After 35 years in business, SRK Consulting has plenty of reasons to be excited about the future.

Established in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1974 by three talented and enterprising consultants, the company has not only grown to almost 900 staff in 2009, but has also spread its global presence to 37 offices in 16 countries. And the growth will not stop there. The company plans to continue to expand its skills base and range of services in several jurisdictions.

SRK’s people have been the key to its success over more than three decades, with the company continually attracting, and being able to retain, consultants who have invariably been leaders in fields such as geology, mining, rock mechanics, civil geotechnics, environmental science and management, water and waste management. It is these dynamic skills coupled with the company’s global perspective that positions SRK well for future growth, says group CEO Andy Barrett.

“Our major differentiator has always been our people,” he said. “Our ‘practice within a practice’ model, where individuals are encouraged to develop their client base and consulting skills with a high level of autonomy, has enabled us to attract unique individuals with a combination of entrepreneurial and technical skills.

“These individuals typically are driven and have a passion for what they do and recognise that their success and that of SRK are closely aligned. Clients benefit not only because of the energy and commitment of our consultants, but because we recognise that our contribution to clients’ success determines our ongoing value to their organisations.”

SRK has doubled in size over the past five years from about 460 consultants in late 2003 to the current number. And with its offices spanning the globe, SRK has been exposed to a wide range of projects, sites and challenges, allowing the selection of specialised skills to support client requirements from across the global organisation.

Group chairman Dr Neal Rigby said: “Our work on projects around the world, in both development and review capacities for financiers and operators, has exposed us to a very wide range of situations. We are therefore able to put top teams together to bring this global insight and experience to meet the specific challenges of each project.”

Four years after establishment in South Africa, SRK opened its first international office in Canada in 1978, followed by offices in the US (1980), the UK (1988) and Chile and Australia (1994). In 1994 the group holding company, SRK Global, was formed, enabling staff to become shareholders in the group as well as the regional operating practices by which they are employed.

It is this employee-owned structure that gives SRK the ability to provide independent, unbiased advice to clients as employees cannot own shares in any client company or project. Shareholding in SRK Global enables employees to participate in the success of the sister practices across the globe and was conceived to foster collaboration and cooperation. “A concept that has been very successful,” Mr Rigby said.

In the past five years SRK has opened new offices in Beijing (China), Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and Newcastle (Australia) in 2005; Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania), Kolkata (India), Moscow (Russia) and Saskatoon and Sudbury (Canada) in 2006; Melbourne (Australia) and Kimberley (South Africa) in 2007; and Anchorage (USA) in 2008. This year SRK has established offices in Nanchang (China), Skelleftea (Sweden), Jakarta (Indonesia) and Buenos Aires (Argentina), the latter being a merger with VS Consultores, an Argentinean consultancy.

Dr Rigby said further expansions into the Brazil, Russian, India and China (BRIC) countries would provide new opportunities for growth in future. “Expansion in these resource-rich countries, with a focus mainly on the mining industry, probably represents our major growth opportunities in the next few decades,” he said.

The mining industry provides the bulk of SRK’s consulting business, with more than 75% of revenue coming from the sector. This has enabled the group to forge a strong mining industry brand and its reputation for helping clients succeed continues to grow.

The company’s mix of services has continued to expand over 35 years, with the largest increases in personnel over the past five years seen in the geology, mining and project evaluation groups. This includes metallurgy and process skills, mainly for due diligence, audit and review work.

Deputy chairman Brian Middleton adds that the aim over the next five years will be a continued focus on increasing the depth of various skill areas. “For example, our strength in Australia was primarily in the mining and geology area; we have added skills in water, environment and tailings over the past five years and will continue to add staff to these areas,” he said.

“We also plan to add geotechnical and environmental skills in India and Brazil; mining industry skills to our new Argentina practice and, with time, skills across a range of disciplines in all locations.

“In all areas the only constraint to our growth is our ability to find exceptional people. We will always be on the lookout for individuals at all levels who have the potential to add value to our clients’ projects and who share our values.”