Who are the unsung heroes? The importance of suppliers to the mining industry

Alec Morrison, president and CEO of MSABC, talks about the importance of suppliers to the mining industry

Alec Morrison, president and CEO of the Mining Suppliers Association of B.C. (MSABC), is holding Buddy the Miner, from the Mining for Miracles campaign for BC Children's Hospital.  MSABC has raised over $325,000 for Mining for Miracles since 1998.

Alec Morrison, president and CEO of the Mining Suppliers Association of B.C. (MSABC), shows off Buddy the Miner, from the Mining for Miracles campaign for BC Children's Hospital. MSABC has raised over $325,000 for Mining for Miracles since 1998. — Photo courtesy MSABC

When we think of the mining industry, we typically first think of mining operations themselves. We praise the operations for the materials they produce. Mining suppliers are often secondary, although their necessity to the industry is without a doubt.

Who is a mining supplier?

To understand their importance to the industry, we first must understand who classifies as a mining supplier. Each province has a slightly different definition. The Mining Suppliers Association of British Columbia (MSABC) summarizes a supplier concisely: “We define mining suppliers as anyone who does business with a mine or wants to do business with a mine,” said Alec Morrison, president and CEO of MSABC.

Over 1,000 companies in British Columbia alone have self-identified as mining suppliers. The MSABC includes 165 members organized into suppliers, contractors and consultants. In 2011, MSABC completed a study to measure the impact of suppliers to the industry. “The mining suppliers of British Columbia were responsible for generating $2.7 billion of the estimated $8.9 billion total economic output of the mining industry in the province in 2010,” Morrison said. “It’s a snapshot. It just gives you an idea of the impact of the mining supply side.”

MSABC members are suppliers who gain a significant portion of their annual revenue from the mining industry. They are closely involved with the advocacy efforts of the Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC). “Our members are the ones who obviously want to do business with mines but also the ones who want to make a difference in the mining industry,” said Morrison. “They lend their weight to advocacy efforts to promote responsible mining in the province.”

Advocating for the future of mining

The suppliers’ province-wide footprint helps with their advocacy initiatives. “We try to take advantage of our members that are based all over the province to help spread the word in their communities but also with their elected officials about why mining is important,” Morrison said, “why we need it to continue to support jobs—and not just jobs at mine sites but across the province.” For example, MSABC members joined MABC for its Mining Day visit to the legislature in Victoria.

Representatives from both groups met with politicians to talk about the importance of a strong mining industry in the province. They also discussed policy measures needed for this to occur. It is important for the suppliers to be involved as well because they are partially responsible for the new processes and technologies that help create the mines of the future.

Supplier innovation

MSABC suppliers are drivers of innovation in all areas of the industry. For example, McCue Engineering is exploring water treatment testing processes with synthetic water samples based on theoretical mines. Kal Tire Mining is continuing to advance its tire pressure and sensing technology to increase efficiency in overlooked aspects of an operation. Also, companies like MacClean Engineering are advancing battery-powered underground mining vehicles at large operations like Goldcorp’s Borden Mine. These are just three examples. “There are advancements going on with all our companies,” Morrison said.

Joining MSABC

Networking is another major focus for MSABC. “The mining industry of B.C. is like an ecosystem,” said Morrison. Everyone needs to work together to ensure a successful and responsible future for the industry. “Having these close collaborations between the producers and the suppliers keeps us mobilized and connected as an industry," he said. "It keeps us pushing towards a strong and responsible mining industry.”

By strengthening the ties between industry members, MSABC and MABC can lead initiatives that are beneficial to the community. Mining for Miracles, for example, is a campaign that has raised $28 million for the British Columbia Children’s Hospital since the campaign’s beginning in 1998. MSABC is responsible for $325,000 of this number. MSABC also works with the Minerals Resources Education Program (MineralsEd) to help keep teachers informed about Earth sciences education. This non-profit program is funded entirely by the mining industry.

“All this has been made possible because we continue to strengthen this ecosystem of producers and suppliers,” Morrison said. “They come together and have a sense of community through our networking events and advocacy efforts, and as they raise money for these charities.”

When we look at the innovation, networking and community campaigns mining suppliers are involved in across the province, it’s clear that increased awareness is necessary moving forward. “There’s a visible and an invisible side to the mining industry," Morrison said. "We help to promote that invisible side of mining suppliers that generally don’t come to mind when you think about mining.” said Morrison. “I don’t think many people know the kind of interesting work that is being done by mining suppliers in their own communities.”

Learn more about what MSABC members are doing in the province by attending Mining Month events near you this May.

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