Mining industry booming in Quebec

Suppliers expanding their businesses

By Alain Castonguay

Technosub is expanding its facilities | Courtesy of Technosub

In 2011, the demand for its products exploded so quickly that Technosub, a Quebec pump and dewatering solutions manufacturer, was about to turn away new customers. “We hit a wall,” explains Eric Beaupré, director of corporate affairs and marketing for Technosub. “We were meeting the needs of our customers, but we needed to expand our plant. The engineering department was crammed into our conference rooms.” Slight downturns in mining activity no longer worry him. “Even if exploration activity slows down, the hole that is dug for a mine cannot simply be left to fill with water,” he says. “Complete dewatering is too costly.”

Technosub has a network of branch offices in all of Canada’s major mining areas. In Quebec, its production facility is located in Rouyn-Noranda, where the company is in the process of expanding to 55,000 square feet from 40,000 square feet. “I don’t think I’d be mistaken if I told you that we are going to have the biggest plant in the industrial pumps sector in Canada,” says Beaupré.


At Orbit Garant Drilling (OGD), president and CEO Éric Alexandre reports that activity has slowed since March 2012. “Approximately 30 per cent of our customer base is made up of junior exploration firms,” he points out. “The financial crisis affects them, and most of them have been forced to reduce their drilling activity.”

In late December 2011, OGD announced the acquisition of New Brunswick-based Lantech Drilling, a move that will facilitate its expansion into Eastern Canada. OGD now has 224 active drill rigs, and its diamond production division is expanding quickly. Last year, the company moved into its new head office in Val-d’Or, allowing it to increase production. This investment had been planned since 2008, soon after the merger of Orbit Drilling and Garant Brothers Diamond Drilling.


The process for assaying drill core samples developed by Photonic Knowledge of Rosemère, Quebec is “revolutionary,” according to company founder Éric Roberge. The technology, called Core Mapper, has earned him praise and attracted the exploration industry’s attention. Core Mapper uses photons to analyze the content of drill core samples quickly and efficiently, and it is also more affordable than laboratory analysis.

Another key feature of the process is that it can be used to assay historical core samples. “For one customer, we were able to assay 78,000 metres of drill core in 60 days,” says Roberge. “This is a major achievement. We were able to determine the nature of the minerals, the quality of the pyrite, and so on, with a degree of precision of one tenth of one per cent.”

The firm has gone from the three employees it had in 2009 to a total of 35 today, and it is tight for space as a result. As Roberge puts it, “it’s the sort of problem we would all like to have.” He is currently looking for a new location. The firm has also signed a lease for a larger warehouse in Rouyn-Noranda, which will serve as a hub to service customers in northwestern Quebec and northeastern Ontario.

The first customers to adopt Photonic Knowledge’s technology include Cartier Resources, Northern Gold, Armistice Resources, and Black Rock Metals.

Producers keeping busy

At ASDR Industries, expansion happened fast. In 2006, this Malartic-based firm had five employees; today they have 102, according to CEO Stephen Authier. A neighbour of Osisko’s Canadian Malartic mine, ASDR was able to develop its production division by supplying the gold mining operator with maintenance and repair services for the bodies of its 227-tonne trucks, along with other equipment upkeep. “But the most important aspect of this contract with Osisko is the expertise that we will be developing on large trucks,” Authier explains. ASDR wants to take this expertise to the iron extraction projects in Côte-Nord, where the trucks used are even larger. ASDR undertook an expansion of its facilities to 20,000 square feet, thanks to a 10-year contract it signed with Osisko last spring. This expansion will also allow ASDR to better serve other customers like Opinaca, Agnico-Eagle, and Canada Lithium mines, as well as Wesdome Gold and Rich­mont. ASDR also relies on large engineering and environmental departments, and in addition to being active in Quebec, the company exports its experience abroad, to its offices in Morocco and ­Mexico.

Mécanicad is another success story in the province. The company manufactures ventilation ducts and other equipment required in the mining sector. According to André Paquet, president and market development director, the company’s Mécanivent system has been so successful that it had to build a bigger plant in Rouyn-Noranda. The new facility will provide a space where all of the company’s 30 or so employees can work under one roof. Until now, production had been spread across two sites.

Since 2008, Mécanicad’s sales have quadrupled — reaching $4 million — and Paquet estimates that by March 2013, sales will have increased by another 30 per cent over the previous year. The company specializes in transportability; the farther the mine is from Rouyn-Noranda, the more advantageous Mécanicad’s product becomes. “We’re the only ones who can deliver 160 ducts, 72 inches in diameter, spread over six crates, and two pallets of fittings and elbow joints in a single trailer,” explains Paquet. “They are already partly assembled. Once we arrive at the mine, we unload the crates, which are moved underground. Two people can finish the assembly on site in a matter of minutes.” When Mines Aurizon’s Casa Berardi mine returned to production using the Mécanivent system, other miners took notice. For now, Mécanicad’s customers are mostly companies active in gold mining — either start-ups or expansions of existing mines.

Quebec companies are not limited by their province’s borders. While Versadrill Canada is based in Val-d’Or, the lion’s share of its production is exported outside of Quebec, explains director of sales and marketing Serge Bellefeuille. The company moved into a new, 20,000-square-foot plant in early October, and will be capable of manufacturing 80 drills per year. Most of their customers’ exploration is in Russia, Africa and Latin America; only 15 per cent of the company’s sales are domestic. “The drilling companies that are active here already have their suppliers when they don’t make their own equipment,” says Bellefeuille. But he is optimistic Versadrill can make gains at home; the company plans to double its marketing efforts in Canada in order to fill its growing capacity.

Translated by Mark Stout

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