Made in Canada

Members Award winner Robert Lipic builds global supply chain

By Kim Lear

Robert Lipic has never balked at obstacles in his path. In fact, the trailblazing president and CEO of Mining Technologies International (MTI) has been shot at and kidnapped while on a quest to forge business relationships in developing countries. Lipic, the recipient of the 2012 Members Award, presented to those es­teemed to be unsung heroes of the mining industry, continues his mis­sion to explore new markets and opportunities for Canada’s mining equipment supply sector, though now largely from the comfort of his homeland.

Looking back over Lipic’s 40-plus years in mining, it is evident he has made a significant impact. Reflecting on his success, three things stand out to him: he puts relationships above all else; he is insatiably curious; and he is driven to find better ways of doing things.

“When I started, a big (raise boring) hole was five feet in diameter,” Lipic says, awed by the mining advancements that have been made during his career. “Today there are people who claim to be able to drill 3,000-foot-long holes, 10 metres in diameter.”

“MTI introduced a drill rod a few years back that helped make that possible,” Lipic adds proudly. “Hats off to Canada; we did it here at home first and now the rest of the world is going to try and copy us. Watching that over the next 20 years will be exciting.” At 68, Lipic is clearly having fun and has no immediate plans to get out of the game.

Before buying the company that would eventually become MTI, Lipic earned his stripes by working in mineral exploration, mining development, sales and even working underground.

He has since built MTI into a ­­$140- million-per-year, 100-per-cent Canadian-owned company, and the country’s largest manufacturer and supplier of mining equipment.

Lipic attributes MTI’s success to building strong relationships. He is proud to say that during the last recession not a single customer cancelled an order, adding that MTI has never had a bad international receivable, and that some of MTI’s customers have been with him for more than two decades.

Known for his negotiating stamina and willingness to down the occasional shot of snake’s blood to seal a deal, he has strategically built business ties with companies in more than 20 countries. “I’m of the opinion that we have great standards in Canada,” Lipic says. “If we’re able to meet those standards for the Canadian industry, we can take that same knowledge and provide it to international clients.”

MTI is headquartered in Sudbury, with operations in North Bay and Montana, employing over 400 Canadians and roughly 60 Americans.

“You always hear people rushing to places in the world where there’s cheaper labour,” Lipic says. “I’ve never looked at running off. I say ‘take the talent we have at home and use it to make top-quality equipment.’”

MTI has brought a number of game-changing solutions to the market over the years. Anticipating new restrictions coming out of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency six years ago, MTI saw an opportunity to develop a hybrid loader for narrow vein mining that would be safer, more efficient and ultimately produce fewer emissions. As the company makes the final improvements to its battery technology before taking it to market this year, plans for a mid-size loader are already on the drawing board in the engineering department. Lipic hopes to be testing the new prototype in 2013.

Lipic is driven to discover new ways to improve MTI’s product offerings, to build new supply chains and to take MTI further internationally. After all these years, what motivates him to stay in the game? “It’s always the intrigue to climb a higher hill.”

Find out about other CIM Awards.

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