Working in the cyclical boom-and-bust resource industry of Northern Ontario means making the most of your opportunities.
Dryden’s Bob Ray and RES Equipment Sales have done just that in building a rapport with mining industry players across Canada and internationally.
The 14-employee Dryden mining supplier is considered a cornerstone company of an emerging supply and service centre in northwestern Ontario.
RES Equipment is a provider of new and used mining equipment, parts and service to major mining players on just about every continent.
When Ray started the company 15 years ago, his forte was his ability to find hard-to-get pieces of specialty equipment for customers in the forestry and mining industry.
Those early days of hustling, stockpiling parts, and providing reliable service have translated into a substantial customer base and repeat business.
With the mining industry starting to rebound and dozens of mineral exploration projects occurring within a 100-kilometre radius of Dryden, companies from all over now come looking to RES Equipment.
The business certainly has maximum exposure with its main office and warehouse located right on the Trans-Canada Highway.
“Anybody that crosses from one end of Canada to the other has to go by my door,” said Ray, the company’s president.
Dealing with challenge and adversity is a fact of life in the mining industry and his company.
The 2008 global economic crash meant sluggish annual sales of $3.8 million, which improved slightly to more than $4.5 million last year.
“We had 18 months where we never sold any major pieces of equipment,” said Ray, yet the company kept refurbishing and showcasing their supply of used scoop trams, underground personnel carriers and rockbreakers.
The company has diversified with local contracts for snowplowing, landscaping, roadbuilding, aggregate hauling and equipment rentals of skid steer loaders, excavators, trucks, trailers and service vehicles. They also supply drill core storage racks for exploration companies.
“This year has been the biggest year for us” by doing repairs on bulldozers, skidders and the muskeg tractors that haul diamond drill rigs to remote sites, said Ray.
“Our shop has been full for half the summer with exploration equipment. We’re kind of basking in this new-found opportunity. I have a history of taking opportunity as it comes and running with it.”
As a Class A mechanic and technical service representative for other national equipment suppliers, Ray has known mining for 30 years. His first entrepreneurial attempt to break into the extremely competitive and tight-knit Sudbury mine service market in the early 1990s was a tough nut to crack.
So he pulled up stakes and went back home to Dryden.
What began as a one-man, garage-based business would eventually expand into a welding and fabrication shop, and expand again into a large warehouse and office space.
Ray also began landing the Canadian distribution rights to various equipment makers of pneumatic drills, hydraulic rockbreakers, hoses, fittings and adapters.
Once he began travelling and making sales calls beyond Sudbury, it was much easier to get his foot in the door.
No one local was servicing the mining industry in northwestern Ontario, and with the Red Lake gold mining camp only a two-hour drive away, Dryden was as good as anywhere to be his headquarters.
Through the web, “we can really service the entire world. We found that our location is not a deterrent at all.”
About 50 per cent of their sales – mostly refurbished equipment – is shipped out internationally to Russia, Africa, Australia, Europe and South America.
Though the Internet plays a big part in their sales, it’s mainly culled from their hefty database of industry contacts. They search North American mine sites for used equipment, then haul them back to the Dryden shop to rebuild.
New and rebuilt jumbo drillers, rock drills, scoops and utility carriers are shipped to clients such as Goldcorp, HudBay Mining and Smelting, Renda Pacific, Stillwater Mining and various U.S. equipment brokers.
Ray hasn’t completely turned his back on Sudbury. He maintains a parts and service office in the Nickel City and counts Vale as one of his biggest customers.
“We’ve shown 15 years of growth and we anticipate more as we expand beyond equipment sales and into contracting. My hope is that the exploration projects that are close to Dryden will really enhance our opportunities here to become solidly entrenched as a major supplier to our area.”