Going big

World renowned global engineering company FLSmidth doesn’t do anything small. With over 10,000 employees worldwide and branches in over 40 countries, the company is a goliath of industry. So it is fitting that the Canadian FLSmidth branch is making international waves for its work with ultra large mining equipment.

The FLSmidth Canadian mines division has been in Orillia, Ontario, Canada since 1927, and has been a staple in the indefatigable—Canada is in the top three countries for underground mining, along with South Africa and Australia—minerals processing industry ever since.  FLSmidth is proudly carrying on its legacy of pioneering engineering technology with its work in underground mining equipment.

The mining division’s bread and butter is outfitting mine shafts and hoisting plants; that includes the cages for the workers to ride in, crushers, feeders as well as the shafts and hoists themselves. FLSmidth will provide equipment customised to the size and scale of a particular mine. And as the mines are getting larger, the equipment is as well, making FLSmidth experts on building some of the world’s largest hoists.

“We recently supplied the largest head shive ever supplied in North America. It is 21.5 feet in diameter and is at the I.M Gold Westwood project in northern Quebec,” says Jim Brownlee, Mines Manager at FLSmidth.

This is reflective of an overarching industry trend in mining, where we are seeing mines that were once thought of as extraordinarily large become the norm. “A lot of these mines are getting bigger and bigger,” says Brownlee, who cites the spike in potash mining in Saskatchewan as an example. “We have supplied some of the largest skips ever to the potash industry. All of those mines are upgrading and going to bigger and bigger equipment. We are supplying most of those mines and companies who are buying the largest skips in the world from us.”

FLSmidth is also breaking ground (pardon the pun) in shaft sinking technology. The company is not only working at the Ivanhoe Mongolia mine,  but also with Resolution Copper in Arizona which is set to be one of the world’s largest underground copper mines and will require what is known as ultra big equipment.


“The real target is Chile” says Brownlee. FLSmidth has very recently announced a partnership with Mineral Lumina Chile worth over $US75 million for work in Chilean open pit mines, the largest in the world.

The contract will see FLSmidth supply the engineering and processing equipment for the Caserones copper and molybdenum plant in central Chile, a plant which will process around 105,000 tonnes per day of primary and secondary copper ore.

 “Chile’s pit mines are now beginning to run out of space and they have to begin sinking shafts. These mines in Chile will be the largest mines in the world and the equipment supplied there will be bigger than anybody has seen anywhere,” beams Brownlee.

The significance this contract holds for FLSmidth demonstrates that the company is the primary supplier of process equipment to the mining and metals industry.  The company engineers and delivers the equipment needed within weeks of the order placement and, most importantly, can accommodate size requirements previously unseen.

Everything needed in a mine

Despite the success FLSmidth have in ultra large equipment, the company is still a world leader in smaller equipment. “We make big and small and everything in between. There isn’t anything that is mined underground that we don’t work in, whether it is salt, potash, uranium, coal, gold, nickel, you name it,” says Brownlee. “Our product line is everything needed at a mine.”

“Our customers would tell you we have a great reputation for good design and quality,” smiles Brownlee. The FLSmidth team routinely replace competitors’ equipment, and it very seldom happens the other way around. In fact, the clientele are almost family now, having been with the company for dozens of years, some of them.

The proof of that is found in the number of FLSmidth customers who contract 100 per cent of their installations work with the company. “Pretty well every operation our customers have all over the world works exclusively with us.” That the corporate family of FLSmidth customers stick with FLSmidth, is “a feather in our hat,” says Brownlee.

Presently, the company is expanding to meet the demands of a twenty first century mine. “We are developing expertise and we are taking the expertise from our other offices globally. Our skills transfer all over the world,” laughs Brownlee.

From Canada, to the world. FLSmidth are in perpetual innovation mode, and are turning industry heads with the scale of the equipment they are producing. By staying ahead of the curve, they are working with mining companies to progress the industry as a whole.