Tag Archives: BLASTMAP

Blasting’s role in making mining more sustainable

Blasting technology – alongside advanced low carbon emission emulsion explosives – is helping pave the way on mining’s sustainability journey, according to BME.

“The digital age has given us the opportunity to leverage the quality of our people, products and service – to optimise blast technology,” BME Managing Director, Ralf Hennecke, says. “Building on the flexibility and accuracy of electronic detonation, our digital tools can make mining more efficient and less carbon intensive.”

By collaborating with customers and technology partners, BME says it has developed solutions that can enhance output and are easily integrated – both between BME’s digital products and externally.

Hennecke emphasised that software platform integration was key to ensuring innovative digital tools could operate seamlessly with a mine’s existing systems.

An innovation that has received global attention is BME’s electronic detonation system, AXXIS. Developed by an in-house team of specialists, AXXIS improves the quality of blasts and mine productivity.

Tinus Brits, Global Product Manager for AXXIS, says: “The entire system was designed in South Africa and built by our own engineering department. All the support and maintenance on the system is conducted by our dedicated in-house technicians.”

Applied in conjunction with BME’s Blastmap blast planning software, AXXIS demonstrates the value of product integration, BME says. Complex blast designs can be easily and quickly transferred from the Blastmap planning platform to the AXXIS initiation platform. Brits noted that Blastmap can also export to third-party initiation systems that a mining customer might already be using.

Among the capabilities that BME has brought to the mining sector are longer blasting windows to allow for larger and more productive blasts.

“The increased firing window of AXXIS Titanium – the latest generation of the AXXIS system – gives mines the opportunity to conduct larger blasts,” Brits said.

The company can also design more complex blasts.

The quality of these blasts ensures better fragmentation, so that less energy is consumed in downstream stages like loading, hauling, crushing and milling. Less energy converts directly to lower carbon emissions when coal- or diesel-fired electricity is used. Larger blasts also mean fewer mine stoppages, facilitating a more streamlined mining process.

“Safety remains a key focus in mining, and a safe mine is a productive mine,” Brits said. “Our digital initiation systems innovate constantly to raise the level of safety in blasting – such as the dual basis of safety in our latest AXXIS Titanium system.”

These safety improvements build on the high-level safety of emulsions when compared with Class 1 explosives. Emulsions are inert until sensitised in the blast hole, so can be more safely transported and stored.

BME’s emulsions also contribute to environmental protection through their inclusion of used oil as a fuel agent. The company has developed a large collection network for used oil, which responsibly transports waste oil from users for its production process. After being incorporated into the emulsion, the used oil is safely disposed of when the emulsion explodes.

So extensive is this network that BME today collects around 20% of South Africa’s used oil, it says.

Sachin Govender, BME’s Used Oil Manager, said: “By using this waste oil in our emulsions, we are eliminating the use of diesel, which is a high carbon source. This plays a positive role in helping our mining customers achieve their ESG goals.”

Where customers have their used oil collected by BME, the initiative delivers a double benefit, according to Govender. On the one hand, it deals responsibly with a waste product that presents an environmental risk; on the other, it reduces the need for diesel as a fuel agent.

“There is also a positive social impact from our used oil initiative,” he said. “We engage small enterprises to collect the oil, which has an economic ripple effect in local communities.”

BME now has about a dozen approved suppliers across South Africa, according to Govender, which have created around 300 job opportunities.

“As we empower small businesses to create an income from this waste, we are conserving the environment while also promoting social upliftment,” he said.

BME continues to make blasting strides in Indonesia

Having pursued a global expansion in recent decades, South Africa-based blasting leader BME says it is making good on an exciting new phase for its Indonesia operations.

With mainly a trading presence in Indonesia for 10 years already, the Omnia Group company has been active in full-service contracting for the past two – and is already receiving high-level recognition, it says. In September 2021, BME Indonesia was honoured with a good mining practice award in the blasting services category by the Indonesian Government.

According to Brad Bulow, General Manager of BME Australia Asia, this bodes particularly well for the company in a country with such a bright future in mineral production.

“Indonesia’s mining sector is well positioned for growth, and coal is the fastest growing source of energy production there,” Bulow said. “Coal is mainly used in Indonesia’s power generation, and the country’s supply is dominated by coal-fired power plants at this stage.”

