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Sudbury Mining Solutions

Commentary

More than one way to go global

September 1, 2007
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Commentary, Norm Tollinsky with 0 Comments
Wabi Iron and Steel’s centennial celebration this year reminds us of the rich history of mining in Northern Ontario.Founded in 1907 in New Liskeard, the company has outlived most of the mines it supplied and survived numerous ownership changes over the years. For much of its history, its fate was in the hands of distant owners. It rode the ups and downs of the resource sector roller coaster and flirted with bankruptcy on more than one occasion. In 1993, it reverted to local ownership and is once again thriving. It’s undergoing a multi-million dollar modernization, developing innovative material handling solutions and selling state-of-the-art truck loading systems in Australia (See Page 34.)

One could argue that a locally owned company has more of a stake in the community and would be less tempted to shift R&D, production and jobs to other locations during lean times, but the experience of other mining suppliers suggests that foreign ownership has its advantages, too. In the last few years, European companies have snapped up three Sudbury-area mining suppliers: Ground Control, Jannatec Radio Technologies and Varis Mine Technology. The new owners of these companies – DSI International, the Schauenburg Group and Becker Mining Systems, respectively, are international in scope and able to provide the resources, expertise and funding that their new

Sudbury-based subsidiaries require to grow and take on world markets.

The expertise and synergies of the Sudbury-area cluster naturally spawns new businesses. Many of them start off by establishing a foothold in the local market. Some expand their customer base throughout Northern Ontario, across Canada and beyond. However, the more aggressive they are in extending their reach to global markets, the greater the chance that they find themselves ill-equipped for the challenge. They run out of money to fund R&D.

They lose patience trying to navigate safety certifications for multiple jurisdictions and they throw up their arms in despair when efforts to establish an international sales network produce mixed results.

We welcome DSI International, the Schauenberg Group and Becker Mining Services to the Sudbury-area mining cluster. They are to be commended for recognizing the expertise that resides in our region and wanting to tap into it. They are in good company. Northern Ontario’s thriving mining industry serves as a magnet for many of the most prominent names in international mining, from CVRD and Xstrata to Germany’s Deilmann-Haniel International (owner of the Redpath Group), South Africa’s Murray & Roberts (owner of Cementation Canada) and Sweden’s Atlas Copco.

As much as we welcome world-class European and South African mining suppliers to the Sudbury area, we also need to ensure that locally owned companies get the helping hand they need to take their place on the global stage.

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