Stabilizing harvest costs with SLIM Contracting

A new investment in SLIM Contracting means stable long-term product prices for Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals clients.

Every company must deal with increasing operating costs, and Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals is no exception. The annual raw material harvest represents a quarter of our company’s production costs, and over the past few years, third-party contractor costs for the harvest have increased significantly.

Last spring, the team acknowledged this trend was unlikely to change. We met last April and decided to meet the challenge in a new way: rather than continuing to work with third-party contractors on the harvest, we would invest in a contractor of our own.

Investing in SLIM Contracting

With this goal, our team approached SLIM Contracting last summer, a company that supplies heavy equipment in Alberta and Saskatchewan. SLIM Contracting President Shane Marchand welcomed our proposal. “It was really a win for both companies, and a great fit for our resources, skill set and culture. We’re excited to be aligned with a company with the reputation and longevity of Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals.”

SLIM Contracting now provides all equipment for the harvest, from high capacity excavators to crawlers and 40-tonne mining trucks, as well as the manpower required for the raw salt harvest. The Chaplin team provides ongoing direction and mechanical expertise. The teams first came together to work on the 2013 raw salt harvest.

Chaplin-based General Manager Brent Avery says, “It’s a bit of symbiotic relationship. There is a lot of activity happening in a small area during the harvest period. Each operator, SLIM Contracting and Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals, understands and respects what the other is trying to accomplish. Good communication helps us ensure a safe, efficient work environment.”

Avery notes that working with SLIM Contracting has brought a fresh spirit of cooperation to an already smooth-running harvest operation. “Everyone was on the same playbook as to what and when tasks needed to be accomplished. It made for a stress-free, mistake-free harvest.”

Improving quality control

Having ownership of the harvest contractor allows the Chaplin team more control over performance, Avery notes. While the fundamental goal of the new investment was to reduce operating costs, working with SLIM Contracting has also improved quality control, owing to better management of reservoir bottoms, reduced dirt and rock contaminants, and more efficient methods of constructing the raw salt pile.

All these improvements have led to better recovery of raw salt and lower plant costs. In turn, these improvements will lead to a more stable, long-term price for Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals customers.

A better work environment

Avery says the new relationship with SLIM Contracting has added to the sense of pride in the plant. “Here is an example of management, ownership and employees working together to reduce (or stabilize) a large expense in the production of sodium sulphate.”

The arrangement is also a source of pride for Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals President Rodney McCann, because of the benefits it provides for customers. “It’s always been a priority at Saskatchewan Mining and Minerals to place our responsibility to our customers above all else. We’re happy to be working with SLIM Contracting because this relationship allows us to control harvest costs over the long term. Not only that, it creates a fixed annual cost for our harvest rather than an uncertain, variable cost, which means we can offer our customers long-term price stability.”