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Sudbury Mining Solutions

Commentary

The ascendancy of brainpower

December 1, 2011
by Norm Tollinsky
In: Commentary, Norm Tollinsky with 0 Comments
A globally significant mining cluster doesn’t just materialize at the snap of one’s fingers. Like good wine, it takes time to mature. Just decades ago, Sudbury was widely regarded as a lunchbucket town epitomized by Stompin’ Tom Connors’ boozy portrayal of Nickel City nightlife in the song, “Sudbury Saturday Night.”Thirty years ago, Sudbury’s two mining giants, Inco and Falconbridge, employed tens of thousands of miners and the mining supply and service companies in town focused almost exclusively on serving the local market. As mining methods changed, the number of people employed by Inco, Falconbridge and their successors shrank, but in its place emerged a relentless drive toward the ascendancy of brainpower.Our cover story this month about Northern Ontario’s mining engineering sector captures the essence of this transition. Thirty years ago, there were scant few mining engineering firms in Northern Ontario, whereas, today, we have Stantec, Hatch, Golder Associates, Wardrop-Tetra Tech, Knight Piésold, Nordmin, Genivar, DST Consulting and a handful of smaller firms with a combined total of more than 800 engineers, scientists and technicians working on projects across Canada and around the world.The Hatch office in Sudbury, for example, boasts 230 employees and serves as a mining practice headquarters for all of North America, while Stantec’s offices in North Bay and Sudbury have close to 200 employees and serve as the nerve centre for the firm’s global mining practice.

Why Sudbury? “Where else would you want to locate a centre of excellence in mining?” quips Hatch’s Jim Gallagher, director of mining for North America. Sudbury makes sense because of its mining culture and the critical mass of mining companies, suppliers, research organizations and post-secondary mining education programs. It’s a centre of mining brainpower, but it’s also much more than that.

The once prevalent image of Sudbury as a barren landscape and cultural wasteland has been laid to rest. Today, Sudburians take pride in the city’s internationally acclaimed regreening accomplishments and boast about access to the outdoors and short commutes. Sons and daughters who left the city for education and career opportunities years ago are coming back and establishing mining supply and service companies that are taking on the world.

Sudbury and Thunder Bay are home to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, our community hospitals are evolving into academic health science centres and a new school of architecture is in the works.

Brainpower is also eclipsing Stompin’ Tom’s bingo and booze characterization of the Sudbury cultural scene. Wine tasting fundraisers, jazz and film festivals, dragon boat races, artisan bakeries and sushi have made their way north.

Making their way in the opposite direction for the benefit of the global mining industry are innovations like automated wire rope inspection, ventilation-on-demand and Railveyor material handling technology, all of which you can read about in this issue of Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal.

The Sudbury and area mining cluster has ripened and the harvest is bountiful.

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Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal is printed quarterly -- March, June, September and December. Circulation includes distribution to mining executives, consultants, suppliers, distributors, government officials and opinion leaders across Canada and around the world.

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