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Mining Trends in Eastern Canada

April 26, 2023
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Some of the most strategic investments in mining involve emerging projects in Eastern Canada. In this edition of Experts Corner, we asked our mining expert Dave Parenteau, Business Development Manager for Mining Sales in Eastern Canada, to comment on the latest trends.

How would you describe the current state of mining in Eastern Canada?

How would you describe the current state of mining in Eastern Canada?

First, many existing mines continue producing, and some are expanding. Those mines result from considerable past and ongoing investments in infrastructure by some of the world's largest mining companies. In Canada, Quebec, Labrador and Nunavut are the largest iron ore producers.

Quebec is Canada's second largest gold producer, and gold exploration is where a lot of activity in Eastern Canada occurs. In Newfoundland, for example, we see a real gold rush, with many companies investing in exploration. One mine in Newfoundland is in this exploration phase and is said to potentially become one of the largest gold mines in the world. We also see a lot of potential reviving in the Chibougamau area.

Another trend that's getting much attention is a growing interest in minerals used in battery production, such as graphite, phosphate and lithium.

What kind of activity do you foresee in terms of methods and equipment?

What kind of activity do you foresee in terms of methods and equipment?

If you're an iron ore or a copper producer, you'll extract large volumes of material and transport it over established mining routes. So these mines tend to use our larger class equipment. Electrified versions of that equipment are available, and as mines pursue reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we expect to convert or replace that equipment with electrified technologies. For example, our Electric Drive trucks, like the 830E-5, can be converted to trolley assist yielding impressive results in productivity and GHG reduction.

Another equipment trend with those traditional mines is autonomy and semi-autonomy. That transition will first take place where large equipment moves along established paths.

With some of the newer, smaller gold mines and emerging areas, such as some battery minerals, smaller quantities are involved, often calling for smaller machines. In these new gold mines, for example, the veins are too narrow, and the larger machines wouldn't be precise enough – you'd get too much dilution of that precious ore.

Also, many potential mines involve deposits close to the surface, and extraction happens on a smaller scale. So overall, we're seeing a growing demand for smaller or intermediate machine classes you might see working at the side of a highway.

How does mining in smaller quantities affect the economics of mining?

How does mining in smaller quantities affect the economics of mining?

The smaller scale means you don't need billions of cash to startup, so we're seeing little projects popping up everywhere, for example, in Newfoundland. They also start production much faster. These won't be the next Barrick Gold or anything like that, but the activity is significant.

However, these mines will typically have a shorter life, so recruiting operators, particularly those who would have to move their families, might be more challenging. Also, you won't see some of the complex advanced technologies, such as electrification and autonomous operation, on these smaller machines in the immediate future.

The Quebec Government has plans for becoming a battery hub. What's that all about?

I think the government recognizes that electrification will be central to our future as Canada pursues its GHG reduction targets, and there will be a huge demand for batteries. So the government is not only showing support for mining lithium and other minerals used in batteries but for manufacturing batteries so that there's a local market for the ore we mine.

What's interesting about this trend is the tech sector is now investing in the industry, which means that mines are seeing a lot of new faces as far as investors. It's also bringing new expertise to the industry. Tech companies and investors are very concerned about GHG emissions, so when they fund projects, they look at how the mines will accomplish that.

How does SMS Equipment help companies move into this new era?

How does SMS Equipment help companies move into this new era?

One of our services is helping companies choose the right size equipment. This process involves looking at the long-term plans for their mines and, in some cases, running software simulations to evaluate the performance of different equipment sizes.

For example, one of our customers doing a gold mine project in the Val d'Or area was looking at the 150-ton class of equipment. The disadvantage of that size is that it won't currently support some of the newer technologies, such as trolley assist and autonomous operation, whereas the 200-ton class will. So we were able to show them how that operation would look with both sizes of equipment.

The Bottom Line

Mining is changing in Eastern Canada, and new trends are altering the traditional business model. New methods and techniques will help companies thrive as the landscape evolves. SMS Equipment has a strong mining presence in Eastern Canada and will be there to help mining investors and operators meet the coming challenges.

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