August 2012

Days in Toyland

Minexpo 2012 will showcase industry strengths

By Eavan Moore

Since the last Minexpo in 2008, a banking crisis has swept the world, governments have fallen, and commodities markets have danced the Tarantella. Yet when international mining suppliers and clients arrive in Las Vegas this September for Minexpo 2012, many are hoping things will feel like they did four years ago.

The stock market crashed just as ­Minexpo 2008 concluded, recalled Ulf Linder, communications manager at Atlas Copco. “The market was on the peak at the beginning of the show,” he said. “It changed in just one or two days.”

In the ensuing evaporation of capital, mining equipment sales dropped, says Mark Sprouls, a spokesperson for Caterpillar Inc. But the ongoing urbanization of emerging economies helped Caterpillar bounce back. “The 2012 situation is good, just as it was preceding Minexpo 2008,” said Sprouls. Caterpillar’s recession-time acquisition of Bucyrus International has given it “the broadest line of mining and materials handling equipment available,” including Cat-branded underground coal mining equipment, which will be on display in September.

Katrina Maheu, director of corporate marketing at Dumas Contracting Ltd., reports that her company also successfully expanded its mining services during the recession. With gold prices through the roof, Dumas grew out of its Ontario home, undertaking operations in Latin America and West Africa. The boom in Chinese demand for raw materials also helped Dumas forge a new alliance with Chinese contractor JCHX Mining.

Given its new international scope, Dumas decided to exhibit at Minexpo for the first time this year. Maheu said a growing demand for high safety standards makes companies like hers a valuable asset; JCHX was drawn to Dumas in part because of its safety record. “Countries like Canada have extremely high standards when it comes to safety and production techniques,” she re­marked, “and I think that often there are concerns around how you take that level of expertise and develop it within other countries.”

Derek Lawrence, sales and estimating manager at New Brunswick-based bulk handling manufacturer B.I.D. Canada, will also make his first trip to Minexpo this year. He says the high cost of domestic transport makes international exposure especially attractive. “Highway transportation of equipment in Canada is expensive, and is a limiting factor for our business,” he explained. “However, I can put my product into a shipping container and ship it anywhere in the world via ocean for less cost than I can send a single truckload from New Brunswick to Saskatchewan. So my interest is to increase our profile with engineering consulting firms and mining companies which develop and operate mines and related infrastructure within and outside of North America.”

Fortune appears to favour Canadian exporters. A June report from the Conference Board of Canada forecast strong profitability for Canadian sectors serving the mining industry, and highlights machinery manufacturing exports to the United States.

At Atlas Copco, Linder is anxious to sees what unfolds this year. “We are seeing some signs of a slowdown,” he acknowledged. “What will happen is of course difficult to predict. But when it comes to our product range, we are stronger now: we have increased our booth space by 30 per cent, and we have new products to introduce.”

Atlas Copco, like Caterpillar and other suppliers, works with its customers to develop new features. The latest machines will showcase more automation and remote mining capability. Visitors will be able to check out technologies that help cope with labour shortages, extreme conditions and safety concerns.

With another four years of R&D behind them, suppliers are hinting that they have answered the call to deliver bigger and better solutions to long-term problems.

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