Simply put, Cementation Canada builds mines. A Murray and Roberts Company, Cementation has sunk many of the world’s deep shafts and is recognized in North America as the most active shaft sinking contractor. David Soyka bores in for this report.
In geology, the term “cementation” means the hardening and welding of rock fragments in the stage leading to the formation of sedimentary rock, which are the most common exposed rocks on the surface of the earth.
In the engineering and contracting business, Cementation Canada means a mining project that is on-budget, on-time without accidents.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of the South African-based Murray and Roberts global engineering, contracting and construction company, Cementation is its North American mine contracting and engineering organization dedicated to underground hard rock mine development. Recognized as the most active shaft sinking contractor in North America, both in terms of volume of work as well as complexity and degree of difficulty, Cementation employs the latest in mine development equipment on major lateral and ramp development projects from coast to coast, as well as in the Arctic.
“The mining contracting business is a relatively small industry,” Roy Slack, president, points out. “Everyone knows everyone else, and once you’re known, you’re automatically on the RFP list. One of the things that differentiates us, however, is that we have a full service in-house engineering group, encompassing the disciplines of mining, mechanical, electrical, civil, structural, and geotechnical engineering. We have the technical depth to tackle complex challenges that typically arise on large infrastructure projects. From design build projects, to requirements for specialized ground support, to the commission and troubleshoot of major mobile and stationary plants, the depth of Cementation’s technical services are above and beyond the typical mine contracting group.”
He adds, “We provide a wide range of engineering design and consultancy services for all types of technical and financial evaluations from exploration and pre-feasibility studies through to preparation of bankable documents and detailed engineering designs for construction. As part of Murray and Roberts, we have global access to design and costing information that takes into account local conditions and productivities. Also, through our affiliated worldwide offices, we have access to local expertise and services. In addition, we can partner with our sister companies to share expertise and capabilities. The most recent example of that is a partnership with a sister company in Australia to build a new raising machine called the Strata 95. They are doing the manufacturing and we are lending our engineering expertise and experience to its development.”
Cementation services relate to shaft sinking, mining development, raising and raise boring. In fact, Cementation is recognized as one of the premier shaft sinking companies in the world, and with seven shaft projects currently ongoing, is the largest shaft sinker in North America. One of the most complex shaft sinking projects ever undertaken in Canada, the Kidd Mine D No.4 Shaft, is a Cementation design build sinking project for Xstrata Copper (formerly Falconbridge) at their Kidd Mine in Timmins, Ontario. This operating shaft accesses the deepest base metal mine in the world and is an internal shaft extending 5,447 feet in depth from the 4,600 level horizon to a shaft bottom elevation at 9,882 feet.
Cementation also carries out significant lateral development and ramp development projects. Slack notes that the development of raises for ore/waste flow circuits or ventilation is a major part of a mine development program. “We have the largest raise boring equipment, capable of drilling holes 18 feet in diameter through rock,” he points out.
After opening for business in Canada 10 years ago with headquarters in North Bay, Ontario, which is about three- and- a-half hours north of Toronto, Cementation three years ago opened an office in the United States, and has most recently established a presence in Mexico. It employs about 1,000 people, and Slack stresses that while it might partner with other companies, Cementation does not subcontract any of its services. “Everything we do for a client is performed by our people. In fact, we’re a very people-focused company, which is why we were named one of Canada’s top 100 employers, out of 60,000 that were reviewed, in 2007. Last year, The Financial Post rated us a top 10 company.”
He attributes this to two key elements. “Our safety program, and the results we’ve achieved in running and completing our projects with zero accidents and zero loss of time from injuries, indicates our high regard for people. To give you just two examples, our Inco North Mine team reached 1,000 days with no lost time injuries and the Nickel Rim South project passed the two-year mark. A lot of people have this perception of mining as a dangerous industry, but, in fact, the overall industry safety performance compares with, if it not betters, any other industrial segment.”
Slack also points to continual employee training and development as another hallmark of Cementation’s focus on people. “As markets change, you have to keep your employees up to speed on whatever is going on in their disciplines. That’s how you maintain employee loyalty through continual skills development. At the same time, it’s obviously in the best interests of our clients that we have people who are up-to-date on the latest market conditions and technologies.”
While the economy has put a damper on some projects, Slack says that gold and potash (used in fertilizers) mining remain stable, if not growing, segments. Current notable projects include the Diavik Mine, operated by Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. and owned by Rio Tinto and Aber Resources, a producing diamond mine located in the Arctic. Presently the mine production is from an open pit, but the long term plan is to mine underground. Cementation was selected to carry out the mine development underground to establish an exploration horizon and obtain a bulk sample in a contract valued at $23 million (Canadian).
According to Slack, Arctic experience (the company operated the Lupin gold mine in the Arctic) and an excellent safety performance were key considerations in the award. Also of note, Slack says, is that as managing partner for the project, Cementation awarded a contract to Kitikmeot Cementation Mining and Development (KCMD). “We’re particularly excited to be associated with a new company owned by native Inuits who employ indigenous people.”
The Nickel Rim South Deposit Definition Project is owned and operated by Xstrata Nickel Limited and is located near Sudbury, Ontario. Cementation designed and sunk two shafts, a vent shaft of 6.0 meters diameter to a depth of 1,675 meters, and a main shaft equipped with steel of 7.6 meters diameter to a depth of 1,785 meters. With a value in excess of $150 million, this is the largest underground mine development contract in Canada at this time. Cementation’s engineering group received a national design award from the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction for the vent shaft head-frame. Most recently Cementation was awarded the next phase of underground development on the project and will be doing the lateral excavation work to access diamond drilling horizons and the ore body.
Cementation is also helping to expand the Red Lake Mine, the flagship operation of Goldcorp, located in northwestern Ontario and generally recognized as the richest gold mine in the world in terms of grade. The company designed a 21.5-foot-diameter shaft sunk to a depth of just over 6,300 feet. The total contract is valued at C$50 million.
According to Slack, “Cementation adds value to every project we take on, which is why we are selected for world-class projects, a testament to our technical, financial and operational capabilities. We aim to identify projects where we feel our strengths and our approach can make a real difference to help mining owners achieve their goals.”