Sudbury needs premier needs to act boldly [turn Laurentian in global Harvard of hardrock mining] – by Stan Sudol (Sudbury Star – February 9, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

Note: this is the second of two parts.

Sudbury: Paris of the Mining World

While I can’t remember who coined the phrase, “Sudbury, the Paris of the Mining World” – I wish I had been that clever – there is an amazing amount of truth to the statement. Obviously, in no uncertain terms, does any part of Sudbury remind anyone – even in a drugged or drunken state – of Paris.

However, my lake-filled, mid-sized hometown does have a wide variety of retail, tourist, educational and other amenities that most tiny isolated mining towns do not and it is located only 400 km north of Canada’s largest city, Toronto.

A few years ago, a colleague who moved from Red Lake to Sudbury almost considered herself in “mining heaven” with the abundance of amenities not found in that tiny gold mining centre.

In addition to the Ontario government’s new differentiation and international student outreach policies, there are many other reasons why all post-secondary mining programs should be relocated to Sudbury’s Laurentian University.

U.S. Economic Clusters

Economic clusters are composed of interrelated industries and institutions that create value-added wealth primarily through innovation and the export of goods and services. Respect Harvard Professor Michael Porter, whose ideas are taught in almost every business school in the world, is a key proponent of industry clusters that enhance economic development, competitiveness and encourage growth.

Every successful high-technology cluster around the world is anchored by one or more large engineering/research universities with well-funded programs.

Two of the best examples of this university/high-tech cluster connections are California’s Silicon Valley – south of San Francisco – which is anchored by Stanford University’s renowned engineering faculty and the various tech clusters around Boston’s Route 128 that can count on a number of prestigious ivy league universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.

The technology related sectors of science, math and engineering are enormous wealth creators in any country or region. Remember, it was in the engineering schools of the world that produced innovative products and businesses like the world-wide-web, Microsoft and Apple.

Mining Production Cluster

There are four major mining clusters located in the Sudbury Basin. The first is the primary mineral producers, Vale, Glencore, KGHM and two juniors, First Nickel and Wallbridge, and their many mines, two mills, two smelters and one refinery.

When you include the geological terrain between Sudbury, Timmins, Kirkland Lake and North Bay, no other place on the planet has the concentration of hardrock mines and expertise except for two regions in South Africa, the Witswaterand gold mining district and the Bushveld platinum/chromium mineral belt, and the Antofagasta copper region in northern Chile. While not as large, the cluster of underground gold mines in Nevada’s Carlin Trend also needs to be mentioned.

And on a historical note, we must not forget the many uranium underground mines that were built in Elliot Lake – only 120 km west of Sudbury – during the cold war era of the 1950s and 1960s that greatly contributed to the underground mining expertise in the Sudbury/North Bay corridor.

In 2014, Vale opened its first new mine – Totten (its sixth local mine) – in the Sudbury Basin in 40 years, while Glencore opened its exceptionally rich Nickel Rim South mine in 2010. Both of these operations embody the high-tech digital mines of the future, integrating highly sophisticated data and communications systems and using cutting edge technology for ground control and ventilation systems that significantly improve worker productivity and safety.

KGHM is spending almost a billion to develop its Victoria deposit, while Vale is looking towards another new mine, Copper Cliff Deep. While the Vale mine has yet to receive board approval, it has the potential of a low-risk, long-term source of feed for their operations.

Supply and Services Cluster

The second major cluster is the mining supply and services sector. In 2003, recognizing the need for an industry association — a critical part of any successful technology cluster — executive director Dick DeStefano established the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association, as well as commissioning a definitive study that identified the multibillion dollar contributions of this sector for then skeptical politicians. SAMSSA members now include companies from across northeastern Ontario.

DeStefano estimates that there are roughly 13,000 people directly employed locally – significantly more than the mines themselves — by slightly more than 300 mining supply and services companies and throughout the rest of northeastern Ontario, which has often been called the hardrock mining heartland of North America, we are looking at about 23,000 jobs and 500-plus businesses.

Due to 130 years of mining activity, the supply and services industry is composed of a wide variety of companies that include shaft sinkers, specialty pipe manufacturing, developers of wireless sensor detection programs, robotic and automation systems, specialty mine software and numerous mine engineering and design firms, just to mention a few.

On an annual basis, the mining supply and services industry has been averaging roughly $4 billion in sales in the Sudbury Basin and about $5 billion throughout northeastern Ontario. A new generation of entrepreneurs are focusing on advanced technologies and innovation that can be globally exported.

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