West Africa remains an exciting region for South Africa-based explosives and blasting company BME, which has won a full blasting service contract for a new opencast gold mining operation that is set to become the largest producer of the metal in Mali.
From 2006 to 2015, 18 mines were opened in the region, compared with only four in South Africa, according to research reports from research consultancy group Wood Mackenzie.
BME’s contract is with B2GoldCorp’s Fekola gold mine, in south-west Mali, says BME West Africa operations GM Michael Klaasen.
Fekola is set to become B2Gold’s flagship operationt. The first gold pour at the mine occurred in October, about three months ahead of schedule. Commercial production is expected by the end of this year.
Based on the latest production plans, the Fekola project is projected to produce an average of 375 000 oz/y to 400 000 oz/y of gold for the first five years of production (from 2018 to 2022), and 365 000 oz/y to 390 000 oz/y over the first seven years of production (from 2018 to 2024).
BME recently commissioned its F3 mobile emulsion manufacturing plant on the mine, which can produce 3 000t/m of emulsion.
The company’s footprint of manufacturing plants has further enabled it to transport emulsions 150 km from its facility at another customer’s mine – where it has supplied blasting services for about ten years – to Fekola during precommercial production. However, the new on-site plant took over supplying to Fekola soon after mid-2017, and output levels will increase when the mine reaches steady-state production, Klaasen says.
“Ore blasting will be carried out using BME’s Axxis electronic detonation system,” says Klaasen, adding that the company will deploy four 20 t emulsion trucks, as well as a stemming truck.
While Mali is the busiest country for BME’s operations in the region, the company is also active in Burkina Faso, where it services the gold, zinc and iron-ore segments. BME has, however, seen growing interest from stone and aggregates quarries – a sign of improved levels of investment in infrastructure and road building.
The company further focuses on the diamonds and iron-ore sectors in Sierra Leone, and supplies a gold mine in Guinea and a copper operation in Mauritania, where reactive ground conditions are encountered. In these conditions, BME uses its specialised emulsion, HEF-RG.
Meanwhile, BME plans to grow its footprint into Côte d’Ivoire, where there is substantial mining interest, as the country encompasses a large part of the Birimian greenstone belt. “Much has been achieved in developing infrastructure there recently,” Klaasen says, adding that several mining players have successfully applied for exploration, mining and related permits.
BME has eight remote manufacturing plants in West Africa to produce a range of emulsion explosives specially designed for specific opencast or underground applications. “We keep stock in magazines on site, bringing in additional raw materials in good time – which means four deliveries a year of Class 1 product – including Axxis systems, Megamite, boosters and detonators – as well as emulsion raw materials,” Klaasen points out.
The company assists mines with the blast design using its internal BlastMap software and provides on-site training for the client’s blasting department regarding the use of BlastMap, as well as any support required in this regard.