Roy Slack believes the mining industry must move toward a system of collaboration in order to advance sustainability, and he is guiding Cementation’s North American operations in that direction. Whether it is exploring all cost-saving options during a recession or ensuring safe working conditions as a constant, Cementation does whatever it takes to make sure everyone who works with the company benefits from its projects.
“As a company, our vision is to change the way mine contracting is done for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Slack says. “We’re focused on making this a very safe industry and eliminating adversarial relationships. We ask ourselves, ‘How can we change this industry for the better?’ There are all kinds of things we’re working on right now to help do that.”
Cementation Canada was formed in 1998 as the North American operations of Kvaerner Cementation. Initially, Kvaerner was seeking a potential acquisition and hired Slack – who ran his own consulting group at the time – to carry out a study on the possible acquisition of an existing company. Once the study was complete, Kvaerner Cementation took another approach and asked Slack to start up a Canadian operation for them.
The new company quickly grew. In 2005, Cementation was awarded the Resolution contract to further develop an existing mine near Superior, Ariz. This project plus the pursuit of additional U.S. work prompted the company to establish a permanent office in Salt Lake City.
Today, the entire Cementation entity is owned by Murray and Roberts, which is the largest underground mine contracting company in the world with operations in North and South America, Africa, Australia and Australasia. “We have access to global best practices and actively engage our sister companies in exchange of new and innovative solutions to mine development challenges,” the company says.
With operations throughout the world, Cementation can call upon expertise from a wide range of sources within its own personnel instead of always having to rely on external consultants. The company also can manage the movement of resources as necessary instead of sourcing new machinery, personnel and expertise in every new geographic region it enters.
For instance, Cementation’s South African operation is implementing greater mechanization into its shaft sinking process using technology currently used in its sister company’s North American operations. The goal: enhance safety in the shaft-sinking process.
“The collaboration between our international groups is interesting,” Slack says. “[It involves] adapting existing technologies to new cultures and applications.”
With its worldwide reach, Cementation also was able to shift its machinery to assist in the aftermath of a tragic mine collapse last year. Cementation manufactures its Strata 950 in Australia, and it operates two units in North America. When the San Jose Mine in Chile collapsed in 2010, Cementation had equipment in operation near the mine and sent one of its Strata 950 machines to carry out a drilling program to access the trapped miners.
“If something comes up in an area outside our traditional work areas, we get together as a group to determine which groups can best be of service,” Slack says. “With regard to the work being carried out in Indonesia for example, it is a joint effort between Cementation Canada and our office out of Australia.
“We mix and match the companies to best suit the project.”
Cementation not only keeps its stakeholders happy during boom period of the economy, but during the slow times, as well. Slack says as the entire industry endured the worst of the economic downturn that started at the end of 2008, Cementation worked with its clients to do whatever it could to cut costs, and its loyal base of suppliers fell in line, as well.
“During the downturn, a lot of people came together to try to get through it,” Slack says. “There is not much positive to say about the downturn, but how mining companies, contractors and suppliers all worked together to get through it was great to see.”
At first, Slack says, Cementation worked with clients to see how the scope of their various projects could be modified or reduced. Then, it approached suppliers to see how much they could lower their prices to keep its end-users in business.
“Every project was handled differently,” Slack says. “In general, I would like to say it was collaborative rather than adversarial. People were asking for help instead of demanding better prices, or else. I find that a positive thing in a difficult time when everyone comes to the table to see how we can get through this.”
Business is Back
Based on Cementation’s pipeline of projects, Slack believes the worst of the recession is over in the mining industry. Projects that were once on indefinite hiatus are ramping up again, and Cementation is focused on keep up with its increasing need for employees.
However, as a Top-100 Employer as ranked by Mediacorp it shouldn’t be a problem to recruit the best talent the labor pool has to offer. “After the downturn, things are booming,” Slack says. “The market has become very busy, so the challenge now is people.”