The slow down of the uranium mining industry in northern Saskatchewan has been difficult for the businesses that depend upon mining companies as major clients. Northern Resource Trucking is one of many companies that were forced to give their revenue streams a good hard look when Cameco closed their Rabbit Lake, Key Lake, and McArthur River operations. While a full recovery is expected, the timeline remains fuzzy. In the meantime, NRT needed to diversify in order to protect itself from the ebbs and flows of a single industry.
Around the same time as Cameco’s closures, the New Gold mine near Emo, Ontario was under construction. NRT formed a limited partnership with the Big Grassy River First Nation from Morson, Ontario called Big Grassy Logistics Limited Partnership. BGL landed a contract hauling lime from Faulkner, Manitoba to the New Gold mine. Later, they added van loads, other chemicals, explosive emulsions, and propane to that list.
“It became evident that there was business in Manitoba and northwestern Ontario,” NRT President Dave McIlmoyl says. “And that it was going to be difficult to service that business from Saskatoon. We approached Trimac and rented office and yard space at one of their Winnipeg terminals in order to expand our operation in the east.”
NRT was also approached by a company called First Nations Mining Economic Development Corporation, which is owned by nine First Nations in northern Manitoba, about another partnership. Piwapisk Hauling Limited Partnership was formed by NRT and FNMEDC. Now all three companies share the Winnipeg terminal and Operations Manager, Dave Gravatt.
Through these new partnerships, NRT has expanded its operations and found business hauling chemicals from various producers in Winnipeg to a number of destinations in western Canada. The New Gold mine business has grown and NRT has been successful in getting work using the Winnipeg location. Currently, there are six NRT trucks and ten trailers stationed at the Manitoba terminal.
“Glen Ertell (VP of Operations) and I make regular trips to Winnipeg to find more work,” McIlmoyl says. “Our goal is to have ten trucks stationed in Winnipeg by the end of 2020.”
When the uranium industry picks back up and Cameco puts all its mines back online, NRT will be more than ready to take on their previous workload. However, now that the company has branched outside of the province, they have no plans to go back to being just a Saskatchewan operation.
“When you do really specialized work in a particular industry it’s easy to pigeon hole yourself,” McIlmoyl says. “We have learned that our specialized skills are easily adaptable to other provinces and other industries. We hope to continue to branch out and grow these skills as opportunities arise.”