When the Canadian Mining Expo started in Timmins in 1993, it was a biennial combination mining and forestry tradeshow, limited to a handful of exhibitors at the McIntyre Arena.
Nearly 25 years later, the event has expanded to become the premier mining tradeshow in Northern Ontario.
The three-day event features 400 booths, an investors’ forum, a gala dinner, an Indigenous forum, equipment demonstrations, networking and technical sessions, and even a jackleg drill competition.
Companies and even investors travel from across Canada and the globe to meet and mingle with key players in the North American mining industry.
“We started filling one arena, with a little bit of equipment in the front, and we have just grown, right now, to a point where there’s no more real estate here,” said Glenn Dredhart, the owner of Canadian Trade-Ex, which organizes the event.
“We’re right to the end of all our parking lots.”
On the first full day of this year’s exhibition, held May 30 to June 1, 10,000 people had walked through the door in just the first hour of its operation.
Colloquially known as “the Big Event,” the exhibition is big in size and in impact: the annual event is estimated to inject millions into the local economy, with attendees spending on accommodations, meals, transportation services, and more.
There’s also a secondary, long-term impact: once companies see what the community has to offer — existing infrastructure, a mining-friendly mentality, expertise, and more than 100 years of mining experience — new business comes to town, creating jobs and growth.
“It opens the door and shows manufacturers and companies that, hey, Timmins is open for business,” Dredhart said.
Mines represented at the show have hailed from Australia, Chile, Peru, Indonesia, and Africa. They come to Timmins to learn from the Canadian miners’ experience in environmentally responsible mining, Dredhart said.
For suppliers, it can take years for them to get a foot in the door at some of the larger mining companies, but the mining show provides an opportunity for them to meet in person and make a connection.
Investors like the opportunity to go see a mining play firsthand, and junior miners are often happy to take potential investors on a tour of their nearby properties.
“Can you do that in Toronto? Can you do that in Vegas? No,” Dredhart said.
It takes about a year for Dredhart and his crew to plan for the event. About 70 per cent of the exhibitors are returning clients, and there is always a waiting list for companies eager to get in on the action.
Dredhart said he consults with the local mining companies to find out what they want to see at the show and then plans out the remaining 30 per cent accordingly.
He sees his job as “connecting the dots” to bring together miners and service and supply companies so they can start to do business.
“They know exactly what they’re looking for, and if they can find something that’s unique and good for their cause, whether they be electricians or engineers, it’s all here — everything from nuts and bolts to scoop trams,” Dredhart said. “Everything’s under one roof.”
It’s not uncommon for equipment manufacturers to hang a “sold” sign on a shiny new piece of equipment, thanks to a sale at the show, he added.
Once a company has sold one piece of equipment to a mine, the chances are greater that they’ll be called upon by that same company to do business again.
As the industry starts to turn around, Dredhart said buzz at this year’s show was largely positive, and suppliers were eager to find out where the next mine would be, what kinds of milling facilities they’ll have, and what kind of equipment they’re looking for in anticipation of future business.
“A lot of the mines have their booth, saying we’re here to listen to what people are saying about the industry,” Dredhart said. “So what better place to have it come through than to the Northerners, because they’ll talk.”