This story is part of the mining sector series.
To learn more about export opportunities for companies in this sector, please read Canada as a global mining leader: With the current downturn, now is the time for the industry to innovate
Vancouver’s CEC Mining Systems had a plan to dig into world markets from the start. As Cameron Stockman, director of operations and business development notes, exports are bred into the company’s ethos.
“All of our sales so far are export sales,” he says. “In 2015/2016, Mexico was the largest share of that, having completed two projects there that represented 75 per cent of revenues.”
Canada’s mining industry is a major contributor to the Canadian economy, adding $57 billion to our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014 and accounting for 20 per cent of Canadian exports.
Besides Mexico, CECMS has also exported its cutting-edge ceramic disc-vacuum filtration systems for ‘dry-stack’ tailings to Brazil and Chile. This technology provides a sound environmental alternative to the treatment of slurried tailings – a waste product from mining operations that includes unrecoverable and uneconomic metals, minerals, chemicals, organics and process water. Among its benefits CECMS’s technology helps conserve and enhance the re-use of water, and dramatically lowers energy consumption.
In a demonstration of its strong global position, the firm is currently working to secure projects in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, the U.S., Australia, Myanmar and South Africa.
Focusing on export growth from the outset has meant planning everything around the attainment of a global competitive edge.
EDC resources to help you export
Having the firm’s head office on the Pacific Rim in Vancouver, for example, has enabled effective market-entry into the Americas and the rest of Asia-Pacific due to logistical and time zone advantages. A Vancouver location also brought the added advantage of being incubated by the Canada Export Centre Corp. (ECC), an international trade and export development company that provides resources, expertise and support to help companies successfully access foreign markets. Additionally, CECMS has established strong supply-chain partnerships.
Stockman says that as CECMS has expanded to produce larger and higher-value equipment, managing cash flow and credit risk has become very important. The firm has also established after-market service support partners in Brazil, Chile and Mexico.
Among the lessons learned, CECMS company leaders say global success requires being attuned to cultural differences, specifically ethics as well as business practices, which vary greatly from country to country – and even more distinctly between the North American market and the rest of the Americas.
“To flourish internationally, you need to overcome logistical, cultural, ethical and legal dilemmas, but most importantly you must remember that what will succeed in one market may not [succeed] in another,” says Stockman. “CECMS business operations, sales and project management strategies are quite different in each jurisdiction that we operate in, as we continue to focus on finding new solutions for each individual client.”
He adds, “conducting oneself ethically, without question, is the most profitable and enduring business practice in the long term.”
According to Stockman, global success has also required tenacity and creativity, especially in recent years during which the mining industry faced continuing weakened commodity prices that have forced the industry to rethink, retool and respond strategically. For CECMS facing that reality spelled opportunity.
“While much money, many suppliers, consultants and sales agents turned away from mining when the metal prices crashed, we continued to focus on generating value-added alternatives to companies – firms that were finally able to focus on optimizing existing operations, not being distracted by their management’s never-ending desire for expanding the project pipeline with new greenfield mines, and able to think creatively about new technology solutions,” Stockman says. “We’ve also continued to invest in people, good projects and building relationships with end-users.”
Looking forward, innovation will continue to be a critical success factor in the global market. Stockman is a firm believer that companies cannot solve their problems without finding new and better ways of doing things.
“You cannot attempt to solve same-old problems with same-old solutions,” he says.