Over the last six months mining supply and services companies around the world have come knocking at NORCAT’s door to take advantage of its underground training and testing mine in Onaping.
“Over the last year and a half we’ve made pretty significant investments to enhance the infrastructure of the operating mine,” said Don Duval, CEO of the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology Inc. (NORCAT).
The fully functional mine is the only facility of its kind in the world to be operated by a non-profit innovation centre.
NORCAT uses the mine for its training program — to give hands-on experience in a safe learning environment — and allows start-ups and more established companies to test their new products underground.
Duval said recent investments to improve the mine’s ventilation and lighting systems, and expand its surface operations, have made it a more attractive choice for mining vendors.
More recently, NORCAT partnered with telecommunications giant Cisco Systems to install a Wi-Fi network in the mine.
With those investments in place companies like Sudbury-based Spectrum Telecom Group have tested their own hand-held communications devices in the mine.
NORCAT employees and trainees will use the devices and give Spectrum Group regular feedback so they can make incremental improvements to their product line.
Duval said once the company is ready to reach out to potential customers, their experience in NORCAT’s mine will be a strong selling point. “They can actually point to an implementation and say, ‘Hey it’s working, and here’s an example,’” he said.
Other companies to jump on board and test their products in the mine include Equipment World, Fuller Industrial, and K4 Integration.
Fuller Industrial will provide the Underground Centre with best-in-class engineered piping for high compression air and water.
“We are thrilled to be supplying these resources to not only demonstrate our capabilities in the mining industry, but also to support an organization that provides others with the ability to design, test, and showcase new products” said Jeff Fuller, CEO Fuller Industrial, in a press release.
K4 Integration will provide the NORCAT Underground Centre with a unique digital tag-in/tag-out board to ensure all visitors, workers, trainees, and employees are tagging in and out while on the property.
The partnership with Equipment World Inc., a leader in material handling and storage solutions, will demonstrate unique opportunities for creating an efficient, safe, and modern shop, warehouse, and storage facility in a mining environment.
“This partnership will be an excellent opportunity for us to showcase how the mining industry can safely and ergonomically store products while maximizing space and allowing us to test our ideas in the field.” said Corey Lair, manager of Equipment World Inc., in a press release.