ONTARIO – Activation Laboratories (Actlabs), Canada’s largest family owned laboratory, recently opened its new 18,500-m2 global headquarters in Ancaster, in a move to streamline its growing business.
The firm, which has provided analytic services primarily for the mining industry for almost three decades, unveiled its $20-million facility in the Ancaster Industrial Business Park in Hamilton on April 23.
After a sweeping tour of the state of the art building located on Bittern St., president and founder Eric Hoffman said the new facility would boost efficiencies, as it brings the work previously done in five nearby buildings under one roof.
And with the expanded services, will come more jobs. Currently, the firm employs over 200 people at its Ancaster location. Hoffman anticipates that could possibly double in five year’s time, making Actlabs one of the largest private employers in the city of Hamilton.
“We built this with expansion in mind,” Hoffman, an economic geologist, said in an interview.
Since its inception in 1987, the firm has grown from a small business based in Brantford, Ont., into an international company, with 30 laboratories across 14 countries. It has over 1,000 employees worldwide.
One of the reasons Hoffman chose to move to Ancaster a few years after starting was to be closer to the nuclear reactor at McMaster University. Actlabs uses that research reactor to radiate samples to test for elements in a process called neutron activation.
This technique is so precise that it could measure gold in rocks or soil samples down to a couple parts per billion, Hoffman said during the tour.
Actlabs’ biggest presence is in Canada, with 13 locations. Seven of those are full laboratories based in Ontario, of which six are near major mining areas such Red Lake, Timmins and Thunder Bay. Providing explorers and producers easy access to Actlabs’ services, which include geochemistry, metallurgy, assays and determining what exploration techniques to use.
To balance out the cyclical natural of the mining industry, Actlabs expanded its analytical testing and development services in Canada to the environmental, agriculture, life sciences, forensics and material testing markets. But internationally, the firm only provides services for mining, where it has been developing new technologies or adapting existing ones to increase exploration success and recoveries. Hoffman notes Actlabs’ selective extraction, enzyme leach and soil gas hydrocarbons methods are good for finding deeply, buried deposits.
“As people go look deeper and deeper for mineral deposits, we have the technologies to do that, where as a lot of our competition – if it’s not at the surface – they don’t have the technology to do it,” he said.
Actlabs also differs from its contenders, mostly now owned by large multi-million dollar corporations, by being the only independent Canadian owned laboratory left.
“Not that people haven’t tried to buy us, we just haven’t been for sale yet,” Hoffman said.
Learn more about Actlabs at Actlabs.com.
(The original version of this story appeared on April 28, 2014, in CMJ’s sister publication, the Northern Miner.)