Sudbury: Ontario’s mining superstore (Excerpt from Canadian Chamber of Commerce Mining Report)

This is an excerpt from the January 30, 2013 Canadian Chamber of Commerce Mining Report:  Mining Capital: How Canada Transformed Its Resources Endowment Into a Global Competitive Advantage

Sudbury has a century of history as a mining centre and over a dozen mines operating within city limits. Over the past decade, the Northern Ontario city has been subtly shifting its focus from being a producer of metals to a creator of mining know-how and technology. This shift has been marked by the rise of an organized Northern Ontario mining technology cluster focused on underground hardrock mining technologies.

Sudbury is home to a broad range of mining related activities. The operations of large mining majors— Vale and Xstrata—serve as anchors for the cluster along with other mining firms.(38) Around these firms has grown a network of mining supply and technology firms that, together, contributed almost $4 billion to the local economy and employed 13,800 people—around eight per cent of the population of Greater Sudbury.(39)

The city is also home to a concentration of mining education and research. Sudbury is home to the public-private Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, the Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization, the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology and Mining and Laurentian University’s School of Mining and its eight mining research centres. In addition, industry associations, like the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Organization, and publications, like the Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, seek to share information and strengthen the links among the cluster’s participants.

Drawing on this network of expertise, many Sudbury-area firms are producing advanced technology for the mining sector, including robotic processing systems or even space drills (see Canadian Miners in Space (40)). Yet the Sudbury technology cluster has yet to achieve the international success of mining finance in Toronto or exploration in Vancouver.

Half of the firms in the cluster rely on sales to two firms, while 81 per cent of the cluster’s sales occur within Canada. While there is potential for a significant technology group, the small size and scale of many Northern Ontario mining supply firms is a big impediment to further international expansion. For that reason, the cluster’s ability to allow firms to benefit as it if had greater economies of scale could be essential to establishing a truly global industry in the
Sudbury area.(41)

Canadian Technology in Space!

Mining is no longer “men with pick axes,” but a sophisticated enterprise that increasingly relies on technology to extract and process ores at a reasonable cost. Several Northern Ontario fi rms are on the forefront of developing mining technology.

Ionic Engineering specializes in automating copper and nickel refi neries. For example, Ionic’s Kidd Process cathode stripping system is one of the fi rst in the world to use robots in the copper refining process. The fi rm has designed,
built or installed automation systems on every continent.

WipWare is the industry leader in optical granulometry of fragmented material, a system that uses photography and sophisticated software to analyze the size of rocks after blasting. This analysis allows miners to fine-tune blasting to minimize electrical, mechanical, chemical and environmental costs.

For the last 10 years The Northern Centre for Advanced Technology has been using its knowledge of mining technology to explore the final frontier. The not-for-profit organization has been working with NASA to develop drilling units and other equipment to allow for subsurface space exploration. These processes will be essential for future space exploration or
even human settlements on the moon.
38 Dick DeStefano (Founder and Executive Director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association), Interview with Katrina Marsh, August 3 2012.

39 Doyletech Corporation. Northern Ontario Mining Supply and Services Study. The population of Greater Sudbury was estimated at 160,274 in the 2011 census.

40 The examples for this text box was drawn from an interview with Dick DeStefano and a number of additional sources, including the Ionic Engineering website (www.ionic-eng.com/), Thie WipWare Website (www.wipware.com/index.php) and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (www.norcat.org/)

41 Dick DeStefano (Founder and Executive Director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association), Interview with Katrina Marsh, August 3 2012.

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