Reflective and Insightful Story on SAMSSA AGM December 4th 2017

Jenny Lamothe

 Special SAMSSA Legacy Series

by  Jenny Lamothe on behalf of SAMSSA 2017


It began as an evening of reflection for many.  For others at SAMSSA’s annual general meeting on December 4th, it was a glimpse into the future.

Since 2003, The Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Services Association has provided camaraderie, as well as guidance, to all of those invested in the Sudbury mining cluster.  It has not been an easy road, but one that has benefitted all those who have travelled it.

An industry that is worldwide, one that has global interests, can be a difficult one to break into, particularly if you are a smaller company or one just starting out.

“SAMSSA is a unique organisation that allows mining suppliers to get together – which is rare – to talk about opportunities in Sudbury and around the world and to really see that there are opportunities everywhere,” says Jeff Smith, director on the Board of SAMSSA. In addition to these meetings, Smith also enjoys one of the perks of membership in SAMSSA – knowledge.

“One of the main things Dick (DeStefano, SAMSSA Executive Director)) has helped us with is keeping us in the know as far as what’s going on, in the mining industry,” says Jeff. “If we didn’t have Dick’s help with that, we’d be digging around, googling endlessly, searching through trade magazines looking to see what what’s going on, but with the emails, we know instantaneously what’s going on in the mining sector at any one time.

It is the gift of this knowledge that has SAMSSA growing consistently, and cementing its reputation not just in Northern Ontario, but to Canada and the world.

One of the honourees for the evening, Tom Palangio, outgoing President and 2017 inductee into the Mining Hall of Fame, spoke to this reputation, carefully curated with years of hard work. “It’s grown, it’s recognized now, not only in Ontario or Canada but even throughout the world,” he says. “We’re sort of the envy of a whole bunch of different jurisdictions now.  We’ve been in business probably for about 14 years, and it’s really started to take off.  The business community recognizes it for what it is, the mining community, and even governments in different jurisdictions really look toward SAMSSA as really being the voice for the industry.” According to Palangio, this voice can extend to representation for members in certain situations, as well as a sounding board for those thinking of new products or services. “Even the mining companies, when they’re about to suggest something or do something instead of trying to go to the suppliers, they’ll go to SAMSSA. They’ll go to Dick DeStefano and say look, we’re thinking about proposing this, can you gives us your idea as to how this is going to fit with the suppliers and stuff like that so it’s a real good resource.

The general meeting, what was noted as an evening of firsts for the organisation, sought to pay tribute those who were responsible for its success, as well as celebrate new opportunities. Palangio, introduced by his son Thomas, was honoured for his contributions not only to SAMSSA, but to the industry as a whole. In his speech, he noted his gratitude: “As I wind up my term as president, I want you to know that I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s a privilege to work with so many good people, and I’m very proud of your achievements. Thank you to all, and particular thanks to Dick, for all your hard work, dedication and friendship.”

Given the Special Recognition Award was Journalist and Editor Norm Tollinsky, enjoying one of the aforementioned firsts – the first time the award has ever been given to a journalist. Initial Editor of The Northern Life, and Founding Editor of both Northern Ontario Business and The Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, Tollinsky is a prolific and dedicated writer, with DeStefano commenting during his introduction that “Working with Norm is unbelievable. He’s thorough, he’s diligent, he’s fair, he’s balanced in his stories, I can’t believe any one person can write that many articles in one year in a quarterly magazine. If you look at the headlines, it’s always Norm. I think he’s one of the best writers I’ve seen.” Tollinsky received the Special Recognition Award for his commitment to his industry, and for his work in turning Northern Ontario into a globally recognized mining cluster.

As to the future, the general meeting gave participants a view of just how exciting it will be.  

New board members, Michael Gribbons and Alicia Woods hope to make their mark on the organisation. Gribbons, a highly successful Sudbury entrepreneur is now a director, and Woods, moving from her position as Vice President/Treasurer to become the first woman president of SAMSSA. “It’s exciting because it shows other women that it’s possible, it’s a symbol that the industry is open to women, and it’s an industry that is growing with women at the helm. I think that’s the exciting part, being that person that inspires girls to think: ‘she’s there, that’s something I can reach for’.”

She is very proud of SAMSSA’s achievements so far: “The membership has increased and grown, and the visibility of what the Sudbury area has to offer in terms of service and supply has increased,” she says. “I don’t think people realise the experience and the knowledge that comes out of the Sudbury basin. The companies here are innovative and world class, and I think by us coming together, we help each other really come to market.  Sudbury has become a brand in the mining industry; people look to Sudbury for the expertise and the knowledge because there is so much right here.”

In her new role as President, she hopes to continue the legacy of the Sudbury Basin by encouraging its inheritors. “I think it’s about attracting that next generation,” she says. “I want SAMSSA to also be an organisation that reaches out to the next generation and encourages them to consider this industry as a career option; advocating, in terms of the mining industry, sharing the opportunities that exist and engaging them.”  

During the presentation by Jeff McIntyre of Fuel Multimedia, guests learned that the website is seeing amazing increases in traffic because of recent user feedback and analytics. “We’ve seen a massive amount of growth on the SAMSSA site,” says McIntyre, “And what we’ve seen is that people are coming back on a regular basis. You can see that just this year we’ve had about a 50% growth in people that visit at least once a month, and about 28% growth on people that visit every week.” A boon to that growth is that when users do reach the site, they are spending an average 5-10 minutes there: “Which means they’re generally viewing about 10-15 profiles, so we’re seeing profile shopping on the SAMSSA site.”

Also presenting was Pierre Rocque, who shared the successes and plans of Kirkland Lake Gold (KLG), where he is Vice President of Canadian Operations. Of special note from his presentation was not only the success of KLG, but the burgeoning relationship between KLG and Artisan Vehicle Systems, supplier of refreshments for the evening, and their endeavour to service KLG’s new electric fleet’s needs. 

Also burgeoning, though it was alluded to rather than announced, was the mention of new funding for SAMSSA, in addition the generous backing Dynamic Earth already provided.

Though it was an evening of updates and celebrations, there was also a tinge of sadness. The warmth of those involved in the organisation could be felt throughout the presentations; whether through the emotional speeches given by Tollinsky and Palangio, noting how proud they were of the Sudbury mining cluster’s achievements, or through the sheer excitement of seeing goals come to fruition, there was a palpable feeling of change in the air.  A feeling that, though occasionally tough, is to the benefit of everyone involved.

And though you would be forgiven for thinking that after such success you could rest on your laurels, but DeStefano is, as always, looking to take SAMSSA and its members even further, as an important cluster . “If we could grow the critical base, increase choices and support, and develop innovative technology that meets global standards which will improve mine productivity, we could become the world’s centre of mining intelligence”

With the success SAMSSA has had so far, it is far from an unachievable goal.


Submitted by Jenny Lamothe

Freelance Writer