Safety underpins Cementation Americas’ underground mine development and construction services. Eric Smith, Managing Director, showcases the company’s successes and commitment to zero harm.
BUILDING MINES SAFELY
Mine owners are looking for safe work, engineering that adds value, and a contractor willing to work with them.
Embodying all these concepts is Cementation, an underground mine contracting and engineering company providing mine development and production services for clients throughout the world.
“Our ‘Best for Project’ philosophy means that at any given point, or when facing a demanding challenge, we separate ourselves from any attachments linking to our own benefit,” opens Eric Smith, Managing Director of Cementation.
Honesty is the cornerstone of Cementation’s client relationships, with decisions made based on what is best for the project, which always yields the best value for clients.
“We deliberately return to the client’s goals and project scope and let that be the filter for generating and executing solutions. While some companies might consider this approach to be risky, we have always found that it results in responsible and accountable outcomes in safety, productivity, efficiency, and profitability.”
Cementation is made up of Cementation Canada Inc., Cementation USA Inc., Cementation Mining Mexico S.A., Merit Consultants International, and Terra Nova Technologies Inc.
Excluding the latter, Smith oversees these companies and their operations in his current role, having previously worked for an underground civil construction company, two different underground mine operations, and a shaft sinking contractor prior to joining Cementation.
As a full-service international mining contractor that delivers value-added results rooted in responsibility and accountability, Cementation has the unique capacity to draw from expertly skilled teams to tackle focused projects, and the ability to pull together its employees to work with the utmost efficiency.
“No matter the case, we safely deliver our client commitments on time and on budget,” emphasizes Smith.
Cementation has an established core of engineering excellence, which it believes is an integral part of the construction process.
Early contractor involvement can equally improve project constructability, which in turn reduces risk from a safety, technical, and commercial perspective, and can lead to the optimization of schedules, operations, and maintenance processes.
The specialist engineering capability within Cementation provides the opportunity for early input and detailed design engineering for the projects it builds.
The company is actively engaged in the construction of complex underground infrastructure for the mining industry, supported by its integrated team of multidisciplinary engineers and designers, technical experts, and experienced personnel.
Cementation works in exciting and dynamic environments, with no two projects alike in terms of size, scope, or duration.
Each project therefore deserves a customized approach, according to Smith, who is extremely proud of the company’s recently completed projects and those that are currently being executed with excellence.
“Some highlights include a newly completed mine shaft in the US. Our teams have successfully innovated to create the first shaft in that area, which was mechanically excavated,” he reveals.
“To add to that, there were impressively zero injuries reported thanks to the integration of technological solutions that created a safe degree of separation of our people from potential hazards.”
This milestone exemplifies Cementation’s focus on safety and commitment toward the ultimate goal of zero harm within its operations.
It is important that the company maintains a strong reporting culture in which employees are engaged in communicating, recording, and attending to all near misses and close calls.
On top of proactive approaches to safety, these efforts ensure that every hazard is controlled, risk is reduced in the workplace, and harmful incidents are prevented because all of the conditions that lead to injury or loss are acted upon.
All incidents are investigated to determine the true potential for loss, and to identify and review the root causes to determine any weaknesses.
Cementation uses the information derived from investigating these incidents to improve its systems for better hazard controls, combined with increased risk reduction. Lessons learned are shared both within the company and with external safety groups and clients for the benefit of the industry and all those that work within it.
DELIVERING COMPLEX PROJECTS
Most notably, the company is involved in a large-scale and multi-faceted mining construction project in Western Canada.
Despite encompassing enormous complexities, the exceptional teams at Cementation have been able to deliver work on the project for over a year without a lost time incident.
Elsewhere in Canada, the company is also designing a shaft facility for a new uranium mine.
“Nuclear energy is one of the many solutions to decarbonize the economy, and we are happy to be involved in this critical project,” states Smith.
In the US, meanwhile, Cementation is assisting a large mining company with mechanized development to help achieve their production targets.
“We are very excited to offer our clients state-of-the-art mechanized development expertise and management systems that allow us to safely and effectively unlock their ore reserves.”
Cementation has a particular focus on reducing and eliminating the need for its people to have direct contact with potential hazards.
