About 25 representatives from Australia and Canada-based mining services companies visited Elko on trade missions to the West this fall.
In mid-October, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Queensland government and Austmine — an industry association serving Australia’s mining equipment, technology and services sector — teamed up to introduce the group of about 15 to possible business opportunities in Nevada. A Canadian delegation of about 10 companies coordinated through the Ontario government for a similar mission in early November.
“It’s basically building relationships,” said Robert Trzebski, chief operating officer of Austmine, a nonprofit membership organization. “We would like the relationship between Nevada and Australian suppliers to be continuous … . How can we possibly work together in the future?”
For Nevada mining companies and communities, business relationships with Australians or Canadians could deliver dollars while providing needed equipment and services, said Jarad Van Wagoner, GOED deputy director of international trade. He said a goal would be for the foreign companies to settle in Nevada then offer products and services in and out of state.
“Generally, it’s good for the economic development to bring those outsiders in,” Van Wagoner said.
The companies that Austmine represents specialize in technologies that save money and increase productivity in mining. Among those visiting Nevada were representatives from 16 companies such as a heavy equipment fabricator, oil cleaning company, escape technologies provider, consulting group, contractor, asset health manager and fleet manager. Most of the Australian group members asked not to be identified for this article.
Austmine represents about 450 companies and hosts conferences and trade missions in countries including the U.S., Canada, Russia and Ghana to explore growth opportunities.
“We try to build relationships across the globe,” Trzebski said. “For many, it’s the first time in Nevada. Reconnaissance.”
Canadian companies that sent agents included Hurley Ventilation Technologies Inc., Jannatec Technologies, Kozar Engineering Inc., Maestro Digital Mine, O.P.C. Construction Supplies Inc., Pneuma-Tool, RDH Equipment and Schauenburg Flexadux Corp.
“These guys are great, and they have a lot of potential in Nevada,” said Sheldon Mudd, then Nevada’s GOED mining industry specialist, who teamed up with Paul Bradette, trade and investment specialist for the mining supply and services sector for the Ontario government, to organize the mission.
Nevada and its northern neighbors found common ground and possible opportunities to expand into the local mining industry.
“It’s a reciprocal-type mission that would add value for both countries,” said John Febbraro, director of business development for the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, economic development corporation. “There are a lot of synergies between both countries … [that] would bring mining to the next level.”
The October mission
The fact-finding and relationship-building itineraries featured mine tours and networking events in Elko and Reno.
The Australian’s trade mission in October kicked off in Utah with a meeting among Rio Tinto Kennecott mine leaders. In Nevada, the group toured Newmont Mining Corp.’s Long Canyon, and Barrick Gold Corp.’s CodeMine and Turquoise Ridge site.
Not on the agenda was a spontaneous trip to the ghost town of Metropolis, where the Australians witnessed a swath of Nevada’s “outback,” including decayed buildings, a gopher snake and a dead coyote. The group was intrigued about Metropolis after they heard about it from Wells City Manager Jolene Supp over lunch at Luthers Bar & Grill in Wells. She touted the area’s development and lifestyle opportunities, and described rural Nevada’s culture.
“It’s so rural out here, and that’s a good thing,” Supp said. “We are looked at as being a little redneck around here and forceful at times.”
The November mission
The Canadian trade mission in November included mine tours, such as Newmont Mining Corp.’s Gold Quarry and Barrick Gold Corp.’s CodeMine and Goldstrike. Seeing the Nevada landscape, influenced by the mining culture, prompted some of the visitors to draw a parallel between the state and their home province.
“I’m surprised at how similar this area is to Ontario,” said Kevin Kozar, president of Kozar Engineering Inc., based in Thunder Bay, Ontario, during a reception at the Elko Conference Center on Nov. 1. “And the people are great. They have the same mentality.”
Kozar related to Nevada’s sprawling open lands dotted with small mining towns, saying that Ontario is laid out much the same way, and Febbraro agreed.
“You literally can transpose one place on the other,” he said. “The mining sector — it’s a small family.”
While in Elko, both groups participated in roundtable discussions with area mining professionals. The Australians introduced themselves to guests from area mining companies, including Newmont, Kinross Gold Corp., Jerritt Canyon Gold, KGHM and Elko Mining Group. Some of those companies, along with a representative from Geotemp, greeted the Canadians for their roundtable discussion.
From an economic development perspective, these operators and others might not get enough credit for the work they do in the state, Mudd said.
“They’re here and every year, they’re putting millions of dollars into projects,” he said.
The event allowed the existing companies to discuss challenges and share ideas on how prospective businesses could engage with the local sector, said Javier Jativa with Trade and Investment Queensland, a statutory body of the Queensland State Government in Australia.
Visitors from both groups asked established operators about topics such as workforce training, public perception of foreign goods and services, and how to best serve Nevada mines. The response from those at the roundtable during both sessions seemed to form the consensus that to enter the local market, new companies would have to provide excellent price, stellar customer service, and a product or service that truly fits the needs of their clients. Only then would a business relationship last.
“You really have to plunge yourself into Elko,” said Nigel Bain, executive director of Barrick U.S.A., who explained that Barrick makes an effort to patronize businesses with Nevada addresses.
Stimulating the local economy is also important to smaller operations such as Jerritt Canyon Gold.
“It’s important to me to know that I’ve made my contribution,” said Jerritt Canyon’s Bill Hofer, because mining money spent locally stays in and supports the community. “If the supply chain is here … it helps the economy.”