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Mining’s Future needs innovation from Suppliers

The fate of mining lies not just in the hands of mines; everyone involved in the mining supply chain must remember that the recovery and future of the industry relies on optimal value creation at every step in that chain.

This means that every service provider must ensure that solutions are not only innovative, but are predictable and repeatable under any conditions – irrespective of where in the world they are offered.

Growing from its roots in the 1980s as a South Africa-based innovator in cold emulsion explosives, BME’s journey has been entwined with the fortunes of the mining industry – a sector whose margins are increasingly under siege.

As we continue to respond to potential in global markets, however, our strategy remains driven by the sobering acceptance that unless every blast can help customers become more sustainable, we are not part of the long-term solution. And that means the same high quality of blast everywhere, no matter how far the client is from BME’s nerve centre in Gauteng.

BME

Working daily with customers in the field, we constantly test and improve our products and services, on the basis that every intervention must add value. But at the same time, we are working to ensure that it is easy to do business with us.

For this reason, we are developing an enterprise resource planning system that gives us end-to-end transparency in the way we work, so that customers everywhere experience the same level of service and excellence.

Consolidating our position in Africa, we have appointed both a business development manager and an account manager for Africa as part of our efforts to enhance the scalability of our quality service offering as we grow further into these markets. The vast distances between sites and suppliers in some regions highlight the need for simplicity of equipment, manufacturing and maintenance.

Driving much of the interest in BME from new, international markets is our AXXIS digital initiation system, developed in-house to leverage the accuracy and effectiveness of electronic detonators – which we also manufacture. The system enables customers to plan and conduct complex blast timing sequences, leading to better blasting results that help reduce a range of operational costs.

Improved throw and fragmentation, for instance, make for more efficient loading and crushing, saving substantially on items like wear parts and energy consumption. The AXXIS system also allows for larger – and therefore fewer – blasts in the mining cycle, which means less disruption and costly downtime. Indeed, BME holds the world record for the largest ‘electronic blast’ to date – at an Australian coal mine.

Our permanent state of innovation recently led BME to formally establish a Blasting Science unit which is dedicated to applying our hi-tech know-how to solutions in the field. Among its various projects is a new AXXIS centralised blasting system which brings the benefits of AXXIS to the underground market. This system will allow mines to blast all underground workings simultaneously, at a time when everyone is safely removed from the workings – ensuring higher productivity through avoiding multiple blasts and stoppages.

In another world first, we have developed and implemented the longest vertical emulsion delivery pipeline to feed an underground mine via a pipe system from surface. At 318 metres in length, the pipeline solution is made possible by the particular stability of BME’s emulsion, which allows multiple re-pumping stages with no degradation. Further tests make us confident we could install systems like these to depths of up to 2,000 metres.

Once again, the solution is driven by the sector’s demand for constantly improved efficiencies, and has been integrated with related underground infrastructure that we have developed. This includes BME’s portable charging unit (PCU) – bringing the benefits and safety features of emulsion explosives to the underground mining environment – and our new Blastlog monitoring and reporting system to record blasting efficiency underground. Blastlog sends data from underground to an information network on surface, using a pump control system, a remote and a tablet.

This is the future. Unless mines can become more productive and efficient, we all stand to lose. As partners in this global endeavour, BME offers its best minds to create value through practical and easy-to-use technology. The message from the mining sector is now clear and emphatic: to succeed is to innovate.

Delivering the added safety and high energy features of quality bulk emulsions was the primary – and enduring – value-add to our mining customers; BME has since become the largest explosives supplier to South Africa’s opencast mining segment. Organic expansion into southern Africa quickly followed, and then into Australia, other parts of Africa, and south-east Asia. Opportunity now calls in South America, as well as in parts of Canada and the United States.