When Jim Taylor was hired as a consultant in 2003 to take a look at Nordex Explosives, the Kirkland Lake-based manufacturer employed three people and had one pickup.
“It was pretty much dormant.”
Fast-forward 10 years and the company has a staff of 65, a fleet of 35 trucks and Taylor is president and CEO. “Everything I learned about explosives was done here,” said Taylor, whose background was in business administration.”
The publicly traded company began in 1970 and it was fairly active up until the early 2000s, when the mining industry experienced a downturn. The board of directors was pondering whether the company was worth continuing.
“When we looked at the company back then, we determined that if it was going to be in the explosives business, it had to make some commitments that it was going to be able to supply a full line of products to the clients,” said Taylor.
Up until then, it had manufactured some niche, specialized products, but didn’t offer a full line of explosives products.
To move Nordex forward, it had to get to the point where it was manufacturing more products than it was distributing.
After years of research, the company commissioned a new plant in 2009, which manufactures emulsion explosives. Currently it manufactures about 70 per cent of what it sells.
“It is also the only one in Canada that manufactures the small diameter stick powder, which everyone thinks is dynamite, but is actually emulsions,” said Taylor. “Everyone else manufactures it elsewhere and imports it into Canada.”
With the development of its own equipment to handle the explosives and load them underground, Nordex also trains the miners who use them. Having its own fleet of trucks also allows the company to react quickly to the needs of its clients when required.
“In addition to designing equipment for underground, we also spent a few years of development on a line of our own trucks which can carry and load the explosives in an open pit,” Taylor said.
“That led us to a whole other side of the explosives industry outside of mining, such as quarries and construction.”
Nordex has opened up satellite sites in Huntsville and on Manitoulin Island where there is a high concentration of quarry and construction-type business, and is scoping out other locations.
The company has also acquired the Canadian rights for a perimeter control product that was developed by Johnex Explosives, an Australian company.
“A perimeter control product controls the energy so that there is less fracturing and less loose material,” he said. “We can demonstrate a huge savings to a mine over and above the health and safety issues.” Taylor said the product can save mining companies about 30 per cent of their screening and bolting costs.
Nordex is in the process of installing a fully-automated production line that's expected to be operational by the end of summer.
“It will open up doors to new clients that we may not have normally been able to sell our products to,” said Taylor.
Nordex places value on strategic partnerships, such as the one it has with the Wabun Tribal Council and their joint venture called Niimki Explosives. A similar agreement was recently announced with Wahgoshig First Nation.
“One of the things evident to us is that the concerns of the First Nations are similar to the concerns of those who work here. Basically everyone working here is a Northerner and many of our employees enjoy the area for what it provides,” he said.