Impala Canada’s Lac des Iles Mine, previously owned by North American Palladium before 2019, is likely the closest mine to Thunder Bay, located 85 kilometres north on Highway 527 to Armstrong. The palladium mine has been in operation for nearly 30 years and one thing that has remained consistent is its buy-local approach.

Dale Gregory, the procurement co-ordinator of Lac des Iles, Impala Canada, says they aim to try to spend as much of their procurement money as locally as they can. 

“The company wants to see that procurement group facilitate that wherever possible,” he said. “We still look for (good) pricing because that’s still a major factor in a purchasing decision. But we’re also looking at (obtaining) local, in Thunder Bay and North, Northwestern Ontario.  

Gregory says as they search further away, they maintain their attempts to “try to keep the doors open as close to home as possible in Northwestern Ontario while being mindful of all of their suppliers, particularly with Indigenous content.

“It takes a lot of stuff to operate a mine. There’s a huge camp facility with 500 people living there everyday,” he said. 

“It’s like a small community up there. We need building materials, food and everything for a household, plus the mine itself. So we’re trying to spend all that money locally, wherever possible.”

Gregory represented Impala Canada at the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce Prosperity Northwest trade show in February, to promote their new procurement portal. Both new and existing suppliers are urged to register on the portal to indicate to Impala Canada the supplies or services that they can provide for the mining operation. 

“We will use that portal when we are looking for something or tendering a job to do business with us,” Gregory said. “We’re really pushing to get every existing supplier signed up and of course gather new suppliers.”

The mine is in need of many supplies and services which include everything from construction services to diamond drilling.

“We’re looking for goods as well, like safety supplies. Just about everything you could think of is required at the site,” he said. 

“Because we live there, we have all the same stuff that a house would require. Plus we have all the things that a mine would require.”

With a rotation of about 850 direct employees and many contractors that visit the mine, he said that at any given time, there’s an average of about 550 people on site. 

Gregory said that Impala Canada has a constant need for skilled trades workers.

“We are always looking for mechanics, millwrights, welders, skilled tradespeople and it’s where we seem like we’re in constant short supply,” he said. 

“We’re mining and milling more ore than ever before and it takes more people to do all that.” 

The major use for palladium is for catalytic converters in automobiles. It’s also used in electronics and jewelry. 

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 21, 2023 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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