By IAN ROSS
Roy Slack is has built the kind of company he always wanted to work for.
The president of one of Canada's largest mine builders has developed a stellar company reputation for safety and a great place to work.
Cementation Canada's core values will always be people-based. "As you go through your career, you see things that are done right and things that could be done better," says Slack, 49.
"To me, it was always about good people and treating them right. That's pretty basic stuff, there's no revelations there."
With skilled labour in mining always in short supply, the company offers employees extended benefits, a good compensation program, bonus packages and profit-sharing for field and administrative staff.
There's always been little perks such as providing an employee and family assistance program where workers can get professional and confidential advice if they're struggling with personal problems.
For two successive years, Cementation ( a division of South Africa's Murray and Roberts) has been chosen among Canada's Top 100 Employers.
Slack says receiving that national honour was one of the most gratifying moments of his career, knowing how rigorous the selection process is.
"If you make those commitments in writing, you will be put to the test every day and have to live by them.
"Living by those values is what establishes a culture."
Mining wasn't always in Slack's career plans. The Kingston-raised, Queen's University grad spent his first two post-secondary years majoring in psychology.
A schoolmate convinced him to jump to engineering where the practical application of mathematics and physics always appealed to him. His summers were spent in Ontario's North at mining camps were a "real eye-opener."
After graduating with a mine engineering degree, his first job with J.S. Redpath took him to projects in the Magadalen Islands, Timmins, Hemlo-Marathon, Val-D'Or, and British Columbia, but also overseas to view projects in the U.S., South America, South Africa and Europe.
In his 26 years in mining, Slack is only too familiar with the half-inch margins of safety.
The company proudly announced a major milestone last November. Cementation completed work on the longest and largest diametre raise ever bored in the Canadian Shield (694 metres long by 5.52 metres diametre) without incident, first aid, medical aid or long time injury.
"Being a safe company is about respecting your employees."
Slack says maintaining a steadfast commitment to safety with proper training,. equipment and planning never comes in conflict with the pressure-filled demands of keeping on schedule.
"When a project is safe, production is high. There's the perception you can go faster by taking shortcuts."
But the industry is learning that shortcuts usually results in project delays, injuries or worse.
"If you take the time to do it right, in the long run you'll be ahead. Part of our vision is to fundamentally change the way mine contracting is carried out in our industry."
That kind of reliability and adherence to safety is always welcomed by clients.
The company has a select few clients but a huge stable of ongoing work including the Picadilly potash and salt mine in New Brunswick, Goldcorp's Red Lake Mine and the Diavik diamond mine in the Arctic.
But the Sudbury mining camp is its big area of activity building Xstrata's Nickel Rim project, working with Vale Inco on its Coleman shaft and Copper Cliff Deep, plus additional development work for those companies plus FNX Mining.
By July, Cementation will be expanding its footprint into the U.S. with an office in Salt Lake City, Utah to oversee its Lucky Friday silver development in Idaho and its growing work in Arizona.
Slack is also a champion for industry by reviving and chairing North Bay's once-dormant chapter of the local Canadian Institute of Mining (CIM), participating in local mining week activities and going into schools to promote careers and a positive public perception of mining.