March/April 2009

Supply Side

Technologically strong, strategically weak?

By J. Baird

Mining suppliers cite lack of national export strategy

The Conference Board of Canada has formed the Centre for the Commercialization of Mining Technologies and Services (CCMTS). Their study of the mining supply sector is expected to result in recommendations as to how we can take better advantage of global markets through improved commercialization practices and market strategies. CCMTS is supported by mining companies, governments, mining supply firms and CAMESE. The first meeting of the group was held in Markham, Ontario, on November 13, 2008.

At the meeting, Gary Svoboda, CCMTS network manager, presented the results of a survey of CAMESE members carried out in September 2008. The purpose of the survey was to assess our sector’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) as seen by mining suppliers. Fifty-seven organizations participated in the survey and the typical respondent was an Ontario-based, smaller company. Of the 57 responses, 10 were from government, association and mining companies (GAM).

Suppliers feel that their greatest single strength is technological innovation. This is followed by qualified personnel. Lack of government support, lack of an industrial strategy and strong international competition stood out as the perceived weaknesses.

The major opportunity identified was the opening up of global opportunities. Foreign competition was the biggest threat, followed by lack of government support/strategy. When asked where our greatest international competitors were located, members mentioned Australia as our greatest international competitor, followed by the United States, China, Scandinavia and Germany.

While there were some differences in responses by location across Canada, these are seen to be minor, as were the differences in responses by company size. The small sample from the GAM group revealed a view similar to that of the supply companies regarding strengths, but there were differences as to how they viewed weaknesses. The GAM group felt that lack of industrial strategy, lack of qualified personnel and lack of technological innovation were more important weaknesses than did the supply company group.

The CCMTS is continuing the project. The next phase of the work will be two-pronged. They will study the best practices in the national export marketing efforts of selected countries. A study of the commercialization practices of Canadian mining suppliers will also be undertaken to reveal what they do well and where there are improvements to be made. The next meeting of the CCMTS will be in Ottawa in March 2009.

Download the results of the survey. 

Jon Baird
Jon Baird, managing director of CAMESE and the immediate past president of PDAC, is interested in collective approaches to enhancing the Canadian brand in the world of mining.

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