Sudbury has a long history as an important mining centre in Canada, with the first of many nickel-copper mines, Murray, built in the late 1880s.
But over the past 15 years, the city has become known as a mining innovation hub, with a dense and extensive network of service and supply companies and research institutions whose influence stretches well beyond northern Ontario.
The feat is all the more impressive considering the price of nickel – the commodity that was most responsible for Sudbury’s rise as a mining centre – is far from booming. (It was US$6.21 per lb. at press time.) Ian Wood, director of economic development at the city of Greater Sudbury, says that the reason for the strength of the city’s mining service and supply sector stems from the needs of thetwo dominant nickel giants in the area – Glencore (formerly Falconbridge) and Vale (formerly Inco).
As the two companies externalized things like maintenance and equipment supply over the years (a global trend), the people who used to perform these functions as employees started their own businesses to serve the miners, rather than moving away.
“In the 1990s, we identified the fact that we had this network of small and medium-sized enterprises that were doing an effective job supplying our two major companies and honing their expertise, their skills through innovation,” Wood says. “But at that time they really only had two customers.”
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