Given all the shaft excavation work that the company performs, there is an acute need for the company to research and invest in equipment and technologies that provide remote operation or automation.
“We are continually investing, because if we don’t, we will be left behind.
“This also means that we are funding training to educate and upskill our workforce, all of which leads to greater efficiency and productivity,” Smith notes.
In addition, as working underground means that unanticipated challenges arise frequently, Cementation’s time, energy, and investment in developing a short interval control program has allowed the company to identify issues in real time and rectify them quickly to avoid lost time and reduce expenditures.
PROUD OF ITS PEOPLE
Like so many mining players and indeed other industries, Cementation has been greatly affected by the supply chain woes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A high percentage of Cementation’s revenue is linked to materials that are provided by suppliers, and most projects have very tight schedules and timelines, so having unexpected delays is unacceptable to the company and its clients.
Given its decades-long operations, Cementation has been fortunate to develop strong relationships with its suppliers.
“These trusted relationships allow us to have open and meaningful discussions to mitigate any issues at hand, and leverage alternative solutions,” Smith recognizes.
“We continue to be grateful to have their support, and we are happy to say that the supply chain challenges have been dramatically reduced post-pandemic.”
The company also worked extremely hard to support safe and flexible working environments at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak.
With this foundation, Cementation felt strongly that employees needed to be empowered to perform their work safely and effectively every day despite the disruption and uncertainty that was felt by the whole world.
“Cementation is the great company that it is because of our people, and I’m overwhelmingly proud of their continuous achievements. We don’t have orebodies or assets that generate our revenues; our employees are the backbone of our ability to deliver value to our clients,” admires Smith.
“Whether it be during a crisis like the pandemic, or a regular workday, our workforce brings their skills and expertise to every project. We listen to their contributions and implement them.”
Historically, the skilled work that takes place at mine sites has required a labor force with the physical strength and experience to be able to perform while staying safe.
As a result, the industry has functioned with a fairly narrow cross-section of people who can work safely and effectively underground.
Through the implementation of digital tools and technology, remote equipment, and mechanical advances, Cementation has opened up the ability for a much larger pool of people available to perform a greater scope of work.
“These practices also serve to overturn the age-old stereotype that mining is all about physical and dirty work,” Smith adds.
“Our industry is diverse; we need skilled, hands-on workers, but we also need technology-savvy employees able to work state-of-the-art equipment and thought leaders that can help us find the newest ways to reduce environmental impacts. We really have come a long way in the last 20 years.”
COMMITTED TO COMMUNITIES
Cementation is dedicated to being a responsible corporate entity in the communities where its employees live and work.
Staff members are encouraged to give back by supporting and participating in charitable and regional groups that empower their families and communities. This commitment has resulted in the company donating over $100,000 in the past year.
Cementation is honored to partner with many Indigenous communities and entities, as well as various organizations led by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples.
“When it comes to working with Indigenous communities, Cementation is focused on developing meaningful exchanges. We maintain an eye to learning what each distinct community needs and how we can support greater economic development, sovereignty, governance, and overall self-determination,” Smith tells us.
“These relationships are the basis for developing employment opportunities, pre-employment training, post-secondary scholarship funds, community sponsorships, and more.”
The company is developing a similar approach when planning to work in communities around the world.
“It is important to learn how we can support the needs of any community we are working with through social innovation and knowledge exchange,” elaborates Smith.
In the past decade, Cementation has established a diversity and inclusion mandate, bolstered by an awareness calendar, events, professional development, and training, all of which are aided by continued investment.
Cementation is forming a mentorship alliance with Canadore College, an award-winning leader in reducing environmental harm and climate change mitigation in the areas adopting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), carbon offsetting, clean water initiatives, greenhouse gas (GHG) auditing practices, and sustainable supply chain methodologies.
The company’s goals for the current year are grounded in being sustainable above all else, and to realize modest growth in the market.
“Of course, this is all predicated by partnering meaningfully with our clients,” Smith concludes.
“Our teams are driven by our purpose, which is serving our clients with the utmost value. We will continue to demonstrate this commitment through service differentiation, fostering the highest service level in our relationships, adopting disruptive thinking and technologies, and creating strategic partnerships.”