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BME’s success takes it global

South Africa-based blasting company BME has built a solid reputation and growing footprint in recent decades with its high-quality emulsion explosives and its exciting range of electronic detonation technologies; now has Canada in its sights.

As the largest supplier of emulsion explosives to South Africa’s opencast mining sector, BME has established a significant presence in various parts of Africa – and is also now extending its products and services into underground mining.

According to BME’s managing director, Joe Keenan, the continent will remain the core focus area for the business, but it has identified a number of new international markets for expansion as a result of customer interest; these included Canada , Australia (where BME already has substantial presence), and the western coast of South America.

The bid to acquire Canada-based Nordex Explosives last year was a demonstration of BME’s intentions, and it is actively pursuing other opportunities in the country.

“We’re hopeful to have a business with production capacity in Canada in the near future,” said Keenan. “An indicator of our commitment has been the finalisation last year of our product registration and licensing agreements for North America. Following our recent company and product registration in Colombia, we also finalised our first purchase order to the South American region.”

Keenan said that many of BME’s Canadian, Australian and American clients are expanding their African footprints, which bodes well for the company’s ability to prove itself in Africa as part of its reputation-building efforts in other parts of the world. Blasting contracts as far afield as Singapore have already demonstrated the company’s expertise and capacity; BME even supplied emulsion explosive to the remote island of St Helena as part of the airport construction project.

Permanent innovation

BME’s permanent state of innovation recently led BME to formally establish a Blasting Science unit which is dedicated to applying its hi-tech know-how to solutions in the field. Its application of AXXIS™ electronic detonators recently allowed BME to earn the world record for the largest ‘electronic blast’ to date – this time in conjunction with its client Kansanshi Mining PLC at its Kansanshi operation, 80% owned by First Quantum Minerals Limited in North-Western Zambia.

The blast was conducted on 29 September 2017 in the main pit of Kansanshi Mine, which is the largest copper mine in Africa by copper production, and involved 6,690 electronic delay detonators (EDDs) – successfully initiated using its in-house AXXIS™ digital detonation system from BME.

Having already set the industry precision-blasting benchmark with its AXXIS™ system, BME has now added a Centralised Blasting System (CBS) to the AXXIS™ package. The system allows mines to plan and initiate simultaneous underground blasts from surface, and now facilitates real-time communication of blast-related data and reports to and from the workings.

BME has leveraged the power of mobile technology and internet ‘cloud’ storage to develop mobile applications for monitoring and analysing blasting activities. These applications, such as Blastlog, are stepping beyond the pen and paper methods currently common on mine sites – to bring real-time reports and notifications to decision-makers in time to improve their decisions.

The system allows data to be captured on mobile devices in the field, and to be presented to end-users on a mobile platform that renders the data immediately useful.

From opencast to underground

Making the leap opencast blasting to an optimal underground solution has involved innovations such as a vertical pipeline from surface to underground workings, the design of underground storage and delivery systems, and the development of light-weight charging units to charge blastholes in narrow-reef stopes.

In conjunction with underground gold miner Gold One, BME recently engineered the world’s deepest vertical emulsion pipeline, and worked with Gold One to implement a range of systems to deploy emulsion explosives across the mine’s work-faces at its Modder East mine east of Johannesburg.

The use of emulsions at Modder East has drastically streamlined the handling of explosives on the mine, laying the way for efficiency improvements on various fronts. As emulsions are not classified – under most country’s regulations – as explosives until they are sensitised in the blasthole, they can be transported more safely and without disrupting mine operations. Neither do they consume any shaft time, freeing up this valuable facility for other vital functions.

Capacity and quality

BME’s expansion has been made possible by evolving its processes and building its capacity to keep up with demand, while enhancing the final manufactured quality of its products. Last year, the company commissioned a world-class, world-scale automated emulsion facility at its Dryden premises in Mpumalanga province east of Johannesburg. It also installed two automated assembly machines for non-electric detonators at its Losberg facility in North West province, to improve the quality and predictably of its non-electric products. The company has subsequently produced a million units without a customer complaint.

The success generated as a result of these new automated processes has resulted in the installation of a similar automated machine for the company’s AXXIS electronic product line with another one on order.

“We are investing in our future to deliver greater capacity within the organisation with better standards and quality to accomplish a greater presence and better value-add,” said Keenan.

By June this year, BME will have tripled the output of its electronic detonators, and by September it will be producing four times more non-electric detonators.

“We have been successful in improving the quality of our products through the implementation of innovative systems like our proprietary automated  production lines,” he said. “To be part of a long-term solution for our customers, we need to provide the same high quality of blast everywhere, no matter how far the client is from BME’s nerve centre in Gauteng.”

About BME – www.bme.co.za:  BME is the leading supplier of explosives and services to the African mining, quarrying and construction industries. Focusing on safety, supply security and value adding technical services, BME strives to remain at the forefront of technology by regularly participating in the research and trials of new blasting techniques and products, as well as attending and presenting at technical conferences worldwide. BME has operations in Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, DRC, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, South Africa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and where opportunities present themselves.