Mining supply company bets on Yukon

A multinational underground mine supply company has set up shop in the Yukon. The move results from a unique partnership between Yukon's three producing mine companies, Capstone Mining Corp., Yukon Zinc Corp.

A multinational underground mine supply company has set up shop in the Yukon.

The move results from a unique partnership between Yukon’s three producing mine companies, Capstone Mining Corp., Yukon Zinc Corp. and Alexco Resource Corp.

The three joined forces to sign a contract for JENNMAR Corp. to supply the highly specialized hardware required to bolster underground mine tunnels.

It’s the first time a partnership like this has happened anywhere in the world that JENNMAR is aware of, said project manager Tim Lefler.

“It’s just very unique.”

The company’s bold entry into the Yukon market may be surprising given recent hard times in the mining industry.

Alexco and Yukon Zinc have both announced layoffs within the last month in response to falling mineral prices.

Yukon Zinc’s cutbacks, announced only yesterday, will include a 40 per cent drop in production at the Wolverine mine.

And construction at Victoria Gold’s Eagle mine has also been delayed by poor market conditions. That company, too, has announced layoffs in recent days.

All that bad news doesn’t phase Lefler in the slightest.

“JENNMAR has never in its entire history laid off a single employee, whether it gets slow or whatever,” he said. “We’re here, we’re here to stay. If it gets slow, our people will still be employed and we’ll still have product here for when the mines need it. We don’t lay anybody off.”

Lefler, originally from Bracebridge, Ontario, has only been with the company for about one-and-a-half years.

But he believes in JENNMAR’s business ethic and defends it with almost religious enthusiasm.

With factories and warehouses on six continents, it remains a family company at its core, he said.

Setting up a warehouse in Whitehorse was not a requirement of the contract to serve the three mining companies, said Lefler.

But JENNMAR believes in providing the best service to customers and supporting local economies and communities, he said.

The company has committed to supporting the Yukon Imagination Library, the Every Student, Every Day fund, bursaries for high school graduates and Yukon College mining students, and youth hockey teams across the territory.

“We believe in supporting the families in the local communities,” said Lefler.

All supplies and equipment for the company’s new warehouse near the airport have been purchased locally where possible, he said.

“We bought a tractor trailer in town, spent $200,000 on that.”

The company was born in 1972 in Pittsburgh, and specialized in manufacturing roof-support systems for underground mines.

It’s basic products are wire mesh to cover the hard rock surface, combined with long bolts fitted with metal plates to pin the mesh into place.

“We make products to keep miners safe to bring them home to their families.”

In the warehouse yard, Lefler showed off a shipment of 1,000 PYTHON bolts, destined for Capstone’s Minto mine.

The specialty bolt starts out collapsed in on itself, but can be expanded to fill a drill hole using water pressure.

The company has built its reputation on great products and great service, said Lefler.

“Our owner (Frank Calandra), he’s always thinking. He’s like five years ahead. He’s 75 years old, but he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He’s always thinking ahead, ahead of everyone else.

“They’ve taken a business from nothing, and now it’s a billion-dollar business.”

Lefler will be in town until about the end of September. By then he will have hired local personnel to run the warehouse and make deliveries to the mines as required.

They are looking to hire about four people, for now, he said.

“We’re just starting up, but it’s going to get bigger. If we get so big, we have so much material that we can’t handle it here, we’ll find a bigger (warehouse). And if we can’t find one, we’ll build one.”

So far the company’s welcome in the Yukon has been very warm, he said.

“What amazing people you Yukoners are, let me tell you. I’ve never been to a place – and I’ve been all over the world – where people as so friendly and helpful. And it’s genuine, it’s not fake. Some places you go to and you know it’s fake. It’s not fake here.”

David Laxton, Speaker of Yukon’s legislature, has even agreed to take him fishing.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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