ELKO — The Elko Reverse Expo was back in town for the fourth year on Wednesday, giving mine operators and vendors an opportunity to network in a uniquely formatted event.
In conjunction with this year’s expo, a trade mission of vendors from Greater Sudbury, Ontario is spending several days in Elko working on opportunities for productive interactions between Northern Nevada and their region of Canada.
The expo had morning and afternoon sessions where mine operators sat at tables and had brief appointments with mining vendors and service people. That’s why it’s called a “reverse” expo, because the tables are switched from a regular expo where the vendors sit at booths and hope that mine operators stop by.
In addition to the short “speed dating” sessions between the mine operators and vendors, the expo also offers plenty of opportunities for people to visit and talk about ways they might be able to work together.
The expo was hosted by the Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority and the Nevada Mining Association, and was also sponsored by the Sudbury Area Mining Supply & Service Association, which brought the trade mission group from Ontario.
NNRDA Executive Director Sheldon Mudd said that because of the expo’s format, only a limited number of people can participate.
“It’s kind of exclusive event; you have to get in fast if you want to be part of it,” he said. “I get calls throughout the year asking about this.”
More than 10 mining operators participated in this year’s expo, along with about 45 vendor companies.
People attending the expo agreed that it is a worthwhile event.
“I’ve been learning a lot,” said Renee Hurt of Jerritt Canyon Gold, who was attending the expo for the first time.
Michael Fargey of EnerBurn said he was happy about the number of people he has gotten to know at the expo.
The trade mission from the Sudbury area of Ontario brought about 20 people from 10 companies to visit with mining people in Elko for several days.
Paul Bradette, director of business development for SAMSSA, explained that now is a good time to be developing relationships between the two regions. The Sudbury region, which sits on some of rockiest ground in the world, specializes in underground hard rock mining, whereas the Elko region does a lot of open pit mining. Sudbury is now starting to do some open pit mining, and Elko is doing some more underground mining, so there is an opportunity for the equipment and supply businesses in the two areas to provide their expertise to the miners in both areas.
“Their service and supply infrastructure, their supply chain there is phenomenal,” Mudd said of the Sudbury area. “It’s all right there to support their mining industry. I went up there in April of 2017 and I saw it for myself, and I said, ‘Boy how nice that would be if we had a more robust supply chain infrastructure here.’
He said some of the Sudbury companies might set up distribution and service companies here, and possibly might move into doing some manufacturing here in the future.
“It would be great if we had some more manufacturing facilities in town,” Mudd said. “That’s what we’re always shooting for, trying to change things up.”
He said there are three or four Sudbury companies that have been looking at property in the Elko area.
“They’re scoping things out and trying to determine if this is going to work,” Mudd said.
“I can tell you right now, that sooner rather than later, you’ll probably see three or four announcements,” Bradette said. “That’s a result of the work that Sheldon does.”
Bradette said there are several ongoing joint venture deals between Sudbury and Elko people.
“That’s awesome,” Bradette said. “So they can employ the people here locally but leverage the expertise and the engineering and service the local mines. I’m sure your mining guys will tell you that it’s nice if it’s somebody local when you need something, as opposed to bringing in equipment from Australia.”
Mudd said that one time when Bradette visited Elko he commented that “Northern Nevada is one of the United States’ best kept secrets.”
“That is good in one way, but it’s a shame in another,” Mudd said. “We’ve got to let people know what opportunities exist here.”
He said that with all the recent mining news in this area, and with Nevada placing in the top spot in this year’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies published by the Fraser Institute on Feb. 28, now is the time to be letting people know about Northern Nevada.
“Having all these folks here at this time is perfect,” Mudd said “There’s a lot going on in Nevada, and we want them to be a part of it.”
Bradette emphasized that the relationship between Subbury and Elko works both ways. The Sudbury mining people also need the unique expertise that the Elko people have.
“I think it’s a win-win,” Bradette said.
One of the companies in Elko with the Sudbury trade mission was Hard-Line, which provides equipment for mining automation and remote control. The company has been around for 23 years, and some technology they are using now has been around for more than 15 years, but Gabriel Janakaraj, Hard-Line’s vice president of special projects, said that the use of the technology has really been picking up in just the last two years.
In the past, Janakaraj said, some miners rebelled against the automation technology, and some mining companies were slow to adopt it, but now more miners and mining companies are seeing the advantages of automation. Miners can save a lot of time by getting right to work in a remote-control console. In the future, it will be possible to design underground mines for remote control equipment, with less ventilation and smaller work spaces, providing big cost savings.
“It’s not eliminating jobs, because you still need mechanics, maintenance people, operators … Except now you’re increasing their ability to do more with a better management of assets,” Janakaraj said.
Hard-Line has been working with Barrick on some automation technology on mines in the Elko area. Hard-Line’s biggest partner has been Goldcorp, which Newmont is now in the process of acquiring.
Hard-Line has their headquarters in Sudbury and offices in Peru and Chile, along with a worldwide network of distributors. They opened a sales and support office in Salt Lake City almost three years ago.
“We’re rapidly growing,” Janakaraj said. “We’re looking to capture more talent in the Elko area. We want to hire people from Elko to service the Elko projects and the surrounding region. Mining’s not stopping, and we aren’t stopping either.”