Diverse Group Australia operates across five key areas on some of Australia largest and most influential resources projects in the mineral-rich Pilbara in Western Australia. Expertise in civil & construction work, rail signalling, maintenance, electrical and communications has seen the company become go-to partners with tier-1 mining companies such as Rio Tinto, BHP, Fortescue Metals Group and Roy Hill. Diverse Group managing director Jason Bull tells RGN how the company went from two staff members to 80 employees in WA and what the company offers today.
Primarily, Diverse Group is a rail, civil and communications contractor with a concentration in iron ore but the company can do so much more than that. Having started as a civil construction business under Bull’s stewardship Diverse has transformed into a technical contractor.
Bull also places a huge emphasis on how important it is that the company has the local presence in the Pilbara. Diverse is based in Wickham & Port Hedland and prides itself on its knowledge of the ground conditions and the working environment.
“We lead the business by having the technology skillsets that can deliver all the electrical installation work on the rail and it’s backed up a strong civil component, which is where we started. That is a big differentiator from our competitors – we are a true turnkey company.
“We do everything from operations and maintenance projects, signalling on railways, maintaining of rail equipment, fibre and tower construction and LTE installations for the large mining houses.”
As Bull highlights, Diverse Group’s model of complete project delivery for clients takes away a lot of the interface risk and vulnerability of miscommunication for companies. Diverse has the capability to see a project through from conception and design to construction and operation, where other companies would have to contract out, Diverse Group does it all in house.
Whereas normally a mining company would have to engage three or four separate contractors to complete a full rail or maintenance programme, Diverse Group takes control of each different area and acts as the sole communication channel for the clients.
Diverse Group has built up a reputation for high quality project delivery by completing contracts on WA’s biggest mining projects. Most notably the company has been involved in fundamental work on the construction and maintenance of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara iron ore operations. That includes a huge amount of rail line extensions and enhancements, designing and constructing signalling systems, battery replacement programmes and electrical infrastructure installations.
“We’ve been involved with Rio Tinto projects for a long time and over the last five or six years we’ve helped with the automation projects in the Pilbara. We have done everything from the installation of the infrastructure on the rails, right through to the installation of the automation equipment on the trains, that comes from our guys with the technical expertise.
“We have shown the diversity of Diverse Group. We have the guys with the pits and shovels but we also have the guys in the offices building computers and putting the brains in. We have the full range covered.”
Diverse Group has also been involved with a major project for Roy Hill installing 20 communications towers for mine support, as well as playing a key role with BHP and its rail network over the last 10 years.
Having originally taken on contracts in all areas of civil construction, rail and electrical, Bull is shifting the focus of Diverse Group to concentrate on winning the tenders for sustaining capital jobs and operational and maintenance contracts. The shift has been a direct result of the impact the commodity price downturn had on the local industry.
Bull says that Diverse learns more about itself as a company through every cycle and downturn. In the last five years Bull aimed to bring down Diverse Group’s risk profile and did that through contracting direct to the mining houses.
“Instead of having tier-1 contractor clients such as John Holland and others, they then became our competitors on a small scale. We don’t want to get tied up with higher overheads from too much growth and project work.
“It’s all about efficiencies and building a model for long term sustainability. We are as guilty as others by focusing on projects and assuming this will be the market forever as much as anybody but we’re a very resilient business and when we need to change we can.”
In terms of sustainability Diverse Group is targeting operations and maintenance work as a long-term model to deliver sustaining capital, unless a long-standing client offers contracts for other work.
With the major companies now having made their model changes in terms of optimisations and efficiencies, Bull says the stream of capital to mineral projects is beginning to flow again and in turn the operations and maintenance side of the business is picking up too.
“There are 17 new projects coming in the Pilbara in the next two years but we will be more focused on supporting the day-to-day operations instead of getting tied up in those.”
When it comes to safety at Diverse Group Bull says there is no compromise. The company has developed a really strong safety culture which is imperative when it works in such remote and harsh environments. Bull ensures the lines of communication from the workers on the ground to senior management are open and honest and no one is scared to report anything however small.
A testament to Diverse Group’s commitment to safe practice is, at the time of writing, the safety record stood at 1,905 lost-time-to-injury-free days. Even if the cost of ensuring safe practices results in not necessarily being the lowest tender price, Bull will not compromise on safety.
“It is just non-negotiable in Diverse Group. If you have a short term business outlook then you won’t focus on safety so much. We are after a long term sustainable business that is going to leave a legacy and safety is a major part of our foundation as a company.
“Diverse Group is all about people and safety and people go hand in hand.”
With the hard work put in over the last five years to build a lower risk profile across the business now bearing fruits, Bull says the company is in a strong position for long term sustainability and the longstanding relationships with major blue chip clients continues to instil confidence in Diverse Group in terms of what it is capable of. As a business Bull says the next 10 years will be about consolidating that sustainable model.
“Our next 10 years will be getting strong long term contracts and focusing on helping our customers become lower cost producers. They are going to start moving more ore than they ever have and we need to find ways we can add value to their company and help to reduce their costs of production.”