A focus on innovation, technical knowledge and safety has helped Associated Mining Construction (AMC) Inc. become a go-to service provider in just five years.
Founded in 2008, AMC has grown from having seven employees at the time of its initial projects to more than 350 people today. The company was formed as a joint venture of mining companies J.S. Redpath Ltd. and Thyssen Mining in Regina, Saskatchewan, in response to the need for shaft-sinking services in the region. Regina is located a few hundred kilometers away from a large portion of the world’s potash supply, President and CEO Roy Durr says.
“Instead of competing against other, our parent companies decided to join forces,” Durr says. “While we are a completely independent entity from our parent companies, we have access to their engineering, construction and design departments. We’ve grown through a lot of hard work and their support.”
In addition to shaft sinking, AMC provides equipping, commissioning, drilling, repair and maintenance services to potash mining companies including Potash Corp. and Mosaic Co.
AMC applies advanced construction methods to all of its projects. “Sinking shafts locally in Saskatchewan has its unique challenges in commissioning mine shafts safely through underground aquifers and oil stratas,” Durr says. “Technology is perhaps AMC’s greatest competitive advantage. Thanks to the support of Thyssen Mining and J.S. Redpath and its sister company Deilmann-Haniel Shaft Sinking [DHSS], we have first-hand access to an innovative, specialized process for sinking through water-bearing ground.”
This process uses ground-breaking technology before shaft sinking and curtain grouting techniques are applied. AMC has also developed a composite lining technology that supports elevated water pressure and is designed to be completely watertight. “These services are critical to potash producers in Saskatchewan because of the region’s geotechnical and hydrological ground conditions,” Durr says.
AMC is the only shaft-sinking contractor to safely sink through Saskatchewan’s Blairmore strata since the 1970s. Sinking through the strata – which consists of unstable soil – includes freezing ground to improve wall stability. AMC also grouts below the Blairmore formation to ensure that a barrier is created around the shaft excavation before sinking, he adds.
Because of the nature of AMC’s work, safety and environmental responsibility are among its most important corporate values. The company reports a total recordable injury frequency rate of 0.55, well below the industry average of 3.5 to 4.0. “All AMC employees receive intensive safety training and are responsible and accountable for adhering to all safety procedures,” Durr says. “The company actively encourages employees to come forward with ideas on how to make safety improvements, and management’s responsibilities include ensuring all requisite safety equipment is onsite and that all projects have safety integrated into their design and implementation.”
AMC’s safety programs include a passport program that records all of the training programs an employee has gone through. This passport is carried on the employee and can be produced at any time to verify their training level.
The company’s “Brother’s Keeper” program also reinforces individual responsibility. Employees are encouraged to anonymously highlight and report both safety deficiencies and exemplary safety behavior. Re-training occurs when a single issue is reported repeatedly. “We want to catch deficiencies in our system before they really become an issue,” Durr says. “There are no consequences to any of the employees who are reported as long as we are advised of the problem and can take action to correct it.”
AMC’s safety program is certified by the Canadian Certificate of Recognition (COR) health and safety auditing program. The company has also received an award of merit from the Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada for the past four years.
On the environmental front, AMC follows all government regulations and client policies in its project planning operations. “Employees and subcontractors are held accountable for meeting all standards, and employees are supported with all necessary equipment, training the procedures,” Durr says. “The goal for each AMC project is to have no negative environmental impact.”
The company used nationally recognized standards including Project Management Institute guidelines to ensure the quality and safety of its work, he adds.
AMC is applying its technical and safety expertise to a number of projects. The Scissors Creek project for PotashCorp, located near Rocanville, Saskatchewan, is a six-meter-diameter composite-lined shaft that will ultimately reach a depth of 1,123 meters. The shaft goes through 600 meters of frozen ground. The freeze holes and final liner designs were completed in early 2012. The anticipated completion date is the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2014.
“Traditionally, temporary head frames are used for the sinking portions [of a shaft], and only when sinking is complete and the ground thaws is the permanent head frame construction started,” the company says. “For Scissors Creek, an alternative methodology was developed, whereby the freeze circle is ‘bridged’ by the head frame, which is supported on piles spanned by massive concrete reinforced beams below grade and external to the ground freeze circle.
“This method precludes the requirement for temporary and permanent head frame construction, therefore eliminating excessive costs and scheduling to PotashCorp,” AMC adds.
In early 2012 AMC was awarded a contract for shift sinking and equipping of both production and service shafts for the Mosaic K3 project, located four kilometers east of the town of Esterhazy, Saskatchewan. The project consists of two 20-foot-diameter shafts that extend approximately 3,600 feet deep.
The company is also working as a subcontractor on Project VAULT: The Vanscoy Ultimate Expansion, which will increase the capacity of a potash mine in Vanscoy, Saskatchewan, owned and operated by Agrium. The brownfield expansion will add an average of 750,000 tonnes of annual potash capacity to the mine, resulting in a nearly 40 percent increase in capacity by 2015. AMC’s work on the Vault Project started in 2010 with expected completion end of 2014. AMC is responsible for the installation of the new skips, arrestors, shaft steel modification in the Head frame, loading pocket and weigh bins replacement underground as well as the modifications and upgrades of a number of underground conveyors. The EPC contractor on the project is a joint venture of SNC Lavalin Inc. and PCL Industrial Management Inc.
AMC continues to seek opportunities in the potash mining and other industries. The company recently diversified its offerings beyond Saskatchewan to include oilfield work in Alberta, as well as mining work in Ontario and Ohio.
“We employ expertise in support of competent, safe execution of construction projects,” Durr says. “Our expertise in sinking and commissioning mine shafts has evolved off to other sectors both above and underground work.”
Durr brings more than 20 years of experience in the mining sector to his work at AMC. Prior to joining the company in 2009, he held senior management positions on several mining projects throughout Canada and developed an extensive knowledge of feasibility studies, shaft sinking and underground development.
In addition to Durr, AMC is led by an executive staff that includes Vice President Operations Jack Ayotte; CFO Kirby Williston; General Manager Eric Kriel; Engineering Manager Bill van Breugel; Health, Safety and Environmental Manager Iain McQuarrie and HR Manager James Hircock.
All executive staff have 20 or more years of service in mining and other related industries.
Durr credits AMC’s executive and other staff for the company’s success. “We have come a long way from our beginning,” Durr says. “We continue to focus on what brought us this far and are tremendously excited about our future.”