Digging Deep to Improve Mining Technology Worldwide

Written by Robert Hoshowsky

The voice of Ontario’s mining supply sector, the Sudbury Area Mining Supply & Service Association, known as SAMSSA, has unveiled MineConnect to the world – an entirely new value proposition to the world’s mining industry.

The announcement by SAMSSA came at the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention and trade show in Toronto last March.

For SAMSSA Executive Director Paul Bradette, the new name and logo represent much more than a rebranding: they serve to connect MineConnect members to all of Northern Ontario and the entire global mining community.

“Part of that brand change was to let our members and non-members know we have undergone a significant organizational change and now offer a more in-depth value proposition to support our membership in growing their business,” says Bradette.

Taking over from Dick DeStefano, who had lead the Sudbury-based organization since 2003, Bradette points out that the rebranding now encompasses far more than just Northern Ontario’s largest city. “We wanted to be more inclusive,” he says. “We wanted to truly be a pan-northern Ontario organization that represented the interests of the mining supply and services sector.”

New name, renewed vision
Taking over the organization in March 2019, Bradette was the ideal candidate to replace DeStefano, who was earlier quoted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in May 2019, saying that “[Sudbury] would have stayed invisible” were it not for SAMSSA bringing together “manufacturers, service providers and financiers.”

Among the many responsibilities of the new executive director — direction, leadership, and collaboration with all levels of government are just a few — DeStefano’s replacement needed to possess significant knowledge of the mining sector, be a relationship-builder, and have experience in creating and leading trade missions outside the Province of Ontario.

Prior to MineConnect, Bradette’s roles included that of a Trade and Investment Specialist for over 15 years at the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines. Initially working as a northern development advisor and later a trade and investment specialist, he led about 45 international trade missions within the mining supply and services space to Australia, Chile, South Africa and other locations.

Responsible for developing and implementing the Mining Supply and Services Export Assistance Program, Bradette was also behind many reverse trade missions, which saw some of the world’s biggest mining companies visiting suppliers in Northern Ontario.

Working with an intern marketing person and a part-time director of membership relations, Bradette and MineConnect now represent upwards of 190 member companies, which range from small operations with one or two employees to major listed companies.

Membership has its perks
Employing around 23,000 workers, generating $1.7 billion in yearly salaries and benefit, and producing some $5.5 billion in annual revenue, Northern Ontario’s mining supply and services sector is a force of nature.

Serving this redoubtable industry, MineConnect strives to provide member companies with a competitive edge both in Canada and internationally. From lead generation to events and trade missions to connecting with others in the growing mining industry, the benefits of becoming a corporate or associate member of MineConnect are many.

Information-packed and easy to navigate, MineConnect’s website at https://mineconnect.com/ features a ‘Find a Supplier’ section. Here, suppliers can be searched for by keyword or through one of a dozen convenient links to specialties like blasting, bulk handling equipment, health and safety, mobile mining equipment, and battery electric vehicles.

This lead generation component is a tremendous asset for members of MineConnect, which recently launched a regional and international marketing campaign.

“Whether they are mining operators, contractors, or EPCMs [engineering, procurement and construction managers], this drives them to our website so they can source out whatever solution they’re looking for,” says Bradette. “Our intent is to get the eyes of the mining world on this cluster. Some of the best innovations in mining today were born in Northern Ontario and through these companies, so our goal is to shine a light on this.”

No matter where mining businesses are located worldwide, it is easy for them to go to the website, navigate to the exact category, and find the products and solutions they need.

Best of all, anyone clicking on the members, through the website, directs inquiries straight to the member’s inbox, because, naturally, they themselves are best qualified to respond to questions.

MineConnect members also have access to additional resources including mining contacts, an operational map of Ontario mines, a list of mines coming online, funding programs, and other valuable resources to smooth their way.

“At the end of the day, our primary mandate here is helping our members grow their business,” says Bradette, “and that’s what we are all about. Our mission statement is ‘Suppliers of Choice to the World.’ Everything we do is in support of pushing that mission statement forward.”

The rise of BEVs
Worldwide, Battery Electric Vehicles — BEVs for short — are taking the mining sector by storm.

Although BEVs have been in existence for decades, recent years have seen advances in technology bring dramatic improvements in efficiency and cost saving. Since they neither use polluting fuel like diesel nor consume oxygen while operating, BEVs are ideal for underground use. Vibrating less than their gas-powered counterparts, BEVs also generate little heat and noise, producing far better working conditions for employees.

Fully aware of the many benefits of BEVs, MineConnect acts on behalf of its members involved in this pioneering industry. Following a trade mission to Chile last year, the organization invited executives from Chilean state-owned copper-mining company Codelco to visit Sudbury, and four different mine sites, and meet representatives from several companies involved in BEVs.

“Quite frankly, we are leaders in battery electric vehicles,” says Bradette. “Northern Ontario was the first to develop a BEV; we were the first in Northern Ontario to adopt it; and we were the first fully electric mine to do full adoption, so that’s pretty significant. We continue to be leaders in the space.”

Along with other major advances in health and safety and tel-robotics, including remote control and collision avoidance technology, BEVs represent just how sophisticated mining has become.

“Mining is a very innovative industry, and people that aren’t involved in it probably don’t get a full appreciation of some of the innovations it makes,” Bradette says. “We’ve got companies that are replicating the Amazon model and are doing it 5,000 or 6,000 feet underground.”

U.S. expansion
Although COVID-19 continues to affect the global economy, Bradette says the virus has resulted in few shutdowns, since mining is an essential industry. “So I think in comparison to any other sector, we’ve done remarkably well,” he shares.

“People need to understand that perspective. As an association it impacts our value proposition because it is built on network and events and conductivity with members — that’s taken a bit of a backseat — and we’ve had to re-purpose, like everybody else. I think also with our suppliers the key piece is getting to trade shows, because they want to showcase their technology.”

While some major trade show opportunities like MINExpo INTERNATIONAL®, which is held every four years, have been cancelled or rescheduled because of the pandemic, Bradette believes MineConnect and its members will emerge a lot stronger, owing to the sector’s willingness to adapt to new technologies.

Other major events like PDAC have announced that their 2021 event will be entirely virtual. “We will still have a presence. We need to be there, there is absolutely no doubt.”

Looking forward to the future and a post-COVID world, MineConnect will also be opening a new office in Elko, Nevada in March. Bradette has travelled to Elko – famous worldwide for its gold mining – many times, and has formed a network. Close to other mining states including Arizona and Utah, Nevada is ideal for growing a new arm of MineConnect.

“I think that market is ready now,” he says. “Over the last decade, they’ve transitioned quite a bit into hard rock, which is what we specialize in, as opposed to open pit. So I think there is tremendous opportunity.”

Planning to hire a coordinator to set up meetings and trade shows and recruit Nevada operators to visit Northern Ontario post-COVID, Bradette believes this value proposition will support MineConnect members and help develop new markets.

“The intent here is to get the global mining community’s eyes on this very specific cluster,” he says. “Innovations that have come out of Northern Ontario and these companies have really changed the face of mining in a number of different ways, and it’s our objective to get more eyes on it – whether regionally or internationally – so others can discover technologies that are available now. We will continue to do the research and development necessary to remain leaders – it’s one thing getting there, and it’s something different to stay on top of the hill.”



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