One of Johannesburg-based supplier and manufacturer of explosives AEL Intelligent Blasting’s core values for this year is going green, with sustainable development also informing its plans to enter the commercial explosives sector in French-speaking West Africa.
Francophone West Africa, also known as French West Africa, refers to the federation of eight French colonial territories of Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan, French Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Upper Volta, Dahomey and Niger.
“We will introduce the eco-formulation of surface emulsion, which requires using waste oil generated by the mines. This will enable us to further partner with the mines we work with by assisting them in reducing their carbon footprint through the destruction of their waste oil in a responsible manner,” says AEL francophone West Africa MD Francis Kasongo.
AEL’s philosophy is to develop smart blasting solutions through client engagement. The company uses an intelligent blasting approach, which is a holistic and flexible approach to help clients along their journey to optimal blast outcomes using AEL’s products and services.
The approach is strengthened by its differentiated products, adaptable delivery systems and services, predictive software and blast consulting.
Through its new predictive software, the AEL intelli-designer, AEL will introduce face velocity measurements, three-dimensional (3D) blast face surveys, high-speed videography, rock mass motion studies, fragmentation analyses, blast modelling and efficiency measurement and monitoring to the markets to ensure that blasted rock suits the design of the equipment and plant.
In terms of service delivery, AEL will promote innovative and fit-for-purpose solutions, such as the Rapid Reloading System (RRS) for surface mines and the Vertical Drop system for underground mines.
The RRS is a unique delivery method which allows the Mobile Manufacturing Unit (MMU) to be supplied with Ammonium Nitrate Anfo Grade, or ANA, and emulsion directly on the mine site by the RRS tankers. The RRS can carry 30 t of product. The system optimises the pump time, thereby allowing for the reduction of charging time on the bench without the capital costs for additional MMUs.
The AEL Vertical Drop system is made for underground operations and allows for delivery of emulsion from the surface, through a borehole to an underground storage facility. Key benefits include flexible supply of product preventing congestion in shafts and main haulage routes.
AEL supply chain executive Denvor Govender adds that “the successful foundation of any business is to ensure an intelligent supply of reliable, high-quality products and solutions”.
The company also aims to be one of the key figures in further driving the mining industry into the era of digitalisation and smart mining, adds AEL Asia and the Pacific executive Nigel Convey.
AEL opened a new branch in Senegal in 2017, which makes its holding company, JSE-listed chemicals group AECI, one of the major players in the region. The company has a geographical presence in francophone West Africa, with branches in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
Through the commissioning of three emulsion bulk plants in the region, centralised magazine areas for explosives and comprehensive logistics partnerships with key players, AEL has enhanced its capabilities to supply its target markets. The company’s total capacity in terms of bulk emulsion is more than 130 000 t a year.
“Our bulk plant in Kongosi, in Burkina Faso, is licensed to supply any mine that requires bulk emulsion in francophone West Africa and therefore a unique solution for our mining partners who do not want to invest in their own bulk plant,” he says.
AEL has also sustained strong relationships with key mining investors from North America, Europe and Australia, which will be used as a launching pad for future investments and to further strengthen the company’s position in the region.
AEL human capital executive Thabo Nkoane notes that the company’s employees are one of its key assets, adding that “we are intelligently connecting people to support our successful growth and expansion”.
Based on this principle, with the focus being on indigenous staff, AECI has managed to create a strong team of experts with knowledge of in-house standards of the sector and the West African region.
AECI aims to supply products and services to its mining partners timeously, hence its engaging with all its partners, especially those located in high security-profile areas, to offer them a unique solution.
In terms of new developments taking place at AEL, Kasongo adds that AEL is passionate about being closer to its clients and understanding their needs.
“We invest in them to supply them with fit-for-purpose and cost-effective products and services, which is taking place in our francophone West Africa division.
“We have to go the extra mile to remain relevant to our partners and we have the support of our shareholders in this regard. AEL finance executive director Rafael Fernandes has previously highlighted the need for us to intelligently invest in our clients.”
Further, women have increasingly been playing an influential role in the company, which is committed to contributing to gender equality in mining.
The AEL team consists of engineers, geologists, strategists and technical managers who drive the strategy for global expansion and customer service. The company has a strategy to develop and manage gender diversity within its business and the mining industry.
“Women have shown that they are just as capable as men in a very male-dominant environment. The women at AEL are creating a significant impression and adding value to ensure a sustainable contribution to the industry,” Kasongo concludes.