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Explosives demand in Africa picking up

A SALTY PROPOSITION BME’s high-quality, double salt emulsions release minimal carbon emissions and noxious fumes in blasting

EXPLODING MARKET There might be more blasting opportunities in Namibia soon, especially with a rising uranium price

9th July 2021

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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With demand for explosives improving, mining explosives technology company BME, part of JSE-listed Omnia Group, has been successfully maintaining supply to customers across Africa.

BME GM Ralf Hennecke notes that this was despite the disruptions and cross-border challenges the company faced. He adds that the company is already experiencing a significant uptick in demand for their blasting solutions for mines across a range of commodities in African markets, including iron-ore, gold, copper, platinum and manganese.

Hennecke expects that Covid-19 will leave a lasting impact on all the African countries in which BME operates, thereby requiring mines and their technology partners to address a “new world” of challenges and opportunities.

He notes that the pandemic has hastened the development of digital solutions that promise to make mining more sustainable – an endeavour to which BME is committed.

“Demand from the mining sector for BME’s basket of products, technology, equipment and services remains strong, however, as they have all been developed to address market priorities,” Hennecke claims, adding that the company’s technologies are a key factor in how it promotes customer productivity, efficiency, and sustainability.

“Customers are also increasingly looking for relevant services that augment their on-mine capacity, and we bring a depth of expertise to this field. Our online technical services offering is one of the most recent ways of responding to this need,” he explains.

BME’s expansion throughout African mining is based on a strategy that prioritises the effective application of its technologies to customers’ specific needs, combined with the operational expertise that the company has built from its core blasting competencies.

“Our diversification from Southern Africa into Central and West Africa will continue on the strength of collaborative relationships with customers working in diverse conditions,” Hennecke says.

Efficiency and Sustainability

Africa is an important market for the company’s electronic detonators and bulk emulsions in BME’s portfolio.

The accuracy, safety and ease-of-use of its electronic detonators provide mines with valuable opportunities to improve blasting outcomes, while its emulsions are increasingly popular in surface mining, and as underground mines move towards mechanised and trackless methods.

Moreover, BME’s emulsions contribute to sustainability.

“We include used oil as a fuel agent in our emulsions, essentially disposing of what could become an environmental hazard. Our high-quality, double salt emulsions also release minimal carbon emissions and noxious fumes in blasting, differentiating them from similar products in the market significantly,” Hennecke explains.

Since blasting takes place so early in the mining operations cycle, quality blasting can make a valuable contribution to downstream energy efficiency, reducing carbon footprints and improving bottom lines.

“With the right blast design, and with the accuracy and flexibility of electronic detonation, more precise levels of rock fragmentation can be achieved,” Hennecke explains. This, in turn, optimises the loading, hauling, crushing and milling processes – all of which are among the most energy intensive activities on mines.

“The adaptation of our solutions to suit each mine is fundamental to our approach towards achieving efficiency and sustainability in blasting. No two mines are the same in terms of the blasting solutions they require.”

The customer’s existing software platform will also determine how BME adapts its technology to integrate what it can offer with what the mine already has in place.

“This demands considerable technical expertise and experience in the digital space. It also requires that we listen carefully to customer requirements, which is a priority in any business relationship,” Hennecke says.

African Opportunities

Despite its global expansion, the Southern Africa mining sector remains BME’s core focus for its technology, blasting services and equipment.

“Developments in iron-ore and manganese in South Africa’s Northern Cape province have provided exciting opportunities, while platinum and copper are also an important commodity that is regaining prominence,” Hennecke says.

He adds that, although the country’s coal sector remains uncertain, BME continues to be very involved. In addition to its lasting relationships with large coal miners, the company may also play more of a role with junior miners going forward, he mentions.

Hennecke is optimistic that there might be more blasting opportunities in Namibia soon, especially with a rising uranium price.

More blasting opportunities might also come on the back of Botswana’s looking towards the possible reopening of some mines after a difficult period for its minerals sector.

BME is well established in copper-producing countries, such as Zambia, and Hennecke expects these opportunities to increase as China’s economic recovery heralds better demand for copper.

“The growth of battery technology will spur demand for cobalt from this region,” he says.

West Africa is an “exciting” region for BME, with high levels of exploration driving its mining development.

“While the focus in West Africa tends to be on gold currently, there are a range of bulk minerals, such as iron-ore, just waiting to be developed when the necessary infrastructure makes it viable,” Hennecke adds.

The company’s emulsions and equipment have been well received in West Africa’s surface and underground operations, he concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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