Joe Hejny Reaches 41 years with Dyno Nobel as his Biwabik Plant Reaches 1.5 Billion Pounds of Emulsion

Joe Hejny, General Manger Iron Range, will be leaving Dyno Nobel this month after an impressive 41 years with the company. The Iron Range he manages leads Dyno Nobel Americas (DNA) in sales of TITAN emulsion and DigiShot Plus electronic initiation and have just reached a record 1.5 billion pounds of emulsion.

The Biwabik emulsion plant operates 5 days per week with just 3 three employees, yet they produce 100.0 MM pounds of emulsion per year, 94.0 MM pounds of TITAN G goes into local taconite mines and 6.0 MM pounds of TITAN RU into central Canada underground mines.

Joe started in Biwabik in 1979 with Ireco, left in the early 80s and ended up running Intermoutain Ireco/Dyno, until 2001 when he moved back to the Biwabik area and he took over MNEX (Minnesota Explosives) as president of the company. When Dyno Nobel bought out MNEX in 2006 he transitioned into the role of GM over the Iron Range Wholly Owned, which included the Biwabik site, Morris, IL site, and the Ishpeming, MI site. 

Tom Hejny, Dyno Nobel Field Engineer says this of his father.  “Speaking as an employee of Tom’s and as an employee in the same business, it has been an honor to be associated with the “legendary big Joe.” I am proud, as are many, to have been a part of the organizations that he has led, whether that be Intermountain IRECO, MNEX, or Dyno’s Iron Range. Tom has always led with an open, honest, and customer focused attitude. He has used his positions and influence to build up the people around him, and to develop teams that would follow him to the end. I feel that is why and how he rose through the business to the positions he held. The lessons that I have learned from that leadership, are lessons that I have applied and will continue apply to my career…unfortunate in some people’s perception, but very fortunate in mine!”

Biwabik uses two primary raw materials, these are both provided by DNA.  Ammonium nitrate solution is delivered by railroad from DNA’s Louisiana, Missouri plant and fuel phase is delivered by truck from DNA’s Barry, Illinois plant. In 2020, Biwabik will have produced over 1,500,000,000 pounds of emulsion through its rebuilt 1997 emulsion plant.

The current Biwabik, MN DNA emulsion plant and downhole service location was established by DuPont Chemical in 1955. DuPont ceased dynamite production in Hibbing, MN and built its Biwabik location to manufacture water gel explosives. The Biwabik site was operated by DuPont until the late 1980s. In late 1987, DuPont sold the Biwabik site to five local businessmen and the venture was renamed Minnesota Explosives Company (MNEX). In 1988, MNEX and DNA’s Biwabik site merged to create the company’s  first joint venture business. In 2006, DNA purchased the 50% of MNEX it did not own and the site became a wholly owned business.

In 1997, MNEX built a new computer driven emulsion plant that tracked the volume of product produced. Biwabik converted from water gel technology, to DNA emulsion technology in 1990. The Biwabik Site continues to service the great taconite mines of Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range. Bulk product development has moved from emulsion/ANFO auger blends in 1990, to 100% emulsion/ANFO pumped blends in 2004, to 100% solid sensitized emulsion in 2010, to 100% Titan gassed emulsion in 2012. 

- (L-R).  Plant operator Chris Chrislock, Plant Supervisor Brent Robilliard, Plant operator Eric Josephson.

Joe with some of Dyno Nobel’s legends.
L-R.  Jeff Averett (32 years), Jack Atwater (21 years), Dave Hunsaker (40 years), Joe Hejny (41 years)