"With numerous companies offering similar services, building strong relationships with local communities and other contractors has become crucial."

Olivier Jacques

DIRECTOR OF MINING DIVISION, GROUPE GILBERT

June 28, 2024

Can you introduce Groupe Gilbert and how the firm services the mining industry? 

Groupe Gilbert has been a civil contractor and mining service provider for over 60 years. Our operations are primarily based in Québec, where we focus mainly on civil projects. However, our mining services are predominantly in Nunavut and extend into the western regions of Québec. As a service provider to mining companies, we offer a broad range of specially tailored solutions including workforce rental, equipment rental, drill and blast services, and aggregate crushing. Additionally, we provide various civil works on mining sites such as dike construction and channel excavation. Our current workforce comprises around 1,250 employees within the various divisions. Our work extends beyond Québec, including projects on Baffin Island and in the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. 

Can you talk about the work Groupe Gilbert does with Agnico Eagle and Hecla Québec? 

One of our key partners is Agnico Eagle, with whom we have a significant contractual relationship. At their operations, we mainly handle open pit operations as mining contractors. We specialize in surface operations and work closely with Agnico Eagle to provide services including drilling, blasting, earthworks, and providing skilled workers in various roles including equipment operators, mechanics, and welders. Like Agnico Eagle, we are committed to employing Nunavummiut workers, maintaining a high percentage of the Inuit workforce.

Recently, we were awarded a contract with Hecla Québec mining company at Casa Berardi. We are in charge of drilling and blasting operations in their open pit mine. Several drills were mobilized on site last year to begin operations and the exploitation of the pit. 

Do you have any fleet investment plans for the coming months?

In 2024, we are not expanding our AC and truck fleet as it is already robust, with PC 1250s widespread in our organization. Instead, we are focusing on investing in enhancements in other key areas of our fleet, particularly in the purchase of Sandvik and Epiroc drills, like the Di-650 and D65. Additionally, we are strengthening our fleet with investments in new primary crushers, secondary crushers, and screeners to meet increasing project demands. We are also renewing our fleet, including upgrading articulated trucks and essential equipment, crucial for maintaining operational excellence, especially in Nunavut, where transportation relies heavily on barges.

Regarding electrifying the fleet, the extreme cold conditions in our workplaces mean that the battery performance for electric equipment remains a challenge. While some mines are exploring electric projects, it is not currently a widespread requirement for us to convert our fleet to green energy. This is something that is surely bound to change, and that we are anticipating in the upcoming years.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for engineers and service providers in Québec's mining industry in 2024?

The biggest challenge we face as service providers is finding a balance among competitors to specialize in our field. With numerous companies offering similar services, building strong relationships with local communities and other contractors has become crucial. Our focus remains on providing specialized services rather than engineering studies. This distinction presents both challenges and opportunities in Québec's mining sector.

In Québec, there is a lack of workforce pool overall. However, as a company, we offer competitive rates and favorable working conditions. This helps us attract specialized talent when needed. Some trades, like equipment mechanics and specialized drillers, can be particularly hard to find.

Is prioritizing collaboration with local communities and First Nations in Québec more crucial now given new environmental directives?

Prioritizing collaboration with First Nations is more crucial now than ever. Throughout the mining industry, we are seeing a shift towards greater and more meaningful collaboration with Indigenous communities. Personally, having worked in Nunavut for a decade, I have seen the benefits of such partnerships firsthand. These collaborations with First Nations are increasingly integral to our operations. We are deeply integrated into the community through various subsidiaries within Groupe Gilbert. Our group has more than seven companies associated with Gilbert and tied to First Nations communities, tailored to the specific location of each mine.

What are Groupe Gilbert’s growth priorities in Québec this year?

Our focus is to expand our client base, supporting additional mining projects with our specialized services. We aim to build strong partnerships, participate in industry events, and connect with clients to enhance our presence and offerings in the market.

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