Sudbury-based underground mining contractor Technica Mining is putting lie to the idiom that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
In November, the company launched its new surface drilling and mining division, just in time to mark its 20th anniversary in business.
Based out of the Walden Industrial Park, just west of Sudbury, the company specializes in underground mining and construction services, including underground construction, development and production services; shaft maintenance services; engineering; along with equipment rentals and mine financing.
Among the key projects Technica’s worked on are Harte Gold’s White River project and Glencore’s Onaping Depth project in Sudbury.
President and CEO Mario Grossi, who founded Technica two decades ago, said the decision to expand the company’s services all came down to timing.
“In our mining service offerings, we were unable to offer the surface mining drilling and blasting component of the work, just because it wasn’t our area of expertise,” he said.
“And then the opportunity came about with an old friend of mine who I’ve worked with in the past.”
That old friend is Guy Charles, an industry expert with more than 25 years of experience in the surface mining and drilling industry, including specialty knowledge in close proximity blasting.
Charles will lead Technica’s new division as the company’s superintendent of surface mining and drilling.
“He was looking to make a career move, and I thought it would be a great fit to offer a full suite as a mining contractor,” Grossi said.
“So now we can offer surface and underground services for our clients.”
Existing staff will handle human resources, accounting, and service requirements for the new division, Grossi said, but the company will be expanding its physical footprint to make space for new equipment.
“Some of the land we need is overburdened with rock, so we’re going to have to drill and blast that to make room for our drills, shovels, and blasting mats,” Grossi said. “We also have to construct a powder magazine.”
Otherwise, there’s plenty of room at Technica’s Lively property, where the company moved into a brand-new, 30,000-square-foot building in 2016.
Grossi said Technica has hired two workers for the new division, but as demand increases, he anticipates adding upwards of 50 to the workforce.
At that point, Grossi said, he’ll rely on Charles to tap into his extensive professional network to select and train the right people for the job.
While formal training is helpful, he noted, having an aptitude for the work and a willingness to learn will always be considered.
“We don’t compromise safety for the sake of hiring people,” Grossi said. “We’ll take people with good, core values and train and provide them the time to gain the experience over people who are very well seasoned, very well experienced, but don’t align with our core values.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Technica’s workforce had swelled to 500 people. But in March, as projects were postponed and business lagged, its complement shrunk to 280.
Activity is slowly starting to rebound, Grossi said, and while he anticipates 2021 to be a busier year, he expects the next 18 months will still be challenging.
A key project for the company is Osisko Mining’s Windfall gold project, a world-class deposit situated on 12,467 hectares in the Abitibi Greenstone Belt, about 200 kilometres of Val d’Or, Que, where Technica opened a satellite office in 2018.
According to its mineral resource estimate, last updated in February, Osisko has an indicated mineral resource estimate of 1.21 million ounces gold, averaging 9.1 grams per tonne gold, and an inferred estimate of 3.94 million ounces gold, averaging 8.4 grams per tonne gold.
But with additional drilling, Osisko continues to find more ore, and so “we’re really excited about the potential of Osisko,” Grossi said.
In addition to gold, Grossi is keeping an eye on base metals, where demand for nickel and copper in particular is growing as mining companies move away from diesel and toward electrification for their fleets and other assets to improve safety, reduce emissions, boost efficiency, and cut costs.
“With electrification and battery-electric vehicles, there’s obviously a bigger demand for nickel and copper,” Grossi said.
“We think that bodes well for the future of our business.”