Nieminen got his start in the mining equipment industry as a student employee at his father’s Rouyn-Noranda-based K.N. Equipment 17 years ago. He is still there today, but now the 33-year-old is vice-president and general manager of the company, a post he has held since 2006.
In this position and with the advantage of his long history in the industry, Nieminen has taken on a number of ambitious projects in Africa. Les Industries Orientales SAU is a mining equipment hub he is developing in Kedougou, Senegal. The hub will serve as a manufacturing base for Quebec firms like his to grow their customer base across West Africa. He added that the hub will also “help the community with technology transfer and competence transfer by training [local workers.]”
The hub will also support another one of Nieminen’s initiatives. In collaboration with Les Industries Beroma, he has arranged to help local Senegalese miners purchase new small-scale gold processing plants and to provide substantial training and assistance in the first year of operation. Many Senegalese miners have legal title to mine the land but lack the capital and expertise necessary to purchase appropriate equipment and conduct safe and profitable operations. The plants will be serviced by three to four small mine sites and worked by cooperatives of about 125 workers, which will keep the miners’ profits within the community. Current practices allow the Senegalese miners to capture only about 40 per cent of the gold in the ore, but Nieminen said their recovery will jump to 95 per cent with the new process and training. “With that increase they can pay the machine royalties, have better conditions and have better equipment,” he explained.
Over the coming year, Nieminen will work to arrange loans so that the co-operatives can purchase these plants. He has already been in talks with a number of entities including the World Bank. Each plant will cost roughly US$1.2 million for basic set-up or US$3.9 million for a complete plant with a year’s operation including training, installation and spare parts. Nieminen is focused on securing funding to build a single pilot plant in Senegal for now, but he has plans in the works to build three plants in Senegal, and three each in Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire.