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Company of the Year (51+ Employees): Cementation Canada Inc.

Highly respected in the local community, Cementation is an anchor of the more than 60 companies in North Bay’s rapidly expanding mining service and supply sector.

Showing respect for clients, suppliers, and its employees is what makes Cementation Canada a world-class company in more ways than on the balance sheet.

Though the name of the 1,500-employee mine contracting and engineering firm has gone through some slight modifications through ownership changes over its 10-year existence, it's safety-based, people-first values have remained unchanged.

"If you make those commitments in writing, you will be put to the test every day and have to live by them," says company president Roy Slack, who first hung out his shingle in 1998 under the banner Kvaerner Cementation.

Now owned by Murray & Roberts Holdings, Cementation Canada is one of Canada's busiest underground mine engineers and builders and has developed a stellar reputation for its technical innovation and the general welfare of its employees.

Highly respected in the local community, Cementation is an anchor of the more than 60 companies in North Bay’s rapidly expanding mining service and supply sector.

Sinking shafts and underground mine construction is a results-oriented business. But the company has instilled a deeply-engrained value system about working safely, about building long-term relationships with clients and partners, and treating their people well, beyond just a solid pay cheque.

To Slack, creating the company was not only about building a business, so much as it was about defining a culture. And he was fully prepared to back up those core values that were written into Cementation's mission statement.

"Living by those values is what establishes a culture, it's not what's on the paper."

Besides offering challenging work and career-expanding opportunities, Cementation does a lot of the little things right for its employees. For example, the company provides maternity top-up benefits for female employees and helps employees plan for retirement by offering to match RSP contributions.

There are incentives like year-end bonuses and a profit-sharing plan for all employees. Employees wanting to upgrade their education can take advantage of generous staff tuition subsidies for courses at academic institutions.

Small wonder the company is a two-time winner as one of 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 involving more than 72,000 companies.

He welcomes the scrutiny and the employee feedback to compare themselves to other Top 100 companies and find ways to improve. "We've used that to guide us on our benefits program and in our safety awards program."

Headquartered in North Bay, the company's stamp is on some of the largest capital projects in Northern Ontario and has a presence in many big mining camps.

There's a slew of ongoing design and development work at Goldcorp's Red Lake Mine, Xstrata's Copper Kidd Mine D in Timmins, a First Nations partnership at the Diavik Diamond Mine in the Northwest Territories, plus projects in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Idaho, Arizona and northern Mexico.

The Sudbury camp remains, by far, Cementation's biggest area of activity with award-winning surface and underground construction at Xstrata's flagship Nickel Rim South project, Vale Inco's Coleman, Totten and Copper Cliff Deep Mines; plus excavation work for FNX Mining.

Their 2007-2008 fiscal year stands to be their best financial performance yet with $255 million in revenues and projected annual growth of 12 per cent over the next three years.

Slack says the lengthy list of project achievements with huge profits is great for the bottom line, says Slack, but it's more important to be a good company that pays its employees well, properly trains and equips them to be safe.

Despite working in one of the most complex, physically-demanding and hazardous workplace environments, the company has received top marks for the last two years by the Ontario Mine Contractors Safety Association.

Over his 26-year mining career with various companies, Slack is only too familiar with the small margins of safety. However, that steadfast commitment never comes in conflict with the pressure-filled demands of staying on schedule.

"When your project is safe, we find the productivity is high. There's the perception you can go faster by taking shortcuts."

Slack says the industry has learned that taking 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."

Last November, the company proudly proclaimed a major milestone at their Red Lake project. Cementation completed work on the longest and largest diameter raise ever bored in the Canadian Shield without incident, either first aid, medical aid or lost time injury. It's a record that continues today and at their Nickel Rim South project in Sudbury.

"A key part of our vision is to fundamentally change the way mine contracting is carried out within our industry."

That kind of reliability and adherence to safety is always welcomed by clients.