Leading multi-disciplinary consulting firm SRK Australia is recruiting again after a hiatus in the first half of 2009. If the past 15 years is anything to go by, the new arrivals can expect to see plenty of the world if they stick around.

The Australian business arm of global company SRK Consulting — which marked its 15th anniversary with a function attended by more than 80 people in Perth, Western Australia, this week — now has 109 staff. The parent company, itself observing an anniversary this year — it was established 35 years ago in South Africa — has doubled in size to nearly 900 staff since 2003.

Showing that management personnel at the regional level pay no attention to operational/geographical boundaries, SRK Australia personnel are said to have worked in more than 60 countries in the past 15 years. SRK Australia managing director Peter Williams said this week expansion and the diversity of international projects had made for “an eventful 15 years.”

“The SRK business is based on providing a wide range of specialised services to the mining industry,” he said. “As a result, many of you know SRK as only providing a single service area. I have had clients comment that SRK was an environmental consulting company, a geological consulting company, a geotech company or a mining engineering company.

Unlike many of our competitors, we are all of that and more, and have taken this diversified approach to business as a deliberate strategy, allowing us to maintain the highest level of expertise in all of our specialised areas, while still able to undertake a range of projects from large to small.

[Giving] you a flavour of 12 years with SRK after the merger with EHW in 1997 … a highlight for our exploration geology team was a large project we undertook in northern Finland, visiting the home of Santa Claus at Rovaniemi just before Christmas. Looking at PGE mineralisation in layered sills at -20°C proved interesting. To keep outcrops open required installation of large portable fan heaters at the outcrops, which kept the ice at bay long enough to undertake sampling and mapping programs. We were able to find the structural controls on the PGE mineralisation, and successfully define drilling targets for a new style of PGE occurrences.”

Williams said tailings and waste disposal “could be exciting,” particularly in climatic extremes from deserts to tropical rain forests.

“Saudi Arabia poses special challenges. During our work at a Ma’aden site in northern Saudi, dust storms have been known to black out the site, and field work suspended. Like being in a blizzard, sense of direction is lost, and one fellow drove 40km in the wrong direction, only to be confronted by an Abrams tank — he had crossed into southern Iraq. Safety equipment now includes a compass, as the dust storms black out the GPS coverage as well.”

Underground mining in northern Greenland, designing an open-pit in a volcanic crater (Lihir) and small-scale stopes in Costerfield, Victoria, and designing for 300 million tonnes of material movement per annum at massive copper open-pits in South Australia and Chile are some of the projects that have kept SRK Australia’s mining and geotechnical teams challenged and interested.

“The estimation of resources is the backbone of the mining industry,” Williams said. “Quality resources are proved up by exploration guided by the interpolations required to generate the orebody model. The resource is based on the geological model, and the research undertaken by SRK incorporating 3D implicit modelling into resource estimation started in the early days, and has continued to the present.

From advanced geological mapping and 3D cross-sectional studies based on geophysics and geology, a range of implicit modelling tools is revolutionising geological modelling. We have had the opportunity to apply these techniques to iron ore, red bed copper, coal, and uranium in particular, where these techniques invariably improve the economics of the deposits through rapid, accurate and constrained resource assessment.”

Williams said SRK supported university student chapter functions, the AusIMM and the Perth-based Centre for Geomechanics, and was a contributor to the University of WA Geoscience Foundation through the Hammond-Nisbet fund.

“This fund was established to provide support to the CET in the teaching of the specialised skills of exploration targeting through advanced mapping technologies linked to geophysical interpretations,” he said. “The fund aims to generate $AUS1.25m to support a full-time staff position in perpetuity at UWA. Several of the supporters of that fund are also here tonight, and as a personal founder and sponsor of the fund, I encourage all of you here to consider a corporate donation to the fund to allow us to reach our target this year.”