Given Redpath’s global presence, how significant is Ontario to the entirety of your operations?
Eastern Canada continues to be a significant contributor to our overall volume. Our client base in the region includes Kirkland Lake Gold, Alamos Gold, Glencore, Vale, Newmont and others. Historically, as our clients moved around the world, we followed, allowing us to expand our international footprint to Indonesia, Mongolia and South America. We grew to have established our offices in all the major markets worldwide with over 6,000 employees. Nonetheless, Canada remains our base especially for the technical aspect of our operations for which we rely on local Canadian skills.
Redpath Mining‘s raiseboring division has completed a record-breaking hole at Kirkland Lake Gold’s Macassa mine in May of 2021. Can you tell us more about this project?
Macassa mine has been in operation for a long time. As mining progressed to deeper levels, heat from host rock posed problems for workers and equipment alike, which made additional ventilation necessary. Kirkland Lake Gold engineers devised a ventilation circuit consisting of a 1,010 m raise and a 660 m raise, which would bring fresh air from surface to the underground workings. Redpath Raiseboring was up to the task, and in 2021, completed the record-breaking continuous leg to 1,670 metres. The feat was accomplished with a Redbore 70 underground, and a Redbore 90EX on surface, each completing a 660 m and a 1,010 m hole, respectively.
Can you elaborate on Redpath’s approach to innovation and technology?
A big driver of innovation for us is safety and working on reducing operational risk. Overall, our technology tends to follow a pattern of starting off with a problem that evolves into a Redpath solution. A recent focus of ours has been working on products that provide real-time information so that decision-makers can lead operations with accuracy and make well-informed rapid choices. This has only been accelerated by Covid, as operations moved remotely which amplified this requirement.
What are the unique factors of that you need to consider when developing new technologies for extreme environments?
We currently have projects where extremely cold temperatures and blizzards are the norm. In such cases, the equipment is modified using synthetic oils and heating packages. Another aspect to consider is how climate affects individuals on the ground. As we are an underground mining contractor, we encounter the environment as we are getting out or in, so it is not as problematic to a large extent, but during blizzards sometimes operations are shut down. Other unique Arctic challenges include blackout periods for ship access to sites. On the other hand, in South America we work in high altitudes, working in mines over 4,000 or 5,000 m above sea level. Oxygen levels at these altitudes affect people and their ability to work, as well as the equipment. We have yet to witness significant impact to our operations due to climate change but we are certainly aware of it. For example, we work on Glencore’s Raglan mine, which is developed in permafrost. If the temperature rises to the point the permafrost thaws it will affect the integrity of the underground excavations.
What is your outlook for the industry over the next two years, following this period of challenges?
Redpath is optimistic, considering the state of the commodities market and demand for metals, which has performed exceptionally well amid the crisis over the last two years. Current metal prices are fuelling investor appetite to fund, and mining companies to develop the projects. We are also seeing increasing interest in the acquisition of greenfield projects. A key driver for the market is the global green energy revolution that promotes electric and battery-powered vehicles. There is a solid demand for copper, nickel and battery metals and we see a healthy pipeline of projects. Vale is investing in the Sudbury Basin and is working with Glencore to find a solution for development of Nickel RimDeep – Victor. Meanwhile, Redpath is sinking new shafts for Alamos Gold. Canadian Malartic is also planning a new shaft at Odyssey. We are working with some clients internationally on expansions as well, such as in Peru and Mongolia. In Indonesia, Freeport McMoran is finishing the development of the Grasberg mine and looking at adjacent ore bodies. We are seeing a lot of opportunities overall, across the board.