Forecasts indicate that coal will remain a dominant energy source in Indonesia and the South East Asian region until about 2050, supporting power generation and other industry sectors, according to BME.

“Nickel is also an exciting commodity for Indonesia, which is estimated to have the largest reserves of nickel in the world – more even than Australia,” said Bulow. “As an indispensable raw material for producing electric car batteries, nickel is one of the country’s fastest growing mineral commodities.”

Investors are looking at building smelters in-country to process nickel into raw material for batteries, while nickel ore itself has been banned for export by the government since January 2020.

Commenting on the recent good practice award, BME’s Business Manager Indonesia, Agusman, noted that such recognition meant a great deal – and would help cement BME’s reputation as an innovator with world-class standards of operation. BME Indonesia has been supplying explosive products and accessories into Indonesia for over a decade. Holding company BME is a leading player in blasting services and products in Africa, with a global presence including Australia, Canada and the US.

The company has also developed specific products for the region, including a single-salt emulsion. Widely known for its superior dual-salt emulsion technology, BME was able to respond to customer requests in 2019 for a single-salt option. This was put into use in early 2020 and has since been producing excellent blasting results, according to the company. The product has even been trialled with used oil as the fuel agent, which has become an environmentally friendly and sustainable hallmark of BME’s emulsion products.

While BME Indonesia supplied mainly ammonium nitrate, packaged explosives, boosters, and electric and non-electric detonators before 2019, its large blasting services contract in south Kalimantan has opened the door for significant expansion.

“In this project, BME Indonesia has put to work four Mobile Manufacturing Units (MMUs) – our bulk explosives delivery trucks – and an on-site emulsion manufacturing plant,” Bulow said. “In addition to emulsion and down-the-hole services, we are also supplying our AXXIS™ electronic detonators to help customers achieve timing accuracy and control their blasting vibration.”

Another important aspect of BME’s technological contribution is the move by customers toward big data analytics, according to Bulow.

“Big data allows larger mines and their contractors to generate meaningful insights into their operations – paving the way to greater efficiency,” he said. “BME Indonesia is introducing our BLAST ALLIANCE™ portfolio of digital innovations, which includes our BLASTMAP™ planning software, BME Blasting guide app and XPLOLOG™ cloud data platform. Solutions such as AXXIS integration, custom development and training also fall under this brand.”

In the medium term, Bulow said the company looks forward to winning more projects and penetrating further into surface metals and underground mining – and the funding, innovation and advanced technology is in place to achieve this goal.

“Looking further ahead, BME Indonesia expects to continue growing its contribution to Indonesia in general – and local communities in particular,” he said. “This includes our transfer of knowledge and technology, the utilisation of local resources and ongoing community development.”

BME launches Blast Alliance brand to encourage blasting technology collaboration

Blasting technology is moving mining towards a more sustainable future, with BME and its recent launch of the ‘Blast Alliance’ brand looking to add impetus to this evolution.

The Omnia Group company has announced that Blast Alliance will encompass its portfolio of digital innovations including its BLASTMAP™ planning software, BME Blasting guide app and XPLOLOG™ cloud data platform. Solutions such as AXXIS™ integration, custom development and training also fall under this brand.

“Our new Blast Alliance brand represents the company’s journey of digital innovation and the collaborative approach we take in this exciting process,” BME Managing Director, Joe Keenan, said. “We believe this collaboration must be holistic, so we partner in three arenas: internally to optimise our solutions; through direct engagement with our customers; and working with third-parties where the need is identified – to enhance outputs for customers.”

Keenan said by giving BME’s software and solutions portfolio its own brand and identity, it will assert a unique market position underpinned by the company’s spirit of enterprise and the highest levels of integrity.

Michelle Fedder, BME Manager: Marketing and Brand, emphasised that the step was part of enhancing BME’s reputation as a technology and innovation-orientated partner.

“Blast Alliance provides our software portfolio with its own values, character, essence and value proposition,” Fedder said. “From a marketing perspective, the brand assures our customers of collaborative, innovative and integrated digital and automated mining and blasting solutions – further enhancing their value chains.”

The portfolio will adapt and evolve with key solutions as needs are identified, applying BME’s growing depth of digital and technological expertise, according to BME Software Product Manager, Christiaan Liebenberg.

