How has MSTA CANADA helped its members through the pandemic?
2020 was a year characterized by uncertainty. MSTA CANADA quickly assumed the role of being a source of clear information, helping members understand government support and its implications. The Canadian mining ecosystem worked very closely in sharing best practices and MSTA CANADA served as a point of communication for members on how to adapt to the pandemic.
The pandemic threatened the demand across all commodity markets due to lock down measures. However, China’s quick rebound was fortunate for the industry as China represents approximately 50% of global mineral consumption. Their quick revival prevented the more worrisome panorama of a global synchronized drop in demand for commodities.
Have you noticed any positive industry trends that have emerged in the last six months?
While the pandemic has been a great challenge, a positive take away is that it has helped demonstrate to governments the economic importance of the mining industry. Governments have been effective in assisting industry and outlining requirements such as bio-safety protocols. Simultaneously, companies have implemented these protocols judiciously and ensured that work can be done safely.
In addition, as a result of the pandemic, there has been an acceleration in the adoption of technology to accommodate working remotely. This has become the norm for many people and the practical benefits have become increasingly evident. Even companies reticent to change have been forced to adapt, resulting in a spur of innovation – specifically in in the area of customer service and client relations. These new technologies have shown companies the potential and realization in the reduction of costs.
What were the main factors driving business demand for mining suppliers in 2020?
2018 and 2019 were banner years for many mining suppliers thanks to a revival in the mining industry, and there has been a continued focus on equipment and technology that will reduce energy intensity, reduce water consumption and reduce the overall environmental footprint of an operation. In 2020, health and safety (H&S) protocols related to pandemic mitigation and contagion prevention have been the top priority and will become permanent even when Covid-19 is surpassed. Companies that provide timely screening solutions such as RWDI’s Songbird portable on-site DNA testing device will become common place as part of the H&S procedures. Products related to automation and remote monitoring, such as Ionic Mechatronics’ SafeBox technology which removes workers from danger and reduces the need for person-to-person contact, should be an accelerated trend for remote sites.
Which foreign countries do you see as having high potential for Canadian suppliers?
When considering international business prospects in mining, it is helpful to think of two distinct global markets. The first are strategic markets that consist of geographies with proven rich mineral endowment and a thriving mining ecosystem. This group includes Peru, Chile, Mexico, Australia and South Africa (we see the USA as an extension of our Canadian domestic market). Then there are emerging markets that are coming to fruition with opportunities such as West Africa, Latin America and Central Asia. Commodities are driving the markets more than geography, and the industry can expect a lot of business development because of rising metals prices. I also believe the momentum linked to batteries and electric vehicles production will continue to gather pace and the identification of critical minerals by the US and the EU is going to create additional momentum.
Do you have a final message for the Canadian Mining industry?
In moments of uncertainty it is worth considering the benefits of union and industry collaboration. MSTA CANADA remains a pillar in the mining suppliers’ ecosystem where companies can look to the association to connect them to opportunities to grow their business. I believe 2021 will be a pivotal year with huge upside and interesting opportunities as economies rebound and industry practices are reshaped at an accelerated pace. Technological advances in the use of artificial intelligence, remote work as well as health and safety protocols will be key to innovation in the mining supply and services sector. As a final comment, the speed of the mining industry transformation will be driven by trust between stakeholders and open borders to global trade.