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New shafts keep Cementation busy

Mining contractor Cemen-tation Canada Inc.

Mining contractor Cemen-tation Canada Inc. has a lot to celebrate this year: recognition as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for 2007, more than 1,000 days with no lost time injuries at the Nickel Rim South shaft sinking project in Sudbury and the completion this spring of a new, $1 million shop facility in North Bay.

The company is also riding the wave of the current commodities boom with a full slate of projects across North America. Part of the South African-based Murray & Roberts organization, Cementation Canada is busy sinking shafts in Sudbury and Red Lake, and is about to begin work on a 1,890 m (6,200-foot) shaft at the Resolution Copper Project, a joint venture of Rio Tinto and BHP Copper in Superior, Arizona.

In Sudbury, Cementation Canada crews are sinking two shafts simultaneously for Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South Mine – a 1,735 m (5,692 feet) production shaft and a 1,675 m (5,495-foot) ventilation shaft. In March, the company will also begin sinking a 1,280 m (4,200-foot) exhaust shaft for CVRD Inco’s Coleman Mine. Work on this project began a number of years ago, but was put on hold at the 152 m (500-foot) level, said Cementation Canada President Roy Slack. Excavation of the remaining 1,128 m (3,700 feet) will take a little more than one year.

In Red Lake, crews have recently completed sinking a new, 1,925 m (6,314-foot) shaft at Goldcorp’s Red Lake Mine, but work continues on a loading pocket installation and commissioning, said Slack.

“We also have a very significant raise boring program under way at Red Lake. We have the two largest raise boring machines in North America on that project and we just completed a 5.52 m (18.1-foot) diameter raise over 300 m (984 feet).

Parallel to the new shaft and part of the mine’s exhaust system, it’s the most ambitious hard rock raiseboring project the company has ever tackled in North America.

Development work is also under way at several locations across Canada, including Xstrata’s Brunswick Mine on Canada’s East Coast, HudBay Minerals’ 777 and Trout Lake mines near Fin Flon, Manitoba and at Rio Tinto’s Diavik Diamond Mine in Canada’s Northwest Territories, where a 3.5-kilometer (2.17-mile) decline is being excavated to test the feasibility of an underground mining operation.

The 7.6 m diameter (25-foot) Kidd No.4 shaft in Timmins was excavated to a final depth of 3,013 m (9,883 feet) in 2006.

There are also several projects in the pipeline, including New Gold Inc.’s proposed underground copper-gold operation in Kamloops, British Columbia, and CVRD Inco’s proposed Copper Cliff Deep Shaft to service the company’s North and South mines.

Coming at the same time as an industry-wide shortage of skilled miners, the rush of mine development projects has forced Cementation Canada to be somewhat selective about pursuing new business.

“There are times when we can’t bid all the projects that we have an opportunity to bid,” said Slack. “It’s a conscious choice because we have to manage our growth, especially in boom times like this. If you try to go after everything, you risk disappointing some clients.”

To cope with the shortage of skilled workers, Cementation Canada has had to resort to in-house and on-the-job training. In this market, “you can’t expect to have 100 per cent long-term experienced people on projects,” said Slack.

Helping to attract new recruits, he added, are its portfolio of world-class projects and its ranking as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers.

The company currently employs between 750 and 800 people.