Major investment will lead to much needed jobs

Written by Gordon Walker

Gordon Walker is the regional general manager of ALS Minerals in Romania. ALS would invest significantly in Romania’s economy should the Roşia Montană gold mine go forward.

Technology transfer, training and tax dollars are just some of the benefits the Rosia Montana gold mine will bring to Romania. And jobs, too: lots of them.

That’s the judgment of Gordon Walker, regional general manager of ALS Minerals, who is based in Spain near the ‘Iberian Pyrite Belt’, a large and active metal mining area in Spain and Portugal, similar to Romania’s famous ‘Golden Quadrilateral’ area. ALS is one of the world’s leading testing and analysis providers. Already active in Romania, the company hopes to expand its activities there if the mineral exploration and mining industry is revived.

‘Of course we hope the mine proceeds, and brings more wealth and jobs to the local area and to Romania as a whole,’ Gordon Walker says. ‘Many people don’t realise that the service industry which supports a mine is very large. The usual estimate is that three or four service jobs are created for every job at the mine itself. Our business is a very good example of that.’  Another reason for the mine to proceed is that there is a growing awareness that Europe imports most of its metals, thus effectively exporting mining, processing and services jobs elsewhere.

ALS, which employs over 13,000 people globally, is one of the most respected companies in its field with 300 laboratories across 50 countries. In Romania it already employs 75 people on various industrial projects, including preparatory work for Rosia Montana.

‘Mineral exploration there has allowed ALS to build a significant business and we’ve been proud to have a 100% local staff for most of the time we’ve owned the laboratory there. By providing local jobs we have helped families stay together, instead of leaving the rural areas for the cities or for overseas. he says’

He speaks highly of the company’s Romanian staff, describing them as hardworking, dedicated, flexible and willing to travel and to learn new skills.  At the moment we have 5 Romanian staff on short term or extended travel outside of Romania, carrying out specialized maintenance, training and management functions.

‘They have made our Romanian laboratory one of the better ones in Europe,’ Gordon Walker says.

‘Clearly, if the Rosia Montana mine goes ahead ALS will need to increase staff numbers to match the workload.  There will be more intensive and advanced training, too, with trainers sent in from other ALS laboratories in Europe.’

‘We would bring in new equipment and new analytical methods for the mine control laboratory. In particular we would look to introduce metallurgical and environmental control analysis to support the operation.’

The highest standards of environmental control analysis will obviously be critical to Roşia Montană’s operations. And ALS is well placed to meet those standards. Independent and internationally accredited, ALS is the largest provider of environmental analytical services in the world.

It all adds up to increased investment in Romania by ALS.

‘ALS Minerals has recently completed significant facility upgrades in Chile, South Africa, West Africa and Ireland – all based on a requirement to meet capacity demands. Our track record on investment speaks for itself.’

The company’s skills could well find applications in other sectors of the Romanian economy, Gordon Walker suggests. Besides minerals testing, ALS is also a key player in analysis for other industries, among them food and pharmaceuticals, coal, oil and gas, and inspection services for the control of exports and imports.

‘Clearly there is a great opportunity for technology and skills to be introduced to Romania on the back of this service mix,’ he says.