An invitation to West Africa

Serigne Mbaye Niang would like to invite Northern Ontario mining professionals to visit the thriving industry in West Africa.

After touring Sudbury area mining supply and service businesses, mining operations, and training programs, the Senegalese equipment and construction supplier is convinced of the potential for partnerships between the two regions.

“People here don’t know about other parts of Africa. They know South Africa. Mining is new in West Africa,” said Niang, but he’s proud of the past 15 years of rapidly developing gold and basic metal mining industries.

“New mines are opening every one to two years now.” Niang was part of a delegation from West Africa at the Maintenance, Engineering and Reliability/Mine Operations Conference (MeMO) in Sudbury in October.

The West African delegates were there for more than MeMO, though, participating in Franco-Mine, concurrent french language programming for the conference developed by the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM), which ran the Sudbury event.

Franco-Mine was originally developed by CIM as an accompaniment for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) annual convention in Toronto.

This edition of Franco-Mine in Northern Ontario grew out of a realization that the two regions have untapped opportunities for partnerships.

“We said there’s some work being done in West Africa by Quebec, so why not us?” said Marla Tremblay, the owner of Markey Consulting, who was hired to put together the delegation.

The Sudbury edition of Franco-Mine was organized by Laurentian’s Francophone Affairs, the Goodman School of Mines, Laurentian Mining Innovation and Technology (LMIT), and the Greater City of Sudbury Development Corporation (GSDC).

“There is an under-served market that may be of interest to our Sudbury-based suppliers,” said Sylvie Landry, the director of collaborations and partnerships at Laurentian’s Francophone Affairs.

“They just trying to get a sense of what’s available here and what opportunities are available for partnering with Sudbury basin companies.

There are gaps from the West African standpoint from what suppliers are already there.”

For example, Niang said his equipment supply company is able to supply smaller type machinery to mining operations, but big machinery and equipment are a difficulty for them at the moment. “We need to have partnerships for that,” said Niang.

There is potential for academic alongside business partnerships, said the organizers, who took the delegation to Laurentian University, Collège Boréal and the Northern Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT).

“Sometimes their colleges and universities aren’t focused around mining. There are opportunities for them to partner with our institutions to develop their own programs to develop their own labour force,” said Landry.

Niang agreed that academic partnerships would fill gaps for local training.

“A lot of overseas expertise come to train here, but it’s not economically useful. We need local expertise.”

Besides wearing his supply company’s hat, Niang came to Sudbury as the serving president of Senegal’s alliance of mining supply and service companies, similar to the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA).

He said his group can draw a lot from the Sudbury sector’s dynamics.

“We saw the Sudbury experience, the relationship between industry and suppliers, and how research and development is supporting the industry. This is the kind of relations that we want here.”

Landry said this it just the start of the relationship between the two regions.

“It’s one of these things. It takes time to build a relationship, and it’s a good start,” she said. “We’re just saying, don’t forget about West Africa.”

Niang headed home feeling optimistic about future partnerships between the two regions.

“We hope that Sudbury will be more interested in West Africa and come have a visit as we did here.”