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New blasting company MD to focus on customer engagement

WIDELY USED TECHNOLOGY BME’s AXXIS electronic detonators are used across Africa and other mining markets such as Australia and Colombia

WIDELY USED TECHNOLOGY BME’s AXXIS electronic detonators are used across Africa and other mining markets such as Australia and Colombia

20th November 2015

By: Bruce Montiea

Creamer Media Reporter

  

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A continuous focus on customers to better understand their requirements and include their voice in in-house decision-making processes will be the main strategy of explosives supply chain company BME’s newly appointed MD, Joseph Keenan.

“In the early days of my role, I have had the opportunity to meet and discuss BME with some of our valued customers. I am a firm believer that customer engagement will ensure the continued success of BME in a tough resources market,” adds Keenan, who was appointed in September.

He adds that the feedback he has been receiving from customers is that BME delivers on its promises and can operate in some of the world’s toughest mining markets.

A common theme among the issues raised by customers is the need to improve producti- vity at their operations. “To this end, we will remain operationally focused, with additional emphasis on providing a [high-] quality, scalable and repeatable service for all our customers, wherever we operate,” Keenan elaborates.

Further, the company will intensify its focus on blasting sciences – headed by BME technical director Tony Rorke – to add value for customers beyond the sale and application of explosives, he adds.

Keenan says the company’s value-added blasting sciences tools will provide “state-of-the-art” technology to properly design and load blasts, better quantify blast outcomes and report on the blasting cycle.

He tells Mining Weekly that BME’s African focus will not change, as there are still many opportunities for the company on the continent.

Some of BME’s technologies, such as the AXXIS electronic detonator, are being used globally and will, therefore, be a catalyst for geographic diversification.

He adds that, this year, BME sold AXXIS electronic detonators across Africa and in core mining markets, such as Australia and Colombia.

“AXXIS is a technology that has been developed with the user in mind – making it the most user-friendly and effective product in its class.”

BME will also continue to develop its staff and improve employee engagement in the overall running of the business: “As a services company, our employees are key to how our customers perceive us and they ensure the quality of the products and services we provide.”

Global Mining Explosives Industry
Keenan advises that the mining industry is globally in a general downturn, centred on low commodity prices. The prospective outlook for a growth in demand is sluggish and this is discouraging investors, resulting in slow financial markets.

“Many of the greenfield operations that we expected in Central and north-west Africa have been delayed or cancelled, as a result of low commodity prices and increasing operational expenditure,” he notes.

Keenan tells Mining Weekly that the global dynamic in the explosives industry is one of excess supply versus demand, especially in the production of ammonium nitrate.

“Because of this market position, competition remains high in the explosives industry and, as a result, explosives companies are targeting other areas for growth by expanding into new geographical markets.”

He adds that, five years ago, the industry focus was on security of supply and large-scale production investments, while it is currently on productivity, effective supply chains and customer service.

“With the mines under increasing cost pressure to become more efficient, BME is looking at innovation to find sustainable productivity and cost-cutting solutions for customers.”

Outlook
The South African and Southern Africa mining explosives markets have generally remained stable during the economic downturn, despite rising labour and power costs and lower productivity, as a result of labour disruptions and skills shortages, says Keenan.

He says South Africa has an abundance of mineral resources and was estimated in 2013 to have the world’s fifth-largest mining sector in terms of its contribution to gross domestic product.

“South Africa holds the world’s largest reported reserves of gold (29.7%), platinum- group metals (87.7%), manganese (80%) and chromium (72.4%).”

He adds that every country needs to carefully consider the mining macro-environment it fosters to preferentially attract investors that are willing to engage in the high risks inherent in mining operations.

South Africa is also one of the most competitive explosives countries in the world, with three large local explosives suppliers and global competitive activity in the sector increasing as a result of market expansion in recent years.

“South Africa’s underground mining sector accounts for a large portion of the value in the country’s explosives market and is per- haps where the majority of future opportunity lies,” Keenan says, adding that, as ore grades on the surface start to dwindle, it becomes unfeasible to mine, forcing mines to consider mining underground to increase profitability.

He says BME is poised to take full advantage of this opportunity, with a growing share in the underground mining market, where, traditionally, the company was a relatively small player.

“Our underground emulsion formulations and delivery equipment are now industry- leading technologies.”

Edited by Tracy Hancock
Creamer Media Contributing Editor

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