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T-Bay engineering firms make mark

December 1, 2011
by Brigitte Petersen
In: News with 0 Comments

Two major Thunder Bay mining engineering firms are making their mark around the world.Since forming in 2005, Nordmin Resource and Industrial Engineering Ltd. has completed hundreds of projects around the globe, including North and South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. The privately held engineering firm has worked with some of the world’s largest mining companies, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Vale, with projects ranging in cost from a few million dollars to several billion dollars.Chris Dougherty, Nordmin’s president and founder, said the company’s major focus has been seeking contracts around the world and approaching the industry from a global perspective in order to be competitive.

“Our market plan from day one was never just to sell (our services) to northwestern Ontario. Our interest was to sell anywhere,” said Dougherty, whose family has worked in mining for five generations. “We’ve worked on every continent except Antarctica. We have developed very strong ties with the international mining community.”

Nordmin’s specialties include evaluating, conceptualizing, designing and commissioning mining and heavy industrial facilities. Mining makes up about 95 per cent of Nordmin’s work, and services include surface and underground plant design, shafts, hoisting systems, headframes, muck handling, backfill and ventilation, de-watering systems, mineral processing facilities and power distribution and automation. Projects may include preliminary assessments, feasibility reviews, detailed engineering designs, construction and installation support and ongoing client support.

One of Nordmin’s biggest projects has been assisting Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. with the development of Oyu Tolgoi, one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold mining projects located in the South Gobi region of Mongolia. Nordmin provided the hoisting plant designs for new shaft installations, three of which are expected to hoist 140,000 tonnes daily once in full production. The mine is projected to be one of the largest underground mining operations in the world when completed in the next few years.

Nordmin has also worked with the Rio Tinto Group on the Kennecott Bingham Canyon Mine. The mine, the deepest open-pit mine in the world, is located southwest of Salt Lake City, Utah. Nordmin’s work on the site has included feasibility studies, detailed facility designs involving all surface and underground infrastructure, design of a new headframe, hoisting plant, ventilation and de-watering systems.

Other projects include completing the design of a new Goldex No. 2 shaft for Agnico-Eagle Mines Ltd. at its Val-d’Or site. Nordmin designed the slipformed concrete headframe, hoisting plant, ventilation system, shaft and loading pocket.

Since starting off with one employee six years ago, the engineering firm has grown at a rapid pace and currently has more than 90 employees with offices in Thunder Bay and Sudbury.

Dougherty had plans to open a branch office in Johannesburg, South Africa but recently abandoned the venture. “We have decided not to pursue that at this point,” said Dougherty. “The security situation in South Africa is very bad and it’s getting worse all the time.”


Engineering firm V. B. Cook Co. Ltd. (Cook Engineering) has been operating out of Thunder Bay since 1962, providing civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and environmental services. Last year, the once privately held firm joined Genivar, a large publicly traded consulting engineering firm based in Montreal. Genivar currently employs more than 4,000 employees across Canada and abroad.

David Butler, Genivar’s director of mining for northwestern Ontario, said joining a larger firm allowed Cook to compete for bigger projects on a more global scale.

“The intention is to expand our expertise on a global scale encompassing other Genivar offices across the country,” said Butler. “We are developing a global focus especially in South America.”

Butler, who has worked for Cook for the past 33 years, said while the bulk of the company’s work has been in Canada and the U.S., a goal is to shift the focus to a wider global market under Genivar.

Genivar provides a range of services, including planning, design, construction and maintenance. While the mining industry is a major focus, the company also handles projects in the building, industrial, power, municipal infrastructure, transportation and environmental sectors.

Operating as Cook Engineering, the firm has served the mining industry for more than 30 years, completing designs of ore handling systems from the mining face through to the processing plant, including conveying, crushing, concentration and storage systems. The company has also been active in the design of mine infrastructure, including ventilation, pumping and effluent treatment facilities.

Recent projects include engineering and design work for shafts, headframes and hoisting system upgrades for Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS).

“We were involved in three major expansion projects for (PCS) ranging from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan,” said Butler.

Locally, Genivar’s largest recent project has been working on a major expansion for Goldcorp Inc. in Red Lake and at Musselwhite Mine located north of Pickle Lake.

Butler said it has been “business as usual” under Genivar with staffing levels remaining consistent. There are currently about 140 employees at the Thunder Bay office.

Both Nordmin and Genivar are searching for more engineers and technologists to help them continue to expand on a global basis.

“The challenge will be to maintain a competitive edge by attracting expertise and competing on a global scale,” said Butler.


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