Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/8/2020 (214 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Since it formed about 10 years ago, Cypher Environmental’s environmentally friendly road stabilization and dust suppression products have been sold all over the world, but some recent contracts in Northern Canada are finally opening up the domestic market for this growing Winnipeg company.
Canadian sales typically only represent 15 to 20 per cent of the Winnipeg-based Cypher’s annual revenue, but that’s changing.
The company recently landed a large contract — totalling about $2 million — with Baffinland Iron Mines at its Mary River Mine near Pond Inlet, on Baffin Island in Nunavut.
In conjunction with that contract Cypher is donating two container loads of its patented Dust Stop product to the hamlet of Pond Inlet.
"We’ve always wanted to give back but we have been a pretty small company," said CEO and founder Todd Burns. "We’re super excited to have the chance to do something like this for Pond Inlet."
The Baffinland contract could potentially open the gates for a lot of new work. Last month Burns was in Edmonton meeting with officials from Inuit-owned BBE Expediting after recently winning a tender to provide dust remediation for the airstrip at Sanirajak (formerly Hall Beach) near the tip of the mainland of Nunavut, just south of Baffin Island.
Burns hopes the performance of its Dust Stop product on the airstrip in that remote community could lead to the opportunity to supply its dust-control product to dozens of other airstrips in the North. It has been certified safe for contact with aircraft and has plenty of third-party studies showing its efficacy.
Currently most of the those facilities use product from an American supplier that costs two-thirds more than Cypher’s.
"This (the Sanirajak contract) is worth $200,000," Burns said. "That means the community is saving $400,000. Imagine what it could do with that amount of savings."
At Baffinland’s operations near Pond Inlet, the northernmost community on Baffin Island far above the Arctic Circle, Cypher has already shipped two million litres of Dust Stop.
In 2019, the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) released a report on Baffinland’s Mary River mine and determined that there needed to be more work done to contain the dust in this pristine environment so far north.
Cypher’s Dust Stop is being applied on the 100-kilometre roadway to the mine where the bulk of all materials and people that arrive at the mine travel down and which generates a lot of dust.
Shawn Perry, Baffinland’s manager of road maintenance and site services, said, "It’s provided a drastic reduction in visible dust and it’s got greater durability to rain events than products we’ve used in the past."
In addition to supplying Baffinland Cypher has also landed contracts with other Canadian mining companies, including Teck Resources, so that now its domestic sales are around 40 per cent.
The donation to Pond Inlet, which is being undertaken in conjunction with Baffinland and Nunavut Sealink & Supply Inc., is aimed at significantly reducing dust from town roads in Pond Inlet.
In a press release, the mayor of Pond Inlet, Joshua Arreak, said, "It is important that the hamlet takes steps to reduce the amount of dust from our roads. I strongly believe that this new endeavour will greatly benefit our community."
Meanwhile during the last year or so Cypher has shipped product all over the world including to Finland, Russia, Romania, Zambia, China and Australia.
As successful as Cypher has been in the international and now the national market it has still been stymied in efforts to sell into Manitoba which only represents about one per cent of the 10-year-old company’s sales.
"We have had some successful case studies in Manitoba and we’d really like to change that," he said.
Meanwhile, Burns has set his sights further north where he believes his dust-suppression products would be ideal for many communities where airstrips and community roadways are often not paved.
He hopes the airstrip contract in Sanirajak will cause a change in the way tenders are written for those types of supplier contracts which have previously favoured the U.S. supplier.
"The North is a huge opportunity for us," Burns said. "It has the potential for $5 to $10 million worth of business."
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.