Used oil programme reflects ESG drive

26th August 2022

The recent solid financial performance by chemicals manufacturer Omnia Group’s explosives subsidiary BME is underpinned by its environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) commitment, says MD Ralf Hennecke.

Omnia’s mining division – where BME is the main asset – delivered a 29% increase in net revenue to R6.7-billion. The results benefited from higher ammonia prices and increased sales volumes through the mobilisation of large customer contracts. BME continues its growth drive through deliberate management actions, including optimising efficiencies, costs and process integration, all underpinned by ESG focus.

“We are building this commercial success on firm sustainability principles to benefit both our social and natural environment,” says Hennecke. “In line with the vision of the Omnia group, this strategy includes offering greener and more sustainable products, technology and services.”

A programme doing just this is BME’s used oil initiative, in which waste oil is collected from customers and third parties and used in the company’s “world-leading” emulsion explosives. This enables an alternative emulsion technology that is low in carbon dioxide emissions, while safely disposing of used oil.

Beyond BME’s ESG mission, this service also supports mining customers in achieving their own ESG targets – through the safe and responsible disposal of their waste oil.

“Each year, we now consume almost 25-million litres of used oil in South Africa alone,” he says. “We plan to increase our collection and processing capacity steadily into the future.”

Used oil can present a significant threat to water quality and hence to water security – especially in water-scarce countries. BME safety, health, environment and quality GM Ramesh Dhoorgapersadh highlights that the initiative aligned well with Omnia’s commitment to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, it promotes goals such as access to clean water, food security and eradicating pollution.

“If not responsibly handled, oil has a widespread ecosystem impact on the environment,” says Dhoorgapersadh. “Contamination not only poisons water but can affect food security by undermining the health of soil and agriculture.”

A key social impact of the used oil programme has been its ability to empower small local businesses, says BME used oil manager Sachin Govender. The bulking point network relies on small-, medium-sized and microenterprises to collect oil from a range of non-mining sectors such as vehicle workshops.

“Our infrastructure gives opportunities in local communities for businesses to start and grow, supported by BME’s supplier development strategy,” says Govender. “We have, to date, established almost a dozen approved suppliers across the country, generating about 300 employment opportunities.”

He notes that the challenge of used oil has been converted into an income-generating activity with positive ripple effects throughout the community.

“Not only can we help protect the environment through this initiative, but we are enhancing our contribution to social upliftment,” he concludes.