Sandvik acquires Artisan Vehicle Systems: Kirkland Lake remains in the dark on past promise to build vehicle assembly plant.

Author:Ross, Ian

High-tech Swedish engineering giant Sandvik is acquiring Artisan Vehicle Systems, a privately-owned California manufacturer of battery-powered underground mining loaders and trucks with ties to northeastern Ontario.

The purchase price was not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close sometime this quarter.

Artisan is a 60-employee start-up company, headquartered in Camarillo, Calif., which posted revenues of US$12.3 million in 2017.

According to Sandvik, Artisan is regarded as a market leader in underground battery-powered vehicles.

No mention was made in Jan. 22 news releases issued by Artisan and Sandvik on whether a proposed vehicle assembly and research centre for Kirkland Lake will proceed.

In late 2017, Artisan pronounced that the northeastern Ontario gold mining town will be its Canadian assembly point for its Z-40 battery-powered haul truck, currently being tested at Kirkland Lake Gold's Macassa Mine.

A town official said he hadn't heard from the company in months, nor seen a site plan, despite $375,000 in municipal servicing being extended into an industrial lot that's close to the mine.

"The site is there if they continue to be interested," said Wilf Hass, Kirkland Lake's interim CAO.

Artisan proclaimed in November 2017 that Kirkland Lake would be the chosen site of its 60,000-square-foot Canadian headquarters, featuring a vehicle assembly shop, service centre, R&D capabilities, and jobs for 60 over two years.

The company wanted to started construction on its "Centre of Excellence" in the town's Archer Drive industrial park sometime in 2019.

With no building permit issued, Hass said Artisan hasn't provided a date for groundbreaking based on his last contact with them in late last summer.

Martin Blomgren, who handles media relations for Stockholm-headquartered Sandvik Group, responded by email that with the acquisition of Artisan "just completed ... it is too early to say anything about future investments at this stage."

But in January, Brian Huff, Artisan's chief technology officer, told a reporter with Sudbury Mining Solutions Journal, a sister publication of Northern Ontario Business, that his company was still committed to Kirkland Lake.

"It's still on the table. We're kind of taking things as it goes. We're trying to build up our facility still, in California, to meet the volume needs we have.

"We're looking--and I don't want to make too many public statements about all that stuff but--we are still, for sure...

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