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BHP and Rio Tinto have retained their positions as first and second on the list of the Top 40 global mining companies in the Pricewaterhouse Coopers’ (PwC) Mine 2021 report.

The report has described 2020 as a a banner year for the mining sector, and forecasts even better days ahead.

Other Australian mining companies named among the world’s Top 40 in the latest report included Fortescue Metals Group, Newcrest Mining, and South32.

Meanwhile Glencore dropped two places in the rankings this year from sixth to eighth and Anglo American dropped one place from eighth to ninth.

The report showed that the Top 40’s market capitalisation was up 64 per cent to $US1.46 trillion, revenue (excluding trading) rose 4 per cent to $US545 billion and net profit was up 15 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 at $US70 billion.

Copper was the mineral of the moment, contributing $US122 billion to group revenue in 2020, and the average price of copper is predicted to increase by 40 per cent in 2021.

In addition, the report said 2021 was shaping up to be another strong year for gold, with prices holding firm and production forecasts outpacing 2020 levels.

Demand for thermal coal declined in 2020, with prices falling 22 per cent on average and Top 40 production down 12 per cent.

While prices have recovered and are well above 2019 levels as economies have started to rebound from the depths reached during the pandemic, PWC found the longer-term trend of diversifying out of thermal coal showed no sign of abating among the Top 40.

The 2021 forecast indicates that the Top 40 will report record-high revenue and EBITDA levels (in the PWC report’s 18-year history) and the second-highest net profit.

The report highlights the significance and value of ESG approaches, with sustainability strategies a running thread through the 2021 report.

“While miners will likely continue to shift away from thermal coal, they need to explore replacing that revenue stream with ESG-oriented businesses,” it states.

“Which acquisition targets will meet the growing demand for the resources that are driving the shift to a greener global economy?

“According to the International Energy Agency, the energy sector’s need for critical minerals that
are essential for clean energy technologies could increase by as much as six times by 2040.”