While ownership groups have changed over the past 25 years, a manufacturing plant on Kamloops’ east side never stopped producing an essential element for the mining industry.
And with its 25th anniversary, Moly-Cop is looking at a capital expansion that would allow it to double its annual production capacity.
Maurice Hindle, an engineer who came to Kamloops from Stelco in Edmonton to help start the operation, said the continuing global commodity boom is running Moly-Cop up against its limited capacity.
“We’ve been at or near capacity for the past couple years. We almost expanded back in 2008, but held up fortunately.”
Two years after the world plunged into the Great Recession, metals prices have rebounded and remained strong. That’s kept operations, including Highland Valley Copper, running and highly profitable.
The company manufactures forged steel heat-treated grinding balls, ranging in diameter from one inch to 5.5 inches, used in milling ore.
Now owned by Australian firm OneSteel Ltd., Moly-Cop is holding an open house Sept. 22 to celebrate production of two million tonnes of grinding media and to talk about its plans for expansion. Owners over the years have included mining giant Anglo-American, Stelco and GSI.
Its products are shipped as far as Russia.
One of the guests at the open house will be retired MLA Claude Richmond, who was on hand 25 years ago as an MLA to celebrate the opening. He’d also worked hard to lure to the company to Kamloops.
“We were working hard to diversify the economy,” Richmond said. “Kamloops was a boom and bust economy.”
In addition to a successful push to have B.C. Lottery Corp. move here, Richmond worked to locate Moly-Cop in Kamloops, rather than rival Alberta.
“It was a natural place to put it. We were competing with Alberta.”
In the late 1980s, Hindle agreed Kamloops was a natural location for the plant due to the number of neighbouring mines, including Afton and Brenda mines.
“Twenty-five years ago Kamloops was a centre of mining.”
Today, that reputation looks to return as Highland Valley Copper plans to produce until at least 2025, New Gold Inc. will open its New Afton Mine next year, Copper Mountain at Princeton is reborn and KGHM-Ajax plans to develop an open pit copper mine immediately south of Kamloops.
Hindle said Moly-Cop has been maximizing its output to about 100,000 metric tonnes a year. It is now working on engineering and layout plans to increase that tonnage to between 162,000 and 200,000 tonnes a year. To do so it will have to lease or purchase adjoining land.
It will also focus on sustainability and utilizing renewable resources for its expansion.
Moly-Cop began with 50 employees. Today it has 56 workers and produces more than double its original annual output through investment in technology.
Hindle said the expansion will undoubtedly require more staff but it is too early to say how many.
While Kamloops shed its boom and bust reputation beginning in the the 1990s, mining is unlikely to ever escape the cycle. Despite that business cycle, Hindle noted Moly-Cop has never laid off staff.
“We have a lot of employees who’ve been with us for more than 20 years,” He said. “We don’t have any turnover. We’ve gone through cycles. We’ve kept people employed from Day 1. It’s given us an experienced workforce.”