Thank you to the SAMSSA selection board for this recognition. As a lifelong service provider, being recognized by my peers within SAMSSA, the greatest conglomeration of mining service providers in the world, this is a truly a great honour.
Bonjour mes amis et merci beaucoup pour ce grand honneur. Je veux parler toute les gens ici aujourd’hui de mon amour pour les constructions des mines.
As a student I worked two summers at Geco in Manitouwadge and one of my jobs was on shaft inspection. I remember trying to figure out how anyone could have built that concrete shaft. When I graduated I started my career as a contractor, working for Redpath at the Mine Seleine shaft on Isles de la Madeleine. Coincidentally it was a project that Cementation had subcontracted to Redpath as Cementation was leaving North America at the time. From Isle de Madeline I went up to Timmins on Dome No8 shaft and then up to Hemlo. From there to Val d’Or to do the Chimo project. I also managed the engineering studies for Craig Shaft and for Kidd No.3 shaft during that time.
In 1988 a mining company made me an attractive offer in operations. I respectfully declined. It was too late. I was already in love with building mines.
In 1989 Risto Laamanen and Stan Bharti made me an offer I couldn’t refuse and I became a partner in BLM Mining Services. I had no idea how to start or run a company but that certainly didn’t slow us down. There were lots of Maalox moments and relationship building with the bank and other things I won’t go into. But one such moment is important to note here. Early in the company history we had a Client go under and we were out a lot of money, we had no cash to pay our suppliers. I spoke to each of them and committed that we would pay them in full, which we eventually did. I will never forget the support and understanding of the Sudbury mine supply community. Some of the companies are here today. Thank you.
So from 1989 until 1995 I was in Sudbury (Lively actually). In 1990 I believe Mauno Kohtakangas came to see us. Mauno was a long time Falconbridge employee and lived in Onaping. He said his son was working in North Bay at Denis Netherton Engineering and would there be a chance we had a job for him in Sudbury. I hired Eric to work the backshift on a conveyor installation at Stobie, and before the end of the job he was leading the shift. We never looked back. And a few years later we bought Denis Netherton Engineering, which today is Knight Piesold, but that’s another story.
In the mid 90’s Stan was turning BLM from a services business into a junior miner. I had a great opportunity in junior mining, but my heart was in contracting. I went back to Redpath for 2 years before starting my own company, Mine Project Services.
One of my Clients was the Cementation company out of Doncaster in the UK. They wanted to re-establish Cementation in North America and hired me to evaluate potential acquisitions. After I submitted a report recommending Aurora Quarrying for all the right reasons, they came back to me with Plan B. Instead of buying a company would I start one for them? That’s right, I was Plan B.
So we started Cementation in 1998, 20 years ago. People still have no idea what a unique company it is. It was founded on the principle of profit as an enabler, not an end goal. Our vision was to change the industry, to make our work safe, not just safer but safe. To eliminate adversarial relationships and to make engineering part of the construction process again, not just an earlier phase of it. Our focus, and really our guiding principle was making decisions on what is “best for project”. But I want to repeat a key part of this concept. Profit as an enabler. What I mean by that is that the purpose of the company is not to make money, the purpose of the company is to improve our industry and the lives of the stakeholders. We generate profit to enable us to do these things. So when a downturn hits, we don’t layoff people, our margins shrink, and that’s OK. Because we know when things get busy again we and our Clients will need those people and our long term approach has been what is best for our projects and our industry.
When we think of what makes countries great sometimes people think of GDP and military strength, but what makes countries good is how they treat all their citizens and their neighbours. The same applies to companies. We became a great company in terms of size and influence but more importantly Cementation is a good company and that is measured in how we treat our people, our Clients and partners, and the communities we live and work in.
So how do you give back to an industry that has been so good to you? Some people donate to worthy causes, many mining people have done this. But perhaps you don’t have $5million or $10 million burning a hole in your very large pocket. The most valuable thing you can do to give back is to donate your time. Volunteer, for the CIM, PDAC, SAMSSA, or another organization whose values align with yours and you feel can make a difference. Your time is the greatest gift of all.
The significance of going from the Totten Project to the Totten Mine is the culmination of huge effort on the part of the whole mining community. To build something that will provide minerals that will improve the quality of life of Canadians, empower and improve the lives of our aboriginal peoples, and to do so with a commitment to protect the environment, is a truly noble profession.
In conclusion, I fell in love with building mines, and then building companies to build mines. The process from concept to design to completion, and the people who do the work, I am still in awe of. Our industry, the mine service industry, continues to strive to make our work safe and efficient so more of our Clients can realize their dreams of having an operating mine. We just want to realize our dream of building it for them.
Thank you once again for this great honour and for your attention.
Dr. Roy Slack, P.Eng.
President Cementation Canada.