Road to 100: A Global Knight Piésold Group

Road to 100: A Global Knight Piésold Group

The 1990s: One Team

The 1990s were a defining time for the evolution of Knight Piésold. Heading into the decade, there were operating companies and partnerships in South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, UK, Australia, Canada, USA, and Malaysia. A global operating committee (GOC), which included the senior partners, president, or managing director of each operating entity, was established to coordinate global activities and provide some cohesiveness within the group.

David Piésold and Bruce Knight retired from full-time involvement in 1989 and 1990 respectively, and the GOC adopted the name “Knight Piésold” for all operating entities, except in South Africa, where the new name was not changed until 1995. The Knight Piésold consulting group was thus formed.

The early ‘90s saw a significant rebound in global mining activity after a mild recession in 1991, and the opening up of mining activity in South America presented new opportunities for Knight Piésold. This was recognized by Knight Piésold companies in the UK, USA, and Canada, all of which had clients looking at new projects in South America. The initial focus was on Chile and Peru, where both countries had a long history of major mining activity, and Argentina, where the Vancouver office had begun working on the Alumbrera project in 1992.

In 1993, Knight Piésold UK put forward a candidate to open an office in Santiago, Chile, and the three Knight Piésold companies in the UK, USA, and Canada agreed to jointly fund a new office. Knight Piésold S.A. was duly opened on August 19, 1993.

In a similar time frame, Knight Piésold USA was working for Newmont on the Yanacocha project in Peru. This was one of the first, large-scale gold heap leach projects in the world and things progressed rapidly. By late 1993, to manage in-country work, it became necessary to establish a permanent presence in Peru, and Knight Piésold Consultores S.A. was formally registered on May 6, 1994. At the time, the price of gold was US$373.4 per ounce, and price of copper was US$0.95 per pound.

Knight Piésold Peru, with support from the other offices, quickly got new assignments on the Yanacocha project and new projects such as the Iscaycruz project, which was Knight Piésold’s first tailings project in the country. The Iscaycruz project also provided Knight Piésold with the opportunity to perform environmental services, a new field in Peru at that time. In parallel, the privatization of mining operations by the Peruvian state allowed the company to participate in privatization-related projects, including the La Oroya smelter and the historic Cerro de Pasco mine. By the time Knight Piésold Peru reached 25 years of operations, the price of gold was US$1,280.8 per ounce, and the price of copper was US$2.83 per pound.

In Argentina, Knight Piésold continued pursuing various projects, and an office was established in Buenos Aires in 1996 to assist with these. Soon after, an entity was registered in San Juan by Knight Piésold Chile to carry out work on the Veladero project in San Juan province. This entity eventually became Knight Piésold Argentina Consultores S.A. on September 5, 2005, with an office later opening in Mendoza that has since become the head office in the country and grown to a staff of over 130.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Ghanaian mining industry was also rebounding, and in 1992, Knight Piésold UK set up a branch in Kumasi, Ghana to serve the region’s mining projects. In 1996, the company was converted into a Ghanaian incorporated company, and Knight Piésold Ghana Ltd. was established. Some of the first major projects were at the AngloGold Ashanti Obuasi mine, Konongo mine, Awaso Bauxite mine, Prestea Sankofa gold mine, and the Insuta manganese mine.

The 1990s also saw growth in Canada, as the practice expanded to offer environmental services and surged into the local hydropower market, starting work on its first small hydro development in 1991. The practice further expanded with the addition of an office in North Bay, Ontario in 1994 to focus on work in Northern Ontario’s mining region.

In Australia, Knight Piésold had identified Western Australia as a developing market for mining-related services and an office was re-established in Perth in November 1992. As the Western Australian market grew, the head office eventually shifted from Sydney to Perth, where it remains today, and an office was later established in Brisbane in February 2008.

In Southern Africa, Phase I of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was underway, with the construction of the Katse dam, the largest double-curvature concrete arch dam at the time, completed in 1996.

Knight Piésold further expanded into the Philippines, officially opening an office in 1997 as construction commenced on the Casecnan hydroelectric project, on which Knight Piésold was the owner’s engineer. The project had originally been conceived with a large dam, a trans-basin tunnel, and a surface powerhouse with the diverted water transferred into an existing reservoir. Knight Piésold managed to optimize the project and found that with two run-of-river intakes instead of a large dam, 80% of the benefits could be reached at 50% of the cost. In addition to the Casecnan project, the office served several mining projects in the region, but with the commissioning of the Casecnan project in 2001 coinciding with the downturn in the global mining industry, the office was closed in 2002.

In 1998, the GOC investigated the feasibility of forming a single corporate entity with common ownership structure to align objectives around the world. The study was presented to the combined partners and shareholders of all the Knight Piésold entities at a meeting in Canterbury, UK in October 1998. The new global structure was adopted in January 1999, with all the entities owned by a single holding company. The exceptions were Knight Piésold Ghana, which became a part of the Knight Piésold Group in 2000, and Knight Piésold UK, which was acquired by the Scott Wilson Group in 2002.

The New Millennium: Strategic Growth

Heading into the new millennium with a consolidated structure, Knight Piésold continued to look towards strategic growth. In Africa, the company expanded into Namibia (2008) and the DRC (2015) and took over the former Knight Piésold UK operation in Zambia. Within South Africa, the company expanded its capability in the geotechnical field with an amalgamation with Knight Hall Hendry to establish the Pretoria office in 2003, and then merged with Kayad Consulting in 2010 to form the Cape Town office.

In 2013, the time was right for Knight Piésold to re-establish itself in the UK as Knight Piésold Limited, with an office in the heart of London focusing on the mining industry and on exploring opportunities in the construction and energy sectors in Europe, Russia, Central Asia, and North Africa.

More recently, offices have been established in Brazil and Mexico to serve local clients and the large established mining industry in both of those countries.

Going Further Together

Throughout its 100-year history, Knight Piésold has always been proudly 100% employee-owned. In the early days, senior partners guided the direction and evolution of the practices. Today, Knight Piésold has a board of directors (BOD) appointed by the shareholders to provide guidance and look after the interests of all shareholders. The BOD, together with local management teams, focuses on local recruitment, financial stability, longevity, and sustainability by strengthening what the company does best and continuing to build the leaders of tomorrow. With huge talent in the company and a clear vision, Knight Piésold looks forward to another successful 100 years.