Apr 14, 2021
Global Business Reports Interview with Paul Bradette
3 MIN READ
GBR Connect Series
Toronto Mining’s Global Reach
What is the mission of MineConnect and what are some of the current initiatives the organization is undertaking?
All of MineConnect’s market initiatives are designed to help our companies grow their business either regionally or on a global scale. For example, we have recently initiated a lead generation campaign, whereby we drive potential customers to our “Find a Supplier” button where we have categorized the mining industry into twelve specialty areas. If you are a mine operation in Mexico looking for solutions around ventilation, you click on the ventilation tab and it provides you with each of the related categories. We developed this software as a free tool that showcases our members to both regional and international markets.
In our trade program, we actively engage with mine operators around the world and invite them to Northern Ontario to visit our suppliers and technology providers firsthand. The Norcat Fecunis mine, an underground R&D facility, has become a great venue for us to bring international buyers into the location where all these companies are showcased. Last August, we invited Codelco to Northern Ontario to visit our suppliers within the battery electric space. From that visit, we were invited back to Chile with 10 member companies to tour six different mines there. We are also working on opening an office in Nevada, planned for March 2021. We will have employees in that storefront, so if one of our companies wants to visit, we can facilitate meetings for them, as well as be there to promote the MineConnect brand and what our members can bring to any mine development.
Looking at the supply and services sector in Northern Ontario, how would you assess the overall health of these companies today?
There is a lot of innovation coming out of this cluster. Northern Ontario was the first to have a company develop a battery electric vehicle for underground, we were the first region with a mine to adopt it, and we are home to the first all-electric mine worldwide. That technology is a real step changer for the industry. It should enable us to get greener and go deeper into deposits, while also protecting the health and safety of employees working in the mines. We are seeing some significant advances within the digital mining concept, whereby real time information can be fed to the surface, so miners can make meaningful decisions right away. These things will continue to move this cluster forward, and our intent is to get the eyes of the global mining community on the innovations being developed in Northern Ontario.
What impact do MineConnect members have on the economic development of Northern Ontario?
MineConnect members employ upwards of 8,800 Northerners. Our members generate upwards of C$3.5 billion in total revenue, and about 20% of that is export driven. For context, the total output from Ontario mines is roughly C$10.9 billion per year. In general, there are over five hundred companies that employ around 22,000 Northerners and generate about C$7.7 billion. The mining supply and services cluster makes up a large piece of this economy, and the supply chain has a significant impact.
Are there policies that are encouraging investment and innovation in the mining sector?
There are always government subsidies that support R&D, but if we look at homegrown companies that come out of Northern Ontario, they are taking their internal resources and deploying them for the continuous development of their business. The companies pushing breakthrough innovation are self-funding it to a large degree. However, we are fortunate to have The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and FedNor supporting R&D.
What have been the critical factors involved in developing Sudbury as an innovation hub for mining?
It is all about the tremendous entrepreneurs we have within this cluster. They recognized the need and developed the innovations required to make mining safer while making it more productive. It was rough times in Sudbury around 2005. At that time, a survey was completed and found that 50% of companies in this space relied on two customers. Companies started to realize that to survive long-term, they needed to diversify their customer base, and a big part of that was getting into the export game.
What countries are most closely tied with Sudbury-based companies?
Mining Executives tend to transition to other companies as they scale up their careers. As they move, there is always a bit of pull bringing in trusted Northern Ontario suppliers into their new operations. Mexico is most certainly a strong market as 65% of the mining assets are Canadian owned with a great tie to our members. The Southwest USA is also another strong market and positioning a MineConnect office in Elko, Nevada will also enable us to have a presence in adjacent mining states of Utah and Arizona. Finally, Chile has been a strong market for the Ontario cluster for decades and we will continue to remain tied into that market.