Aug '13

The green path to China

China’s environmental policies open up opportunities for Canadian suppliers

By Ian Ewing

A growing push in China for more eco-friendly mining has some Canadian mining suppliers seeing green and hoping to get a foothold in the Chinese market. Earlier this year, the Canada-China Green Mining Innovation Workshop saw around 50 delegates, including 35 Chinese representatives, meet in Toronto to network and hear presentations from Canadian green mining experts. Such exchanges are key to putting mining suppliers on the fast track to growth in Asia.

CanmetMINING, a division of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), organized the workshop held at the PDAC convention in conjunction with the China Mining Association (CMA). “We’re looking to open up a huge market for Canadian companies,” said Xavier Daignault-Simard, a policy analyst at CanmetMINING. “We know market access can be difficult abroad, so if we can open up the market for Canadian suppliers and they can reap the benefits of that, it’s beneficial for all of us. We’re creating an edge, basically, for Canadian companies and creating a brand [by] positioning the country as a leader on green mining.”

The difficulty of getting into the ­Chinese market is well known to Canadian suppliers, according to Spencer Ramshaw, information and communication director at the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export (CAMESE). “China is a highly competitive market that many Canadian and other companies don’t engage with. Many companies focus on other countries where their competitive advantages are more appreciated,” he said.

Now, however, the Chinese are focusing on green mining techniques and technologies, due in part to concerns about severe and widespread water and air pollution in that country. The Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources, in conjunction with the CMA, has developed an official green mining program to help clean up the industry. Since 2009, when the program was first rolled out, 462 Chinese mines have been certified “green,” including over 150 non-ferrous operations, according to Hatch senior advisor Chris Twigge-Molecey. The benefits of getting certified include access to land and lower interest rates on loans. The upshot is that miners are becoming increasingly interested in technology solutions that may not be available locally. “There are a huge range of opportunities for Canadian suppliers of equipment and services,” Twigge-Molecey added. “The needs are enormous, from exploration through mining, processing, clean-up and long-term remediation.”

“They recognize that Canada has expertise in terms of green mining,” noted Daignault-Simard. “They recognize the environmental challenges in the mining sector, and they want to try to address those in China. So they’re trying to see what is available and what kind of technologies they could use to address the environmental challenges.”

Cypher Environmental is one company hoping to take advantage. The Winnipeg-based firm presented at the Toronto workshop after developing some interest from a major Chinese distributor at MINExpo in Las Vegas last September. Later this year, the company will be demonstrating its Dust Stop product in China and training representatives from the product’s local supplier, said Cypher president Todd Burns.

“The market over there is huge, and it’s perfectly suited for our product,” Burns said. Dust Stop is an environmentally-friendly binding agent sprayed on unpaved roads to keep dust down.

The impact of breaking into China will be undeniable for Cypher. “We’re looking at a very significant increase in the percentage of our global exports by entering the market there,” Burns added. “I would say anywhere from 10 to 20 per cent.”

The March workshop at PDAC, co-chaired by the director general of CanmetMINING, Magdi Habib, and Chen Xianda, secretary general of the China Mining Association, was viewed as a positive first step for connecting Chinese miners with Canadian suppliers. “We definitely felt there was interest from the delegates,” said Daignault-Simard. “[Chen] expressed a lot of support. He was quite pleased with the workshop and the technologies that were presented.

“We [also] had a visit in China after the workshop,” he added, “and the China Nonferrous Industry Association (CNIA) indicated interest in having some sort of collaborative agreement with us.”

Already, there is appetite from the Chinese side to organize similar events. Plans are underway to hold a bigger session, with more suppliers, miners, and other stakeholders, at either China Mining, a large conference in Tianjin near Beijing in November, or possibly at PDAC again next March. Besides Cypher’s Dust Stop product, the Chinese have expressed interest in Canadian hybrid-diesel underground vehicles, ventilation-on-demand technologies and explosives-free rock-breaking products, according to Twigge-Molecey, who along with Habib visited the Fankou lead/zinc mine, a certified green mine, in China this spring.

Cypher’s Burns sees an opportunity for other Canadian suppliers to penetrate the Chinese market. “Especially with the support of NRCan,” he said, “there’s a real push to collaborate and help introduce technologies that have been used here to benefit Canadian mines. We’re offering them solutions that really are in high demand at the moment.”

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