Mining activity near Sudbury, Ontario keeps construction firms busy – by Saul Chernos

Daily Commercial News and Construction Record

Talk about construction and many people automatically think downtown and high-rise. But in fact it’s the polar opposite hundreds of kilometres north of Ontario’s industrial heartland, where some of the biggest projects go in the opposite direction, plunging close to three kilometres towards the Earth’s inner core.

It’s this environment that’s home to northern Ontario’s red-hot multi-billion-dollar mining and mining-construction sectors.

While revenues in Ontario from mining operations were pegged at roughly $10 billion last year, sales of related supplies and services rang in at $5.3 billion and could reach $6 billion this year, says Dick DeStefano, executive director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA).

“The mining supply and service industry is being pushed fairly dramatically by a number of new explorations and expansions in northern Ontario,” DeStefano says.

Sales figures include actual supplies and services that don’t fit neatly into a construction umbrella, but the rise in activity is keeping construction-related firms busy building everything from roads and housing, to headframes and tunnels.

DeStefano says northern Ontario’s mining supply and service employs some 25,000 people, compared with 9,000 in mining itself.

Based in Sudbury, Ont. long one of Canada’s core mining areas, SAMSSA members serve a global customer base as far afield as Chile and Mongolia.

“There’s not one aspect of underground mining activity that we can’t supply from northern Ontario,” DeStefano says, pointing to pre-feasibility studies, design, shaft-sinking, electricity provision, underground wireless, roof bolting, mobile equipment, rebuilds, repair and consulting.

While the coolest stuff might happen underground, not all mines operate beneath the surface, and all activity depends on infrastructure above ground. This includes mundane things like housing, offices and industrial facilities. Depending on the locality and nature of the mine, buildings can be temporary, prefab or artfully designed.

The above-ground shopping list also includes conveyor belts systems, concentrators and mills. But, where mining will not be open-pit or surface, requirements drill down to wood-and-steel headframes and shafts that venture deep beneath the Earth’s crust.

Cementation Canada, an underground mine contractor based in Sudbury but owned by Murray & Roberts of Johannesburg, South Africa, is one local giant in the mining supply and service sector and has a focus that’s decidedly underground.

“We sink shafts, do lateral development (tunnels) and build underground installations, and we also do some engineering and design-build work,” says Cementation Canada president Roy Slack.

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