As mining companies rapidly shift their strategies and operating models to leverage digital transformation, new technologies in blasting and explosives are making an ever more vital contribution to bottom-line improvements.
A combination of market volatility, changing global demand and radically different input economics has contributed to a seismic shift in the industry, according to Johannesburg-based blasting company BME MD Joe Keenan.
“Automation in mines, new analytic capabilities, digital workers and remote operation are just some examples where technologies are disrupting the mining industry today,” says Keenan. “At BME, our turnkey blasting offering is based on our ongoing investment in technology in precisely these fields, combining the power of mobile computing and cloud data storage to enhance safety, productivity and information transparency, allowing quicker and better decision-making.”
Further, Keenan highlights the Internet of Things (IoT) as an important driver of mine profitability through safe, efficient and automated operations.
“Our AXXIS centralised blasting system, for example, takes the benefits of electronic detonation into the underground environment – with active monitoring and detection that gives mines the ability to take corrective action before a blast instead of just remedial action afterwards,” he says. “The system’s data collection capability provides faster insights and improved blast prediction using advanced analytics and data tools; it also allows data visualisation through dashboards and easier information accessibility.”
In similar fashion, BME’s XPLOLOG technology closely monitors the activity and performance of teams conducting drilling, charging and stemming on a blast site – and controls the utilisation of key resources like emulsions.
“XPLOLOG captures detailed information on each hole, picking up inconsistencies or issues that could reduce the quality of a blast,” he says. “This easy-to-use tool can upload and download data, presenting it on a dashboard for better management decision-making – and integrates with our powerful BLASTMAP III design software.”
Driving this work is BME’s Innovation Hub, a dedicated division that commercialises its technology to benefit customers. Staffed by experts including physicists, engineers and chemists, it continuously improves various aspects of the company’s offerings – from emulsion formulations and blast modelling, to mobile app technology and data transparency.
“The landscape of Mining 4.0 is no longer about commodities; rather, the focus is now on embracing technology and evolving as an industry,” says Keenan. “This means increasing collaboration between mines and their partners; we are constantly being approached by our customers to participate in new mining technologies, so we work increasingly in collaboration with them to find solutions for the industry as a whole.”
In addition, a more interconnected and information-based mining operation will continue to push the envelope of which activities really need human interaction – and which can be automated. The possibilities for new operating models and new levels of optimisation will create the next wave of differentiation in the industry, he concludes.