“We are delivering flexibility, fluidity and future-facing solutions to our customers,” Liebenberg said. “A key focus here is the integration of our technology with mine-wide platforms, as part of the drive to support mining’s ongoing productivity efforts. Our initiatives also leverage digital technology to allow greater availability of real-time data.”

Keenan said that the Blast Alliance brand underscored the company’s core objectives in its offering to customers. These include optimising productivity, efficiency and safety while minimising risk through predictability – as well as reducing costs, promoting data-driven and real-time decision making, and enhancing process optimisation.

“As the mining sector embraces more technology, it is likely to be increasingly viewed as a forward-looking contributor in the transition to a more sustainable economy,” he said. “Implementing digital communication infrastructure at mine level can also have positive spin-offs for local communities – potentially improving connectivity in remote areas as part of mining’s environmental, social and governance commitment.”

BME keeps supply up amid lockdown as it prepares for COVID-19-related business changes

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions around Southern Africa have thrown the spotlight on mines’ supply security, with key inputs like explosives and blasting services among these.

According to Albie Visser, General Manager at blasting specialist BME, mines have relied heavily on the flexibility and ingenuity of service providers to keep the supply chain functioning.

“The first weeks of the lockdown were challenging, especially regarding the logistics of moving our emulsion product across national borders from South Africa into other southern African countries,” Visser said. “Different countries – and even different border posts – applied different rules, making it difficult to know what the exact compliance requirements were.”

Albie Visser, General Manager at BME

He noted the pandemic had caught most authorities unaware, leading to regulations being hurriedly developed and enforced.

“In some cases, the regulatory requirements were not practical,” he said. “At one border, for instance, drivers were required to have a COVID-19 test not older than three days – but in South Africa it took nine days to get results from a test through normal channels.”

This meant that innovative thinking was called for, and BME worked closely with its own suppliers and the mines themselves. While some deliveries were initially delayed by border issues, the company’s responsiveness and agility kept up its deliveries to site, it said.

National lockdowns in the region affected the mining sectors differently from country to country.

“South Africa’s lockdown saw demand for emulsion drop sharply at first, but this has almost returned to normal as mines ramped up to full production where possible,” he said. “While mining in Botswana has slowed, Namibia’s mining industry has been more resilient and our supplies to Zambia are almost unaffected.”

Site precautions

In South Africa, BME is working on many mine sites, with an average of three teams per site. By conducting risk assessments and adapting its existing safety systems, BME quickly developed its own COVID-19 protocols in line with national safety regulations – even before some of the mines finalised their own systems.

Among the measures BME has applied is to divide staff into small groups to keep closer control of movements and restrict infections. For example, each group will stay together for transport purposes, and will use only one specified bus.

“Each bus, which has a thermometer for daily testing, will collect staff from their homes,” Visser said. “We know exactly who they live with, for purposes of future contact tracing.”

It does mean more buses arriving at the work site, but any infection picked up can then be controlled and traced within that group. There is also another screening test at the mine site when staff arrive, and the necessary social distancing is observed.

“To date our measures have been very effective, with no COVID-19 infections at any of our operations,” he said.

Overcoming barriers

Outside of South Africa, there have been some notable achievements in the face of COVID-19 related lockdowns.

Joe Keenan, Managing Director of BME, relayed a few of these.

Joe Keenan, Managing Director of BME

“Among the logistical achievements, for instance, was the timeous shipping of resources to customers in Australia and West Africa – which was done in anticipation of the lockdown,” he said.

BME was also able to continue satisfying the requirements of one of Zambia’s largest copper producers, despite the difficulties of negotiating border regulations.

At the same time as this, the company is continuing to roll out large projects for major customers, while keeping most of its staff working remotely. This includes the recruitment of about 170 people for one key project, and the continuation of on-site testing.

Automation, remote optionality

From the manufacturing perspective, BME’s facilities are also well positioned to keep feeding the supply chain even under lockdown conditions, according to Ralf Hennecke, BME’s General Manager: Technology and Marketing.

“Most of our production plant processes are highly automated, so we can readily apply the necessary social distancing and minimise staff without affecting production,” Hennecke said. “This applies to our explosives facilities as well as our factories for non-electric and electronic detonators.”

Ralf Hennecke BME General Manager: Technology and Marketing

BME has put in considerable investment in the automation of its manufacturing plant at Delmas in Mpumalanga, South Africa, for instance. While the driver for this process was primarily the quality of its emulsion product, the effect has been to enhance security of supply while applying strict social distancing protocols, it said.

