commercial director Ante Vranješ, adding that revenues are dominantly generated across five different areas: in addition to automation and electro-technical engineering, we’ve also got the production and installation of PLC and MCC electrical cabinets and the execution of electrical installations. On top of that, renewable energy sources also play a key role. In more recent times, in addition to the development of RES, they also started their own development of innovative models of vehicles with an alternative drive. With this, the electrified multi-functional low-floor electric bus, Munivo, was developed.
The aforementioned project was realised by the Istrian company Novatec in cooperation with the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Shipbuilding and the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Zagreb. It was largely financed through state grants for research and development (IRI) projects, where Novatec was awarded a grant worth 18 million kuna at the time.
Nevertheless, automation has been the most important activity since the very foundation of this domestic company. As part of this branch, the company designs, develops and supplies software and hardware for its clients.