From initiation systems to highly technical advice, Orica Mexico offers customers a complete range of products and services to help them improve productivity. Rachel Hartman looks into the Mexico division of the company, which specializes in providing mining services and places safety above all.
Orica is a multi-billion-dollar company based in Australia, with operations in 50 countries around the world. Its 15,000 employees are spread across six continents, and the company is divided into four businesses: Orica Mining Services, Orica Consumer Products, Orica Chemicals, and Minova. The largest of these divisions, Orica Mining Services, is the global leader in its market.
Orica Mexico is part of the mining services division. It offers commercial explosives, initiating systems, and blasting services for companies in the mining, quarrying, and construction industries. The company has factories in various locations throughout Mexico and employs an estimated 1,270 workers.
“We use technologically advanced products and services to improve the productivity of our customers,” says Alex Matheu, vice president of the North Region at Orica. “We can customize our set of products and services to meet their needs.” To do so, Orica looks at a client’s situation and offers technical advice on the blasting process. By doing this, the company is able to help clients increase their efficiency levels. “This improvement affects the rest of the value chain in the mining process,” Matheu adds.
In Mexico, Orica has grown at a significant rate in recent years. “In 2003, Orica Mexico had sales of about $40 million,” says Matheu. “In 2009, we expect to have sales in the area of $150 million.” He notes that in the span of six years, Orica has grown in Mexico by about 315 percent, more than tripling the size of the business.
Matheu points out several reasons for such remarkable growth. “Part of it has been through organic growth, part of it has been through capturing new accounts, and the rest has been through acquisitions.” One of the most notable of these acquisitions occurred when Orica recently took over part of Dyno Nobel’s commercial explosives business. According to Matheu, Orica acquired some of Dyno Nobel’s operations in Latin America, Europe, and parts of Asia. “Our company has grown substantially through this acquisition,” he adds. “We’ve integrated the former Dyno Nobel company with our own, and we are now basically all one company in Mexico.”
With the new acquisition in place, Orica’s Mexico division has plans to keep on growing. “We want to continue growing with a special emphasis on our technologically advanced products and specialized services,” says Matheu. Some of these include the electronic detonator product range and blast-base services, among others.
To support its operations in Mexico, Orica has two factories in the northern state of Coahuila. One of these is located in the city of Monclova and produces ammonium nitrate. It has the capacity to produce 40,000 tons of ammonium nitrate a year. According to Matheu, the company needs an additional 120,000 tons for its operations. It imports some of this from the United States and the rest is sourced from local companies in Mexico.
The second factory in Coahuila is located in Cuatro Ciénegas, where explosives are produced. It also serves as an assembly plant for initiation systems. It has the capacity to produce about 9.2 million detonators per year.
The company also has three ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil) plants. Combined, these plants produce around 72,000 tons of ANFO each year. One of these factories is located in Cuatro Ciénegas, another is near the city of Guadalajara, and the third is in Tula, which is in the state of Hidalgo.
The company holds the top position in the market in Mexico, and much of this is due to the wide range of products that it offers. In the area of initiation systems, its products range from the very basic detonators to highly specialized detonators. According to Matheu, the electronic detonator has an extremely high accuracy level in terms of timing the detonation. “When you design the blasting in the mine,” he says, “each detonator is timed according to the design.” The electronic detonators are controlled remotely, which makes it possible to carry out the blasting process from a far distance from the mine.
Features such as the electronic detonator help set Orica apart from the competition. Other ways that it continues to lead in its industry include providing the complete package to customers. “In most cases, we do not just deliver the product,” says Matheu. “We also provide the blasting services, and any technical consulting that is needed.”
GUIDED BY PRINCIPLES
Matheu credits much of the company’s success to the culture and philosophy that its workers depend on. Orica has developed four basic principles that apply to every area of its business. “Number one is respect and caring for the safety of our people, the community, and the environment,” he explains. “Our goal is to have zero injuries to anyone ever.”
The second underlying principle involves teamwork. Orica encourages its employees to work together and grow on an individual basis and also as a team. The third is commercial ownership. “This means taking responsibility for our business as if it were our own,” Matheu notes. The fourth principle involves providing creative solutions to customers based on superior technology.
To ensure high quality in its products, Orica has certifications for all of its plants in Mexico. “We have the ISO: 18000, the ISO: 9002, and also the ISO: 14000,” notes Matheu. These certifications reflect the high standards that the company sets for its products and services.
This attention to quality has allowed Orica to work with top companies in its industry in Mexico. “Orica has commercial relationships with basically all of the main mining groups in the country,” Matheu observes. Some of its clients include Grupo Acero del Norte, Group of Mexico, Group of Peñoles, and Grupo Cementos Chihuahua, among others. Through its distribution network, the company also provides products to Cemex.
Orica’s strong presence in Mexico can be seen in other areas as well. It has the largest distribution network in the country. The company also participates in different fairs and trade shows, including the national mining convention in Mexico and fairs organized by states such as Chihuahua.
In addition to serving the local market, Orica also supplies products to other countries. “We send products to the United States and Canada through our sister companies in those regions,” explains Matheu. The company also exports products to Central America and the Caribbean through Orica Costa Rica.
To plan for the future, Orica works hard to continue upgrading its technology. “We invest heavily in research and development,” Matheu explains. In doing so, the company is able to stay on top of competition at a global level through its wide range of products and services.
By putting safety first, and following the company’s guiding principles, Orica has been able to lead the way in the mining industry in Mexico. Company officials plan to see Orica continue to grow in the future, both in Mexico and at an international level. Through its emphasis on highly advanced products and services, it is able to pass along lasting benefits to its clients.