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BME [photo] 

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Africa’s mines value technology in blasting

26 January 2015 – Johannesburg: Annually, the Investing in African Mining Indaba provides delegates with an excellent networking opportunity, with discussions around new projects being one of the focuses.

Leading South Africa-based explosives supplier BME will be exhibiting for the sixth consecutive year, highlighting its reach into Africa both in terms of their world-class technical expertise, new technologies and products for remote mining sites across the continent.

Underlying BME’s approach is Africa’s need for new blasting technology that promotes efficiency and safety in mining operations. Having pioneered the use of cold emulsions in South Africa, the company has grown rapidly across the continent with a range of innovative offerings, and now has a presence in 17 African countries.

While BME remains the market leader in SA’s opencast mining sector, it has seen substantial growth in countries like Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Moving into Zimbabwe and Namibia in the early 1990s, it has steadily expanded its footprint into countries including Angola, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

“Innovation, a secure supply chain and safety first have always been the drivers behind our business, and the take-up in Africa has confirmed that these factors are priorities for our clients,” said BME’s managing director, Francois Hay.

As part of the JSE-listed Omnia Group, BME has leveraged large investments in its manufacturing base, which includes two nitric acid plants, two ammonium nitrate facilities, a PGAN, a cartridge explosive facility, a detonator plant, and over a dozen emulsion plants throughout Africa.

“Since BME was established 30 years ago, we have developed a production infrastructure and supply network in Africa that allows us to supply and commission emulsion plants at locations – assuring our clients of seamless service,” said Hay.

Its growing footprint is also supported by in-house manufacture of mobile mining units. Two truck types – emulsion units and heavy ANFO units – are built to exacting design specifications, as BME is accredited by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) as a body-builder.

Among the company’s product innovations is a low viscosity black emulsion that uses recycled oil, reducing environmental impact while maintaining high performance. The formulations are also available for reactive ground conditions.

In addition to its range of bulk explosives, plants and trucks, BME has developed in-house software and initiating systems. Its AXXIS electronic detonator system is capable of initiating up to 6,000 detonations in a single blast, and its BlastMap III™ software has earned a reputation as a powerful blast-planning tool.

“Together, our AXXIS system and BlastMap III™ enhance vibration control, finer fragmentation, dilution control, heave control and specialised blasting scenarios,” said BME technical director Tony Rorke.

With the pace of its growth into Africa, the company has prioritised keeping a strong foundation of support services around the continent. In Zambia, for instance, BME maintains an administration head office in Chingola in addition to its depots in Lusaka, Kafue and Ndola.

Local skills development is actively pursued wherever the company does business, so it has attracted local people to the various technical, financial and administrative jobs it has created.  Of the 130 people that BME employs in Zambia, very few are expatriates.

Another stronghold for the business is Botswana, where BME has been active for almost 15 years and now employs over 100 staff.

In addition to its opencast market, BME is seeing increasing interest in its products and services from underground mines – including the use of electronic detonators. Well suited to massive mining techniques underground, this technology has already been applied in a gold mine in Mali and a diamond mine in South Africa, delivering highly successful results.