Engineering and project management business UMS Group UMS has achieved significant growth in its short history transitioning from a company in the throes of a turnaround strategy in 2018 to a company that reached financial stability in 2020 and has seen rapid growth ever since. LAURA CORNISH caught up with CEO DIGBY GLOVER to unpack a true success story that continues to unfold.

For new entrants aspiring to break into the mining market, one requirement is key: they must prove their abilities, sustainably. Although this is no easy feat, UMS has done this, fortunately on the foundations established by two strong market brands UMS Shaft Sinkers and UMS METS. Today, its reputation in the market is clear: UMS can comfortably deliver on its full span of capabilities, adding value to the project process, right from the early feasibility stages through to execution and mine handover. The journey to reach this point has seen Glover focus on growing the front end of the business, bringing in high level engineering skills capable of designing and engineering projects both large and small . “This has been a steady process but now we are starting to reap the rewards of the efforts we have made and that is evidenced in the number of largescale projects we have secured,” Glover highlights. This includes engineering, design, construction and commissioning of process plants, shaft sinking, decline and underground projects secured or underway across the globe and more specifically, the United States, Brazil, Botswana and most recently South Africa.

Global business but roots still solid in South Africa
Having secured most of its larger scale work outside of South Africa, Glover reveals that the company always included serving the local market in its strategy. This required serious evaluation of how to remain competitive in this market despite the challenges in it. “We have kept the door open to continue working towards developing the South African mining market, predominantly for two reasons. One, we have a lot of our capability and capacity here and the market is on our doorstep. And secondly, we do believe there will be continued growth in the mining sector.” And in 2022 this strategy paid off. UMS secured a multibillion rand project to develop an underground mine for a well established open pit PGM operation on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Complex.

UMS’s scope of work includes decline development, raise boring and underground development, to be executed in four legs over a five year period. The company will be involved in the drilling and blasting of the main shaft conveyor belt and service declines, constructing the anchor support, shotcreting, blasting for workshops, and constructing the ventilation and ore passes. UMS will be raise boring between each leg for an improved ventilation system. As the underground ore body in this region is relatively shallow, access from surface declines is feasible, allowing for for use of mechanised machines such as drill rigs, dump trucks and utility vehicles. It will also enable the client to consider using electric and battery vehicles when they begin the levels development.

“We are currently mobilising to do this work. We are extremely excited about this project. Not only is it ratification of our strategy, but it also is a great indicator of the market’s restored faith in our local contracting companies’ abilities,” Glover continues.

“We are starting to reap the rewards of the efforts we have made and that is evidenced in the number of largescale projects we have secured”. -DIGBY GLOVER

Another area that the South African contracting business is gaining traction in is shaft restoration. Restoring shafts has become a relatively unique and niche service offering by UMS and will continue to form part of the company’s service offering, despite the increased focus on delivering its big projects over the next five plus years. Other significant new work in South Africa includes a gold plant upgrade and recommissioning work for Sibanye-Stillwater, as well as a recent appointment as the owner’s site team for a new PGM shaft project in SA. Further afield, the company is currently undertaking significant projects in the United States, Brazil and Botswana. “In the States we are sinking a shaft as part of an underground waste storage facility. In Brazil we have two significant projects.

The first one is to transition an open pit mine to underground. For this we have been appointed to undertake the engineering and procurement for a new 1 500 m deep shaft; whereafter we will complete the construction and physical sinking works. In addition to this we have also been appointed as the owner’s team for work we are doing on a large concentrator new build in Brazil,” Glover outlines. Well positioned for the foreseeable future “Importantly, we believe our South African presence is set to grow we are seeing many new opportunities emerging in the market which appears to be entering a growth phase, but it’s important to be selective about the work we take on and ensure our appetite for growth does not exceed our capabilities,” Glover notes.

“We are in the fortunate position now where our work pipeline is strong. And to a large extent, it’s now about delivering on the work that we’ve brought in, and that does require a huge amount of focus on continually nurturing the key skills to perform this work,” he further points out. ‘UMS Group has experienced very high growth over the past two years. Growth will however never be at the cost of our not being able to provide our clients with a highly professional service. We believe that a ‘growth at all costs’ mentality would ultimately be highly destructive. Our driver is to deliver on our commitments and ensure we add real value to clients on their projects. This will ensure long-term sustainable growth for us. “We will always be reviewing our strategy in terms of connecting with the market in a different way to better serve it in the medium term. Synergies are a great way to do this either through joint ventures or more formal transactions,” Glover concludes.


  1. UMS has been appointed to undertake the engineering and procurement for a new 1 500 m deep shaft at a copper complex in Brazil; whereafter it will complete the construction and physical sinking works.
  2. Having completed the presink work for Lucara Diamond Corporation’s Karowe mine in Botswana, UMS has secured the work to complete the full sinking contract for the project, which is already underway.
  3. UMS is in full-blown sink development in the United States with a vertical shaft which will be utilised as a nuclear waste storage facility.
  4. UMS in the first half of 2022 was awarded the contract to transition an open pit PGM mine on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Complex to an underground mine.

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