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Mining suppliers choose Sudbury

Despite a year-long strike and recessionary climate, mining suppliers continue to set up shop in the Sudbury Basin.
Sudbury Suppliers 1
Will Gove, North American general manager for Swick Mining Services Canada Inc., said they’ve identified approximately 51 safety hazards associated with traditional five-component underground drill rigs. These have been eliminated with Swick’s mobile rig.

Despite a year-long strike and recessionary climate, mining suppliers continue to set up shop in the Sudbury Basin.

“The thing we have going for us is the fact that we are a large mining camp and it is centrally located,” said Paul Reid, business development officer with the City of Greater Sudbury.

“A lot of people want to be here coming in. That is our strength.”

Swick Mining Services Canada Inc.
Swick Mining Services Canada Inc. is a prime example of a foreign company that has targeted the U.S. and Canadian markets with its drilling services as it establishes its North American headquarters in Sudbury, Ontario.

The Australian company has offered underground and surface drilling services since 1995. By November 2006, it went public to help “grow” the company and promote its mobile underground diamond drill rig, a mobile unit designed for mines with ramps.

Swick has since become a new player in the North American market with a vision to become a global leader. North American general manager Will Gove is confident Swick Mining has the ability to compete not only with its technology, but in the way it manages its human resources.

“We’re young, entrepreneurial and committed to changing the way diamond drilling is done in the industry,” Gove said. “Everything we do is focused on quality, which includes occupational health and safety and operational management systems, and the machinery we build and engineer.”

Sudbury was chosen as the company’s North American headquarters due to its proximity to the nickel mining business and its abundance of mining supplies and services. Incorporated in 2008 just prior to the global financial crisis, it hasn’t looked back from its humble one-person start-up.

Now 40 employees strong, Swick Mining has plans to hire between 75 and 100 people over the next 24 months, with eight to 10 drill rigs in operation throughout Norther America within the next six to 12 months.

As the company moves forward, it is breaking records for underground diamond drill rig move times in Canada and the United States due to its mobile underground diamond drill technology. The unit took the traditional fivecomponent underground drill rig and transformed it into two modular parts, reducing assembly time and increasing its safety factor.

It has an average set-up time of under four hours, a significant difference from traditional skid-based technology that can take between eight and 36 hours to assemble for operation.

“The concept is quite simple, but revolutionary in its effect,” Gove said.

The mobile rig uses hydraulic jacks, so it is self-levelling, which increases safety. It is designed to drill at all angles within a 360-degree sphere, creating flexibility not found with traditional skid drill rigs. Its ease of mobility eliminates towing the assemblage from one drill hole to the next and only takes between five and 30 minutes.

More recently, Swick Mining completed a trial contract at Vale’s Garson ramp where 26,000 feet of drilling was performed in 14 weeks with two rigs and zero injuries.

G Plus Industrial Plastics Inc.  

Another mining supply company gaining ground in the area is G Plus Industrial Plastics Inc., based in Évain, Quebec, outside of Rouyn-Noranda.

Although it has been performing business in Sudbury since 1999, it decided to open a sales office in the city last September to help establish a more permanent presence and meet client demand.

The company manufactures an extensive line of industrial-strength plastic products that help solve corrosion, wear, impact and weight problems commonly found in the mining and related industries.

“Plastic helps overcome these types of problems encountered in mines,” said Pierre Trudel, co-owner, technical director, and vice-president of production. “Some (products) are designed to be tougher than aluminum, wood or steel because they react better to impact. They slide better so things don’t wear down as fast, and they don’t corrode.”

The company’s main focus is the Canadian mining market, but it deals with international clients as well. Ninety per cent of its sales involve the mining sector. A catalogued list of products is available, featuring such things as underground explosive boxes, sanitary and shower cabins, tanks, safety guards, ventilation piping, ducting and much more.

“If we don’t have it in the catalogue, we custom-make it,” said Glenn Desormeaux, Sudbury’s technical sales representative.

The company attributes its steady growth to good service, competitive prices and a quality product. As well, 75 per cent of its products are customized and manufactured to meet clients’ needs.

More recently, G Plus Plastics is promoting its newest line of industrial-strength mine ventilation duct work, which enables better air flow resulting in significant energy-savings, claims Trudel. Standard duct work used in mine ventilation is made of either flexible vinyl cloth or sheet metal. Both products create air restriction and have weaknesses, causing cracks and resulting in air loss.

“Plastic is better performance-wise. It needs less energy to bring the same amount of air to its end point,” he said, explaining that the air flow in plastic is seven to eight times better than steel ducting and 11 times better than flex vinyl ducting.

Plans are underway to promote the product, particularly in northeastern Ontario mines, which are subject to high energy rates.

Normet Canada Inc. 

Another familiar name that set up its Canadian headquarters in the Sudbury supply camp is Normet International Ltd.

Cast Resource Equipment Ltd. was its Sudbury distributor for 15 years, but a change in Normet’s business model to offer services directly to customers has led to Canada becoming its 18th nationality.

Normet Canada Ltd. officially opened its doors on April 1, 2010 in Lively’s industrial park with Dennis Wrixon, general manager, at the helm. Joel Campbell and Jason Montpellier oversee sales, parts and services.

As a leader in concrete sprayers and transportation, Normet has served the underground mining and tunnelling industry for 45 years, developing, manufacturing, and marketing equipment and vehicles for mining and underground construction.

It has an extensive global reach in 23 locations with 450 employees. The bulk of the manufacturing is performed in Finland and consists of mobile equipment for concrete spraying and transportation, charging, lifting, transport, and scaling.

The full line will be available to the Canadian market through the Sudbury facility, which will also provide local customization of equipment, stocked parts, and service resources. Rebuilds on Normet products remain a future possibility.

“We have a very strong track record of high-quality, high-performance equipment,” said Mike Rispin, managing director of Normet’s North American headquarters in Union Grove, Wisconsin.

A lifetime care philosophy with respect to service, parts, and training is also included.

By increasing its local presence, the company plans to showcase its expertise that has developed over time, such as explosive charging and other utility vehicles.

More recently, Normet formed a partnership with TAM International, specialists in the construction chemical industry.

As a 40-per-cent shareholder, Normet will sell construction chemicals to complement its concrete spraying equipment. As well, TAM will represent Normet equipment and services.

Rispin sees this as another step closer to providing solutions and process knowledge in addition to the equipment.

“When you look at the whole spray concrete (wet mix shotcrete) process, you have three fundamental requirements underground that make it work: equipment, concrete and chemicals,” he said. “You need to have all those support elements working together for the whole process to be successful.”