SAMSSA ‘a cheerleader’ for [Sudbury Laurentian] mining school – by Heidi Ulrichsen (Sudbury Northern Life – December 5, 2012)

LU prez promises to meet industry’s needs

Three years ago, Laurentian University president Dominic Giroux and Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA) executive director Dick DeStefano sat down for what was to be a fateful drink together.

“(DeStefano) challenged me,” Giroux said, speaking before about 150 SAMSSA members gathered for the organization’s annual general meeting Dec. 4.

“He said, ‘Dominic, you have great programs, but Laurentian University needs to step up its game. You need to create a school of mines. You need to be more active in the cluster, and allow the cluster to be more vibrant.’

“My answer to Dick was ‘For crying out loud, I have a record deficit. Give me a year or two to settle the place, secure a school of architecture, and then we’ll get talking.’” Since that time, DeStefano has been “very supportive,” he said, but also kept his “feet close to the fire, on occasion.”

Laurentian announced the creation of its school of mines in June. Then in October, it revealed Dundee Corporation CEO Ned Goodman was lending has name to the school of mines and donating a significant amount of money, although the exact amount has been kept confidential.

Giroux said the university has been working hard to recruit a founding executive director for the Goodman School of Mines, and announcement will likely be forthcoming before Christmas.

He said the local mining cluster was part of the university’s pitch to donors, including Goodman and Stan Bharti, after whom the university’s engineering school was named when he donated $10 million to the department last year.

“From Ned’s perspective, you’ve got an institution with a good track record, and you’ve got a cluster that’s vibrant, that got its act together over the past 10 years.”

Goodman’s goal for the school of mines is none other than to make it the top organization of its kind in the world, Giroux said.

The focus of the Goodman School of Mines is not on research, as there are already regional organizations which focus on this area, including the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation, he said.

Following direction given by SAMSSA members, the school of mines will instead focus on education designed to meet industry’s needs, Giroux said.

The school of mines will focus on develop new mining-related programs, creating new executive programs for those already in the industry, networking with other schools of mines, doubling the enrolment in mining-related programs by 2020 and continuing to improve student experience, he said.

SAMSSA has been “a fantastic cheerleader” during the school of mines’ creation, Giroux said.

“We know SAMSSA will be at our side, the same way that Laurentian University and the Goodman School of Mines will be there, supporting your efforts, partnering with you so the cluster can have an even more successful decade ahead of us.”

SAMSSA is 10 years old this year, DeStefano told those gathered at the meeting. “If you look at our history, it began with four members in 2003, and now we’ve got close to 125 or 130.”

He said the organization is trying to establish Greater Sudbury “as a second silicon valley in Canada.” More and more, SAMSSA members are marketing their products around the world.

“The competition is great, but nobody has the concentration of intelligence we have here,” DeStefano said.

He thanked the large number of partners have had over the years such as the university and colleges and government organizations.

DeStefano said he can’t imagine the connections he’s been able to make here on behalf of his members happening anywhere else.

“I couldn’t go the U of T president and say ‘Hi, I’m Dick DeStefano, and I want to go for a beer with you to talk about how much money you’re going to put in.’”

As has become a tradition at SAMSSA’s AGM, the organization inducted two of its members into the SAMSSA Hall of Fame.

This year’s inductees are Bob Morin, general manager of Mobile Parts, and Rick Lemieux Sr., former owner of RDH Mining Equipment.

Morin began working for Mobile Parts in the 1980s, after a diving accident left him unable to work as a mechanic.

“At the time, Mobile Parts was heavily concentrated in the truck parts field, and operated out of a small location on Hwy. 69 North in Val Caron,” Mobile Parts controller Lynne St-George, who introduced Morin, said.

“The gradual diversification into the mining industry helped the business grow substantially, and Bob became the general manager in 1990.

“Bob has certainly seen the ups and downs of the mining industry, and has helped the company grow from about 10 employees to our current staff of over 60.”

Morin helped the company weather the recessions in 1990 and 2008 by tapping into the export market, she said. “He led our sales team and made contacts overseas and obtained new customers in several countries.”

St-George said a 9 to 5 job isn’t in Morin’s vocabulary, as he gets to work early, leaves late, and even phones in during his vacations.

“His hard work and dedication is inspiring, and is an indication of what a small family business can achieve when you have persevering and tenacious people at the helm, such as Bob.”

Morin thanked SAMSSA members for inducting him into the hall of fame. “It’s truly an honour which I am grateful for.”

He also thanked his staff for their hard work, and his family for putting up with the long hours he spends at the office.

Lemieux worked as a heavy equipment mechanic at a John Deere dealership and as a maintenance superintendent for a mining contractor before starting RDH Mining Equipment in 1985.

“I remember the day vividly, as he knew he needed a helper,” Lemieux’s son, Rick Lemieux Jr., said.

“For some reason, without even knowing it myself, apparently I had all the criteria he required in a good employee – I was available, and I worked for cheap.”

Lemieux soon started winning contracts from the mining industry. “They started calling him for services, as he was known as one of the best jumbo drill technicians in the mining industry.”

As the business grew, he started purchasing and refurbishing old mining equipment, adding his own improvements. In 1999, Lemieux put his own jumbo drill design on the market. His son said he wasn’t sure the product would sell.

“Once again, he showed me that determination and hard work that he would succeed,” he said. “He started developing more and more models. His equipment can now be found operating on every continent.”

Before selling the company in March 2011, Lemieux developed his last product — a battery operated mining loader.

“He truly felt he had come up with a product that would offer the mining industry a solution to ventilation challenges and meet the ever-increasing demand for a safer and cleaner mining environment.”

Lemieux said he was honoured that SAMSSA would induct him into the hall of fame.

He said he does miss the mining industry now that he’s retired. “You grow with it. The friends, the mining shows that you go to and the relationships you have with your partners, your competitors. Of course you miss it.”