"Our constant communication and new tools to give members the opportunity to get in front of a large audience has helped us to navigate the challenge of not being able to host physical networking events."
What is your vision moving forward, as recently appointed executive director, for MineConnect?
A huge part of my role with the organization is ensuring that we are supporting the mining supply and services sector throughout all of Northern Ontario. The region has significant capacity, technology, and innovation, and working together as a broader cluster makes us stronger and is much more impactful. We are constantly creating new tools for our members to take advantage of the benefits we offer and to help them reach a wider audience. We are also working to attract new business to the North through showcasing our membership to other jurisdictions and prospective leads.
Your new initiative, MineConnect USA in Nevada, is currently opening an office. What are your goals with this new project?
MineConnect USA is a pilot project whereby Northern Ontario MSS companies are invited to apply to be part of a small cluster of companies that will be represented in Nevada through a staffed office that we are currently establishing. The objective is to meet existing needs in the market while providing expansion opportunities to businesses within the cluster. If this pilot project is successful, we may look at launching similar initiatives in other jurisdictions. We chose Nevada as the jurisdiction for our pilot as we have been working with the state for some time, are familiar with the mining landscape, and it is a high potential and growing market.
How were your members most greatly impacted in the past year and how has the industry responded as a result?
With the pandemic, the challenge was getting people to understand and accept that they could still conduct business development online. Companies adapted to building relationships through virtual communication. It took time, but there has been tremendous progression, with some companies now preferring virtual interactions. Not being able to attend trade shows and conventions has also been a challenge for members, as this is often where they generate new prospects. The entire world is experiencing supply chain issues, and demands have also been impacted by the pandemic. For example, there was a decreased demand for new mining equipment as projects were delayed and there was a great deal of uncertainty for the way forward, in parallel, the demand for refurbishments and maintenance services increased. Demand trends are slowly returning to normal. To be successful in business, you need to be flexible and able to adapt, and I believe that some challenges that arose from the pandemic have made companies adapt for the better. We have many strong companies in Northern Ontario that are incredibly innovative and resilient, and are bringing world leading technology to the mining sector.
What challenges is MineConnect currently facing and how is the organization navigating these?
Networking is a big part of why people join associations, and mobility and social restrictions have made this a real challenge. Although we are in a time where we cannot deliver on in-person networking opportunities, MineConnect only lost two members over the course of the past two years, but have gained many more. We currently have approximately 210 members compared to 80 three years ago. Our constant communication and new tools to give members the opportunity to get in front of a large audience has helped us to navigate the challenge of not being able to host physical networking events. In August 2021, we launched our new ‘Ask the Expert’ series where associates and partners of MineConnect can offer their expertise to the membership base, providing an opportunity to learn and connect.
How quickly have you seen the mining industry and regulation evolve from a sustainability point of view?
Looking at the trends in mining, it is all around battery electric vehicles, reduction in carbon emissions, reducing the dependence on diesel, automating systems, digitization, and trying to keep things safe and clean. In terms of regulations, it always takes some time to get it right. Many times, policies are created in geographic locations by people who have never been to the places where the effects are felt – it sounds great on paper, but does not necessarily apply in the real world. That said, we are fortunate in Ontario to have knowledgeable people who care about the industry and are open to discussion from industry and associations on board policy making committees.