Dick DeStefano is the Executive Director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply& Service Association (SAMSSA)
The following historical summary of the growth and establishment of a mining cluster in Northern Ontario is being released to major Domestic and International mining centres and trade commissioners in the next few months based on a number of requests and presentations forthcoming.
Our partners and growth is based on four partnerships pillars that creates a unique model of mining expertise in the global market and is being applauded by a number of mining leaders and agencies and institutions. All of those who participated in developing this enterprise should be proud of its accomplishments and results over the past 12 years .
Please feel free to forward our story to anyone who is not aware and use its content as you travel the globe pursuing business opportunities and support our members and partners.
SAMSSA: The growth of a Mature Mining Cluster in Northern Ontario
It is quite evident that the Northern Ontario Mining Cluster has developed as a “mature cluster” based on studies by major agencies and institutions who study this concept.
SAMSSA is 12 years old and is now one of the most sophisticated mining supply clusters globally because it continually meets all the established criteria. In many cases it goes beyond the standard definitions.
What is unique is that the model operating in Northern Ontario has four dynamic clusters working in partnership making it viable and distinct.
It all began in 1991 when Paul Krugman took Alfred Marshall’s work of 1890 and then Michael Porter’s of 1990 which popularized his manifesto called The Competitive Advantage of Nations. The concept of cluster development has a long history. SAMSSA took the best parts and implemented their own design.
The first pillar is the historical presence of mines that extract, mill and refine. The history of the Sudbury basin along with the gold fields in Timmins in this region has proven to be an asset in the global market.
The second cohesive part or pillar is the existence of over 500 mining supply and service companies within the boundaries of Northern Ontario. These companies provide an abundance of products and services focussed on increasing productivity and efficiencies while in proximity to the main extractive mining activity. The recent global exporting surge by member companies in SAMSSA is growing Every major mining centre has been serviced by SAMSSA Members.
Major study by Doyletech of 150 members identified strengths-2010
Established SAMSSA and sector as major wealth creators and demonstrates significance of cluster
The total value of the mining supply and services sector output is $5.6 billion, by some 500 companies employing about 23,000 people in 2010-11
The approximate breakdown of sales and employment by the region’s four principal centres is as follows:
Sudbury $3.94 B 13,800
North Bay $0.77 B 2,990
Timmins $0.59 B 4,600
Thunder Bay $0.35 B 1,610
TOTAL $5.60 B2 23,000
The third cluster or pillar is the educational programming that reflects the need for future skill development. The existence of Cambrian College, Canadore College, College Boreal, Northern College and Laurentian University with over 75 mining related programs adds value to the cluster.
The fourth pillar is the body of mining research institutions and agencies that are prevalent in the region. The Centre for Mining Excellence (CEMI) is developing deep mining studies that are globally recognized. Mirarco is well known for geomechanics, hazard assessment and risk mitigation, visualization and optimization, mining safety research, environment and sustainability and climate change adaptation. NORCAT has become a centre of mining training, innovation and incubation that encourages research and incubation opportunities.
Laurentian University’s well respected Bharti School of Engineering and Earth Sciences faculties are supported by the recently established Goodman School of Mines, being led by Dr. Bruce Jago. He is supporting the expansion of mining-related programs in occupational health and safety, Indigenous relations and mine finance and mine and mineral exploration management.
Both Cambrian College and French language Collège Boréal offer mining engineering technician and technology programs, alongside a wide variety of welding, civil engineering, mechanical, other trades and environmental related programs. In addition, both conduct some mining related research and product innovation and closely consult with the local industry.
Both Vale and Glencore conduct some underground mine research at their Sudbury operations while XPS Consulting, owned by Glencore International, focuses on metallurgical testing and challenges.
The Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) conducts “step-change innovation in areas of exploration, deep mining, integrated mine engineering, environment and sustainability.” It is part of the ultra-deep mine consortium which is focused on economically and sustainably mining at extreme depths in excess of 2.5 kilometres or 8,200 feet. Vale’s Creighton mine is at the 8,000 foot level and intends to go to 10,000 feet.
There are extraordinary challenges operating at these depths and the consortium is focused on rock stress risk reduction, energy costs due to cooling requirements, transporting material at these great depths and managing the enormously hot environment for the workers. The research work being done is as innovative as any done in the high-tech hot spots of the world or in the Kitchener/Waterloo technology hub.
The Mineral Exploration Research Centre (MERC) which is associated with Laurentian’s Earth Sciences department conducts leading-edge, field-based collaborative research on mineral deposits..
Recent studies on Scandinavian countries conducted by Tendensor Cluster Brands entitled Cluster Branding & Marketing – A Handbook on Cluster Brand Management provides some major insights on major clusters.
One of the key messages is that most clusters fail to differentiate themselves clearly in the marketplace. SAMSSA has made every effort to establish its uniqueness with these four pillars of activity and its focus on underground mining.
The benefits of a mature cluster are the attraction to young entrepreneurial talent who want to be located in a centre where multiple opportunities exist.
A second benefit from the global perspective in the mining industry is finding a concentration of companies in one location that can solve problems as they occur. Northern Ontario has a special skill set available in underground mining that makes it attractive.
The third benefit is the ability of a company to export its products globally and understand the culture they will be working in. SAMSSA members have been building this capacity in the past few years very aggressively with a great deal of success.
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. There are over 125 companies and service members in the Association and the full complement of underground expertise exists within a concentrated geographical range of Sudbury.