Realizing the Full Potential of the Sudbury and Area Mining Supply Cluster – by Norm Tolinsky

Norm Tollinsky is editor of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, a magazine that showcases the mining expertise of North Bay, Timmins and Sudbury. This column is from the May, 2010 issue.

The preliminary results from a study of the Sudbury and area mining supply cluster and its value to the economy of Ontario confirm the claims that Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal has been making since our inaugural issue in March 2004. We knew that the mining supply cluster in the Sudbury, Timmins, North Bay triangle was substantial in size and impact, but we would never have guessed that its value to the economy was a whopping $5.6 billion per year or that it accounted for some 23,000 jobs.

Sudbury, Timmins and North Bay may be big players in the mining industry, but they represent a very small percentage of Ontario’s population and can be easily overlooked on public policy agendas, both at the provincial and federal levels.

Hundreds of relatively small mining supply businesses failed to register in the public consciousness outside the region, but thrived in the shadows. Until the establishment of the Sudbury and Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) and the founding of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, the cluster was an uncoordinated and unheralded collection of independent businesses focused on doing their own thing. Coming together under the umbrella of an association and served by a journal dedicated to promoting their capabilities and innovations to an international audience, hundreds of disparate businesses are now part of something much bigger.

While a lot of economic activity is attributable to the hard work and expertise of individual entrepreneurs, there is no doubt that collective efforts undertaken by associations like SAMSSA with the help of provincial and federal governments, can dramatically accelerate the ability of industry suppliers to share their expertise with a broader market.

The experience of playing in the local sandbox is valuable, but the transition to serving a national or international market requires other skills too.

Associations like SAMSSA and the provincial and federal governments can help mining supply businesses develop the management expertise and processes to play on the global stage. They can assist with research, development and commercialization of new technologies, and they can help to open new markets.

Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal is a strategically important asset able to communicate the expertise of individual members of the cluster to key people in the mining industry. We’re proud of the role we play in bringing attention to the wealth of mining knowledge and know-how in North America’s premier mining centre, serving as a bridge between the Sudbury and area cluster, and the thousands of mining company executives all over the world who are among our subscribers.

We have a tremendous base to work from: hundreds of supply companies (many already successful in overseas markets), half a dozen research organizations, a university, two colleges, the Ontario Geological Survey, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines and some of the greatest orebodies in the world. The challenge now is to put it all together and realize our full potential.