EKT completes Rainy River Mine project
New Gold’s Rainy River operation is the latest mine in northwestern Ontario to start producing, announcing on October 6, 2017 that its first pour yielded 500 ounces of gold and 600 ounces of silver. The beginning of production represented the end of the project for EKT 90 Inc., the heavy industrial contractor that built the mine’s processing facility.
“We’re done the main portion of the contract, but we’re still doing some smaller stuff outside of the contract,” said Andrew Sinclair, project controller at EKT. It’s the largest mining-related project the company has undertaken to date and is helping to solidify its reputation as one of the go-to contractors in the region. “It was a good project for us. The timing was good, and we had a chance to build some more relationships there,” added Sinclair.
Based in Thunder Bay, EKT started in 1983 as a heavy industrial design/build contractor working primarily for pulp and paper customers. Most projects are in northwestern Ontario, but the company has also worked on industrial projects from Alberta to Nova Scotia and internationally including in the United States. Today, mining is by far EKT’s largest market, representing about 85 to 90 per cent of its business, Sinclair said. Pulp and paper, hydro, and several smaller industrial projects account for the rest of its work.
Prior to the New Gold contract, EKT helped build the Rubicon Minerals mill in Red Lake in 2015.
“The volume between the two projects was different. You go from two or three thousand tons to 25 or 27 thousand tons (of ore processing per day),” said Jay Sinclair, president of EKT.
Other mining-related projects include work at Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine, North American Palladium’s Lac Des Iles mine, and its first mining client, Inco’s now mothballed Shebandowan mine.
EKT is also known as a heavy industrial specialist, problem solving difficult projects. “We’ve always been the company that’s been approached for the tough projects,” said Corey Beaucage, partner and construction superintendent. “Our team has good problem-solving abilities.”
One example was a grain elevator rebuild in Thunder Bay. Mechanically, the project was fairly straightforward, adding new conveyor, auto-loading, and distribution systems. However the logistics of the project were complicated.
“There wasn’t a crane large enough to handle the lifts,” Andrew Sinclair said. Shipping one would have been possible, though it would have greatly added to the costs. It was tight quarters with underground pipes and above-ground rails impeding access to the site. That’s when EKT hit upon the idea of creating its own crane using the elevator itself. “We chopped up a boom truck and threw it on the roof of one of the elevators to move stuff around,” Sinclair said. EKT installed rails and attached the boom itself to a railcar platform that allowed the boom to move to the edge and back with its loads.
Walter Schincariol, partner and project manager, said that project is a good example of EKT’s experience and ingenuity.
“It was something that we came up with to keep the costs in line and get the job done. The real estate wasn’t there,” he said.
Another example is a set of 11 digesters that EKT installed at the pulp mill in Terrace Bay, 224 kilometres east of Thunder Bay. Rather than demolish the old digesters on site and install the new ones in sections, EKT was able to remove the old and install each new 70-foot, 75-ton vessel in one piece. This significantly reduced replacement time – and corresponding downtime – to a matter of a few weeks.
Most work, including engineering design, is sub-contracted, though EKT does have a 20,000-square foot pipe fabrication shop onsite with the ability to produce half-inch to 48-inch diameter piping. EKT sees working with unionized trades as a key to their success. It is a signatory to five trades: millwrights, pipefitters, boilermakers, ironworkers, and operating engineers.
“In this (region), with the pulp and paper workers being unionized and the elevators being unionized… we really couldn’t go into those areas without being unionized,” said Jay Sinclair.
“The unionized environment for us has been very beneficial,” Andrew Sinclair said. “We have peaks and valleys. When we hit the peaks, we have a labour force trained and ready to go.” EKT employs between 35 and over 200 employees, depending on where they are in a project cycle.
Andrew Sinclair said EKT has several mining-related projects on the horizon, though details are not yet available.
“There’s a lot of activity out there right now,” he said, adding that EKT is well positioned when the Ring of Fire is developed in the future.