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Growing roots in Northern Ontario to expand support for mining operations

March 21, 2023
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The mining market continues to evolve rapidly as the industry explores the vast landscape of Ontario, home to some of the most mineral-rich deposits in the world. In this issue of Experts Corner, Dennis Chmielewski, SMS Equipment’s Executive Vice President of Mining, discusses the company’s regional commitment, including constructing a $30 million support facility. The Centre, Dennis explains,  will create jobs, inject millions of dollars into the local economy and become SMS Equipment’s mining hub for Ontario.

Why the expansion in Timmins?

First, we’ve outgrown our branch to the point where we have insufficient space in our office, warehouse, and maintenance shop. So, our employees there are very pleased to see that we have shovels in the ground as of last November. 

In the long term, we believe the surge we’ve seen is just beginning. The regional development in mining we are witnessing is inspiring because it shows advancement in an area we haven’t focused on before. I look at Ontario, in terms of growth, next to what we saw in the oil sands approximately fifteen years ago. It was generally a construction-focused branch in the past, but with gold and other commodity prices increasing, Ontario has had a lot of new mining activity. 

What kind of activity are you seeing?

A lot of organic growth is forecasted for the region if gold prices remain strong. We are having conversations and discussions with mining consultants supporting mining companies with properties in the area. Our presence in Northern Ontario indicates that we’re serious about this region. We’ve made it very clear that this will be our mining hub for Ontario and that we will not be gone as soon as the commodity prices drop. We also think we can do a lot more to support existing mines. 

We also have an excellent opportunity to do more construction business out of the Timmins area. Local customers will see that we have a better facility, more people, and better parts support. 

What are the synergies between mining and construction?

The construction and mining businesses have a synergistic relationship because it takes a lot of planning, coordination, and companies with varying application experience to develop a mine site. When a mine site is in a greenfield state, construction companies and smaller equipment are first to go in and strip off the ground where the mine will be developed. We’ve seen that pattern in other regions. For SMS Equipment, we must think holistically to support both industries by increasing our service capabilities and capacity.
What kind of staff are you putting in place?

What kind of staff are you putting in place?

There is a lot happening here, and a lot of new energy is entering the branch. We’re recruiting now to give us enough lead time so that once the facility is complete, we can reach our target regarding the people we need. 

We have a new operations manager, a mining expert, and a general manager of mining dedicated to the area. I’m also utilizing much of our mining expertise from other sites, for instance, Fort McMurray, to springboard us into a mining mindset in Ontario. So in terms of SMS Equipment, the region will get a lot of focus, and we’re fortunate to have the depth in our company from which we can draw, enabling us to hit the ground running in supporting and servicing all current and future customers.

Today, we have 26 hourly staff there, and at the end of next year, we expect to have doubled.  City Councillors were impressed with this level of growth when we shared the information at the ground-breaking ceremony. 

What are some of the benefits for SMS Equipment customers?

Our customers will see faster and better service on their equipment, which includes the branch stocking more parts locally. Our new facility will have eight service bays, including accommodation for large mining trucks. Given the weather in Timmins, having that indoor capacity is critical. 

Welding’s another area. Few companies have the welding depth and expertise we’re bringing to the region. And we’re putting in a large capacity crane to take on projects to handle oversized mining class shovel/loader buckets and other components, along with haul truck dump bodies, that previously couldn’t be done in Timmins. 

Parallel with that, We are getting more engaged and entrenched with the community - we are sponsoring hockey rinks and working with the food bank. These types of initiatives are inspiring to our employees across all our regions but especially exciting for our local staff, where community outreach is part of their DNA. 

Any final words?

Our customers have told us they don’t want just remote support. They want local investment, support, and jobs, and they want to see relationships with the indigenous community. By putting this facility in place, we’ve made it very clear that we plan to deliver all of that.
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