Slumping commodity prices drive groundbreaking approaches to mining – by Ella Myers (Northern Ontario Business – February 12, 2016)

http://www.northernontariobusiness.com/

Economic blasts are rumbling the ground on which the mining industry stands these days.

As nickel prices drop alongside copper and other local commodities, Vale’s general manager of mines and mill, Robert Assabgui, estimates that more than half of producers are losing money at the current prices, and these companies are forced to make major changes to their operations.

For students advancing onto the employment field in the next few years, the current bust in the cycle could be unnerving. “You can tell we’re in a bust because usually there’s pyro and a live band when I come on,” joked Jeff Fuller, owner of Fuller Industrial to a crowd of gathered students, Feb. 11.

Assabgui and Fuller presented on the boom-and-bust cycles of mining alongside fellow industry leaders, at the sixth annual Mining Day at Laurentian University in Sudbury. The event was attended by around 250 mining students from Laurentian, Cambrian College and Collège Boréal.

Students received a stark breakdown of the current situation, but panelists focused on innovation in the downturn and the end, they see, in sight.

Fuller said downturns can force companies to look outside the local market to grow their business, which can benefit them in the long run.

At Vale, Assabgui said they learned to “consult with people who do the work.” Schedule changes made with employee input at one mine resulted in higher production with zero impact on labour costs; a discovery they may not have made without the push to monitor spending more carefully.

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