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A passion for procurement

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Tom Pullen, Procurement Manager at Canyon Coal. Image credit: Leon Louw for WhyAfrica

A passion for procurement

Procurement is one of the most important functions of a mining operation. WhyAfrica spoke to Tom Pullen, Procurement Manager at Canyon Coal about the demands of his role and the importance of procurement in the mining sector.

By Staff Writer

Tom, procurement is one of the most important functions of a mining operation. How does one get involved in procurement and what route did you follow to become a procurement manager for Canyon Coal?

Indeed, procurement is a crucial part of mining because the industry value chain requires a lot of assets, tools, and materials to function. Given the complex nature of the supply chain, one needs to understand that procurement would be the right career path for you to choose if you have talent and passion for it.

Firstly, you must be a strategic thinker and enjoy working with numbers. This is going to help you when making decisions that have serious financial implications for the future of the company you will be working for.

The relevant degree related to finance or accounting is an important first step to get you started on your path to becoming a procurement professional but at the end of the day you must get hands on work experience. If you are a graduate varsity student, consider getting an internship or job shadowing programme.

Do your research about the industries you are keen to work in and get a mentor to help you through. Soft skills like communication and building relationships with different stakeholders will also help you to be more effective in carrying out your duties.

I have personally worked in various industries, serving as an International Buyer, Chief Procurement Officer and General Manager. Before joining Canyon Coal, I worked at Sandvik as Head of Procurement and Supply in Southern Africa for nine years.

How does a supplier get added to the data list of a mining company and what advice would you give suppliers and service providers to be on the radar of a procurement manager?

Different companies have their own ways of functioning in this space, so suppliers must research the procurement processes of the specific company they are interested in working with to find out the requirements.

The best place to start is contacting the company directly for information. Some companies will require that you complete an electronic form with your company details and documents to be added to the database.

To increase your chances of success, make sure that your paperwork is in order, and you are clear about which goods and services you are offering. Conducting market research and formulating a good understanding of the competition is also a crucial part of the process.

What are Canyon Coal’s guidelines and requirements for a company to be on its procurement and vendor list?

Generally, the company does not publish tenders in any print or electronic media but selects suppliers from its Approved Supplier Database and requests quotations suppliers when the need for goods or services arise.

We aim to procure as close to the manufacturer as possible.

Suppliers who are interested in working with us can approach our procurement department to submit their profile for review.

The supplier evaluation process is based on criteria such as geographical locality, B-BBEE level, verifiable experience, capacity, financial soundness, and market-related pricing.


What are the main challenges for a procurement manager in the difficult business environment of South Africa?

I think we are still trying to recover from supply chain disruptions that resulted from Covid 19 lockdowns 2-years-ago, causing problems with the transportation and accessibility of goods. Supply chain disruptions have been amongst the most pressing difficulties in procurement and this continued due to other factors like riots and logistics bottlenecks.

We are also faced with loadshedding which impacts on general productivity for businesses and high inflation rates that impact on financial stability.

So, you can imagine how getting what you need, at the right cost and time has become more difficult. Even when there are budgets and plans in place, chances are things might not go as anticipated due to the rapidly changing situation. This is why risk management and flexibility in our approach is so important.

Can you take us through the day-to-day activities of a procurement manager in the coal mining industry of South Africa?

The activities in the typical day of a procurement manager include attending meetings, developing strategy, liaising with vendors and partners while making sure that each team member is playing their part.

What in your view does Menar do well when it comes to procurement.

Canyon Coal’s procurement processes are based on fairness, transparency, and best practice. Achieving transformation in procurement is important to us and we invest time and resources on enterprise development.

We also host Procurement Day events and roadshows to meet local suppliers in the areas where we operate, making the process more inclusive. In March we hosted an event to introduce ourselves and connect with local suppliers around the Gugulethu Colliery in Davel, Ward 10 in Mpumalanga.

Similar events have been hosted with other host communities in previous years.  The aim of these campaigns to make sure that everyone, especially local SMMEs has a chance of benefiting from business opportunities that may come about because of mining in the area.

If you prefer to rather watch the interview with Tom on the WhyAfrica YouTube channel, click here:

A passion for procurement

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 A passion for procurement


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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management