Keenan said: “At our facility in Losberg, Gauteng, where we manufacture our AXXIS™ equipment and non-electric detonation systems, there is also a high level of automation. We can therefore accommodate the COVID-19 regulations without affecting the value chain.”

Even the company’s remote bulk emulsion plants – often located on customer’s mine sites – can be operated with minimal staff.

Hennecke highlighted that BME’s technology, including planning and reporting platforms like BLASTMAP™ and XPLOLOG™, also assist mines to reduce opportunities for COVID-19 transmission.

“Our technological innovations allow data to be digitally captured, stored and transferred to the mine’s operational and administrative systems,” he said. “This can be done safely with only a few human touchpoints, and also in real time for greater efficiency.”

The future

While the current efforts are to keep mining operations running normally, the future will see considerable changes in how suppliers like BME support customers, according to Keenan.

“The leveraging of technological innovation to keep mine sites safe and efficient becomes an even more vital imperative for technology providers,” he said.

Operationally, there will be ongoing focus on social distancing and digital processes to reduce proximity between employees.

With strict requirements limiting face to face interaction, more communication with customers will also have to be conducted digitally.

These communication systems will also have to be adapted to streamline the sales process and keep contracts flowing, according to BME.

“Creative solutions will need to be found for how to manage tenders, for example, especially where site visits are required,” Kennan said. “There are still various practical issues to be resolved so that normal procurement can continue.”

In terms of further expediting the shift to non-contact interaction with customers, BME’s new enterprise resource planning system enhances its shared services capacity, allowing less paperwork and more electronic documentation and processing.

BME looks to improve load and haul efficiency with new BLASTMAP tool

As part of its continuous development of digital solutions, BME says it has further enhanced its BLASTMAP™ blast planning tool with an added burden relief timing module.

D Scott Scovira, Global Manager Blasting Science at BME, said this new burden relief feature gives the blaster better control over the shape and movement of the blasted rock muck pile, adding that this has knock-on benefits for the excavation fleet.

“If the mine is using a loader and truck fleet, for instance, the blasted rock will need to be laid out lower – and longer burden relief times tend to be used in the blast,” he said. “For a truck and shovel configuration, on the other hand, the muck pile would need to be stacked up higher, usually requiring tighter burden relief times.”

The new feature augments a range of BLASTMAP tools that have added value to BME’s customers for many years, integrating with BME’s AXXIS™ and XPLOLOG™ systems, the company said.

AXXIS allows blast technicians to program a detonator with the desired time delay, while XPLOLOG allows users to view, capture and sync drill and blast data to a cloud database for real-time access to preparation progress on the blast block.

BLASTMAP allows for initiation timing design, initiation sequence simulation, blasthole loading design, fragmentation distribution predictions, vibration prediction and blasted rock range prediction.

BME said: “While initiation timing design enables the design of blast initiation sequences and facilitates programming of the AXXIS system, the initiation sequence simulation allows the user to check for correct hole firing sequence and pick up any potential out-of-sequence firings. The blasthole loading design module – covering the explosive load, booster and initiation system – is also capable of designing decked hole loading.”

For fragmentation prediction – where one of three equations may be chosen – the software allows site-specific or general rock properties to be entered into an editable rock properties database, according to BME. Additionally, the fragmentation models may be calibrated with data from physical fragmentation distribution measurements.

Scovira said: “Fragmentation distribution is vital to quality blasting, going hand in hand with a mine’s machine productivity in loading and hauling. One step further is to optimise fragmentation distribution for the crushing and milling circuit, to improve throughput and recoveries.”

The vibration prediction tool, which generates a predictive isomap of vibration levels around the blast, ensures that blast vibrations do not exceed regulatory or self-imposed environmental constraints, the company said. BLASTMAP also includes an advance through-seam design module, to design explosive loads and initiation times in multiple dipping coal strata.

And BLASTMAP can use data from a range of sources, according to Tinus Strauss, Senior Software Engineer at BME.

“Data can easily be imported from third-party software through our import wizard,” Strauss said. “This allows any text-based file to be used – as well as specific formats like DXF files – conveying data on parameters such as block-out lines on benches, hole depths and charge.”