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BME continues to grow after 30 years, focused on expansion

Nitric Acid Complex, Sasolburg

Nitric Acid Complex, Sasolburg

16th May 2014

By: Chantelle Kotze

  

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Celebrating three decades in business, mining explosives company BME has noted continual growth on the African continent throughout this time and has firmly set its sights on further expanding its footprint in Southern and East Africa.

Speaking to the media at a site visit to its Sasolburg and Losberg plants west of Johannesburg on Thursday, BME MD Francois Hay said momentum in the industry had really picked up, particularly over the last five years.

“Africa has been very exciting for us, with BME having set up its first international emulsion plant at the Golden Pride gold mine in Tanzania in 2000,” he said. “We have seen particularly strong growth in Southern Africa, especially the copper mines of Zambia and, more recently, the Democratic Republic of Congo, where BME is currently busy constructing its first plant.”

Not that work levels were standing still at home in South Africa, where BME remained the largest supplier of emulsion explosives to the surface mining sector. Hay said as some local mines encountered disruptions with their underground operations, there was a shift in focus to opencast mining – which contributed to local growth for BME.

Meanwhile, the market capitalisation of chemicals, explosives and fertiliser company Omnia Group, of which BME is a part, had also grown over the past decade and continued to grow this year.

The game changer in recent years, said Hay, was Omnia Group’s R1.4-billion investment in its nitrate plant in Sasolburg, commissioned in 2012 to boost Omnia’s nitric acid output by 140%, or 330 000 t/y, confirming its place as a market leader.

“This plant reduced the need to import the nitrogen products required for the manufacture of explosives for the minerals industry and gave us much more capacity and flexibility to grow our offerings, mainly into Southern Africa,” he noted.

The nitric acid complex consisted of many components, including loading stations, 145 new railway tankers that were custom built for the transportation of the ammonium nitrate, land and road development in Sasolburg and all the facilities required to support a complex of this nature.

The complex comprised a nitric acid plant, an ammonium nitrate plant and a porous granular ammonium nitrate plant.

The company was confident of its market share and position in the explosives industry on the continent, owing to its full basket of products, including boosters and detonators, and its security of supply.

BME's other facilities include emulsion plants, a manufacturing facility for cartridged explosives, a shocktube assembly plant, emulsifier plant, electronic detonator facility and a used oil processing plant, all of which are based in Losberg, Dryden and Rustenburg.

BME had started to look at opportunities outside the African continent too.

The company also has a number of mobile plants throughout Africa.

While BME supplied a range of products, it also added value to its clients through various technical services, including down-the-hole full blasting services, blast consulting, blasting software, mine-to-mill optimisation, fragmentation analysis, muck pile profiling and fly rock control.

Edited by Tracy Hancock
Creamer Media Contributing Editor

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