TKI Group is helping to pave the way for Papua New Guinea’s resource-led development, backing major projects with exemplary service and unrivalled experience
Writer: Jonathan Dyble / Project Manager: Donovan Smith
Papau New Guinea is a country worth keeping an eye on.
Entangled in the array of islands strewn between the Southeast Asian mainland and Australia, it has a lot in common with its archipelago neighbours of Indonesia and the Philippines. From its sun-kissed sand beaches and untouched forest-cloaked mountains to flamboyant, enthralling local cultures, it resembles something of an earthly paradise.
Behind closed doors, however, PNG is taking great strides, its GDP having exploded since the turn of the millennium, now valued at $23.5 billion – up from the $3.5 billion recorded two decades earlier.
The driving force behind this astounding growth? A buoyant extractives sector that is only just getting started in the eyes of Tawap Kamen Investment Group (TKI) General Manager Peter Pridgeon.
“Even today, PNG is relatively untouched,” he explains. “Mining activities have been widespread here for generations, yes, but with so many developing opportunities and minerals only now being unearthed, it’s a great time to be here working and discovering what’s out there.
“The resource sector is giving PNG the opportunity to grow. It’s emerging as a nation by harnessing its natural assets.”
Indeed, TKI itself has been a pivotal player in helping to facilitate this economic boom.
A local company founded to respond to the labour needs of the local Ok Tedi Mine that can be found at the foot of Mt Fubilan in the country’s Western Province in 1989, it today employs close to 1,000 PNG nationals and expatriates, delivering an array of critical engineering, construction and transportation services, amongst others, to the region.
“Our vision is to become a leader in the provision of complementary services to the resources and energy sector and beyond,” Pridgeon affirms.
“We’re a leader in our field in the Western Province and hold decades of experience supporting major mining operations, working with an array of governmental and private business partners.”
Driven by development
Talk of grand ambitions begs a new question: How does TKI plan to both consolidate and further its reputation?
Pondering this, the GM is quick to point to the company’s culture of opportunity and development, best evidenced by its employment practices.
“We’re a progressive company,” he states. “We prefer to hire bright, ambitious people that show creative flair and innovative promise – a lot of our management team are high performing, young individuals.
“We do tend to hire local Papua New Guinean graduates, but from a mixture of fields. Some are from mining or mineral processing backgrounds, while others have studied IT, HR, or other degrees.
“Likewise, although our workforce is 97 percent national, we don’t prefer to hire one person over another for any particular reason. Developing local people is crucial, but we balance that with ensuring that the best person is hired for the role and offer competitive packages to attract top talent.”
Committed to these criteria, TKI’s expert workforce continues to excel when given the opportunity, a prime example coming from the ongoing overhaul of its internal processes from a paper-based compliance and auditing structure to an all-encompassing digital platform.
Here, the company has hired two bright graduates, one with an information systems degree and the other specialising in computer science, to help spearhead the project.
“It’s been great watching these guys testing their skills out and applying their education to solve real world problems in a practical way,” Sebastian Pridgeon, the organisation’s Quality Assurance Manager, states, briefly entering the conversation. “We also have a group of safety officers going through Cert IV Australian Standards for Safety Course, and we’re assisting some of our office staff in undertaking business administration diplomas.”
Currently in the trial phase, TKI has invested in and distributed scores of digital tablets throughout its workforce, gradually integrating its new automated software and cloud systems via employee training sessions.
“And we’re going to ramp this up through 2020,” the Quality Assurance Manager adds. “The aim is to become paperless by 2021.”
Recognising a wider responsibility
TKI’s own workforce aside, these development-centric values continue to shine through in a number of other ways.
Of late, the company has been taking a more proactive approach to corporate social responsibility, 2019 having witnessed a host of different initiatives including the repair of floodlights at the local Tabubil sports field, the celebration of World AIDS Awareness Day and World Environment Day, and a blood drive in which its staff donated nine pints of blood to a local hospital running low on supplies.
Further, underpinning all of these efforts is a recent change in the company’s shareholder structure.
The GM explains: “Rather than being a private entity, 80 percent of TKI’s shares are now owned by Telefomin and Western Foundation, an entity that has become the vehicle for us giving back to the PNG community.
“Through this model, four fifths of our profits are delivered directly to helping the development of the local region, something that we here at TKI feel particularly passionate about.
“Our business assists others in extracting the country’s natural resources, so it’s only right that we deposit benefit simultaneously. This, alongside empowering our own workforce, is another way in which we can do that.”
Indeed, looking at some of the company’s revenue generating projects, the same rings true.
The company built the Oksapmin school, for instance, flying a crew of construction experts into a remote area of the Western Province who then spent roughly one year completing the facility for the local community.
Meanwhile, much of the long-term success of the Ok Tedi Mine, a key contributor to the local economy, can be attributed to the mining and construction works specialist, the company still servicing the mine today, 30 years after it first became contracted.
“We recently demolished the old Ok Tedi Mine workshop, for example, a four-month long project that took 88,000 man hours,” Pridgeon reveals, adding to the two million hours without any lost time injuries that was celebrated by the company back in December 2018.
An expanding outlook
This impeccable safety record is a true indicator of how quickly PNG’s heavy industry is moving, progressing and improving, TKI itself at the forefront of this curve.
Peter Pridgeon and his team can’t claim all the credit, however. And indeed they don’t, the GM pointing to the role of partners and suppliers as critical to the success of its own operation.
“From sourcing key equipment to moving heavy machinery in remote locations and then acquiring the parts needed to maintain them, our results are heavily reliant on these efforts,” he states.
“We use a fleet of 14 prime movers for transportation of essential goods, for example, and currently have a 90 percent uptime across these, which is exceptional given the challenges that can arise from working in a developing country such as PNG.”
Owed to this network of reliable, trusted suppliers that has been established over a 30-year period, combined with an enviable, diversified workforce and a renewed emphasis on the importance of technologies, TKI is well positioned to capitalise on new opportunities moving forward.
And that is exactly what the company intends to do, Pridgeon concluding with a buoyant statement.
“We’re entirely optimistic about the future – I can only foresee growth for PNG’s resource sector,” he begins. “There are of course closing timelines in regard to establishing a resource and getting legislative consent, but we’re always on hand to partner with the appropriate enterprises in this field.
“Looking ahead, we want to hone our systems and work procedures as well as bolstering our safety protocols. But we also want to expand TKI’s operation outside of Western Province.
“Within the next three years, we’re hopeful that half of our revenue will be derived from new regions.”