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May 16, 2016

   

MineConnect News

The Best Underground Technology Cluster in North America

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MineConnect Commentary Published in  May SMSJ

By Dick DeStefano Executive Director MineConnect

Northern Ontario Shines in Underground Technologies

Michael Denham, the new CEO of Canada’s Business Development Bank, recently acknowledged that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) represent 99.8 per cent of all Canadian companies, produce 66 per cent of jobs in the country, represent more than 50 per cent of Canada’s GDP and that we need more SMEs generating more growth to sustain our economy in an era of globalization and increasing numbers of free trade agreements.

These observations apply to numerous sectors of the economy, but are especially valid in the most sophisticated underground technology centre in Canada. The number of employees in Northern Ontario with its 500 plus mining supply and service companies employing approximately 23,000 people is double the number of people directly employed by mining companies in Northern Ontario.

Free trade agreements, which are proliferating in the global market, will be advantageous to SMEs offering sophisticated technologies that will enhance productivity. These companies are very visible in our mining cluster in Northern Ontario.

MineConnect has seen a membership shift in recent years from companies offering traditional services to those with much more emphasis on innovative products and services. This speaks well for the future. The fact that companies have a long history of mining expertise and the capabilities to develop customized products based on customer needs is one of the unique features of the MineConnect cluster. As an example, one firm is leading the way in developing lithium battery-based mining equipment which reduces ventilation costs and the dependency on emission-producing diesel fuel. Six units were delivered to a Russian mine recently.

One of the key issues in maintaining market share in the future is the commitment by governments at all levels for supporting regional initiatives and providing financial packages and incentives that enhance investments and expanding operations. Agencies that support innovation and programs that add value to exporting companies are critical for success.

Research centres that focus on new ideas are also essential. Northern Ontario is blessed with a number of highly sophisticated agencies and educational institutions that are available to assist in the development of new products and ideas. In fact, agencies and institutions focussed on mining innovations are quite prevalent in MineConnect’s membership and have been very forthright in providing funds, faculty and students to move ideas into first stages of commercialization.

Banking and financial centres have also developed a significant understanding of the needs and funding requirements of mining supply and service companies and have added designated personnel to assist in accessing relevant programs.

Sudbury, which has the largest number of mining supply and service companies in Northern Ontario with 320 companies, recently received an endorsement as a key sector from the 2015 Greater Sudbury Development Corporation study entitled “From the Ground Up,” which emphasized the significant wealth and employment this sector generates in the region.

“In many ways, the success of mining and related supply and service companies has shaped the way institutional and industry support structures have developed in the city. The mining supply and service sector will continue to be a primary driver of economic activity in the region.”