Tag Archives: BME

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 breaks another electronic detonator blast record in South Africa

Another South African record for the largest electronic detonator blast has been broken by the blasting and explosives company BME.

The blast was conducted by BME, an Omnia Group company, at the end of 2020 at a manganese mine in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Using its AXXIS™ electronic initiation system, BME was able to plan and execute a blast of 4,647 detonators. Just a few months earlier, the company had broken a previous record at the same mine by initiating 3,780 detonators in a single blast.

“The latest achievement involved a remarkable 535 t of emulsion explosive in over 2,300 blast holes requiring a total of more than 37,000 m of drilling,” Kobus Boonzaaier, BME Area Manager in the Northern Cape, said. “The resulting blast was able to move almost 2.3 Mt of rock within a matter of seconds.”

Boonzaaier highlighted that the advantage of these large blasts is that they allow mines to blast less often; this means less disruption and a more streamlined operation. The size of the blast was not the only factor to consider, however, as a quality blast must also optimise key outcomes like fragmentation, BME said.

“We were pleased to once again achieve good fragmentation with this blast, ensuring that the resulting particle size would facilitate efficient loading, hauling and comminution by the mine,” Boonzaaier said.

The mine has made use of a full blasting service from BME for the past five years, with BME providing its expertise through a team of over 20 blasters, operators and assistants.

BME’s emulsion explosives – combined with AXXIS electronic initiation system, electronic detonators, blast planning software and other accessories – have been helping break records at South African mines for over a decade. It has conducted even larger blasts in Australia and Zambia in recent years – in the coal and copper sectors, respectively.

BME looks to regain growth in Australia/Asia as COVID-19 lockdowns ease

Having sustained its supply chain through initial COVID-19 lockdowns, BME, a member of the Omnia Holdings Group, says it is looking ahead to continued growth in Australia and Asia.

Brad Bulow, BME’s General Manager Australia-Asia, says its Australia and Indonesia blasting and explosives clients continued to efficiently operate through the initial lockdown period, being successfully supported by BME’s Brisbane and Jakarta offices, which applied a work-from-home policy.

Bulow noted that the company has been able to maintain the supply of AXXIS™ detonators to its customers over the lockdown period by using a combination of “agile manufacturing planning, air and sea freight solutions” along with leveraging inventories in “strategic locations”.

BME recently commissioned a new emulsion plant in Indonesia in support of existing down-the-hole blast loading operations, which helped the situation.

“We are forecasting strong growth for our AXXIS offering in Australia and Asia and have recently introduced two new customers to the product,” Bulow said. “Currently, our mining customers are producing good volumes, and their demand for our products remains high.”

Such strong growth projections will no doubt factor in the release of the latest generation of BME’s AXXIS system – AXXIS TITANIUM™. Expected to launch later this year, it will be the most advanced electronic blast initiation system on the market, according to Tinus Brits, BME’s Global Product Manager for AXXIS.

Back in May, the company said trials of the system in South Africa had proven successful with a 100% success rate to date.

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 ups blast design ante with new mobile app

BME has launched a new, free Blasting Guide application for Android mobile devices that, it says, enables users to rapidly calculate and check blast designs.

Currently available for download from the Google Play Store, the new BME Blasting Guide mobile app replaces traditional paper booklets carried and referenced by in-field users, BME says. It includes a blast design calculator, quick calculators and prediction calculators. Other app features include surface blast design rules of thumb, environmental guidelines, a table of common rock properties and a BME contact directory per country.

“The new app is an integral part of BME’s pioneering approach to harnessing the power of digital technology in the blasting sector,” Christiaan Liebenberg, Software Product Manager at BME, said. “This platform gives our Blasting Guide a mobility and ease of use that makes a blasting engineer’s job easier and more productive.”

Liebenberg said that while the app is not a blast design tool, it is a powerful means of verifying blast design outputs and making important blast planning decisions.

BME Global Manager Blasting Science, D Scott Scovira, said the blast design calculator is a series of guiding formulas that allows a blaster or engineer to plan a blast from start to finish.

“The blast design calculator utilises user inputs including burden, spacing, stemming height, sub-drill, hole diameter, bench height and explosive type to determine explosive loads, powder factors and other outputs,” Scovira said. “It could be used, for example, to investigate potential blast patterns for a greenfield site, where numerous scenarios can be quickly generated and calculations checked.”

Scovira added that the rules of thumb table – which summarises surface blast design guidelines – can be referenced by users as they access the blast design calculators.

The quick calculator includes a BME in-house formula for the target powder factor, as well as calculations related to the volume of rock to be blasted – either volume per hole or volume per blast, BME said.

There are energy equations to compare different types of explosives based on their relative bulk strength, while hole-charging equations determine the mass of explosives going into a hole and address loading with gassed emulsion products, according to the company. This helps determine column lengths and stemming lengths – with gassed and ungassed explosives.

“The app’s prediction calculators include estimation of peak particle velocity and maximum charge weight per delay based on industry standard scaled distance equations and user defined ground transmission constants,” BME said.

One of the prediction calculators can provide the user with guidance in estimating the blast clearance radius. This is based on maximum projected rock throw, calculated from scaled depth of burial equations and parameters. The scaled depth of burial equations and parameters are propriety to world recognised blasting consultant R Frank Chiappetta of Blasting Analysis International Inc and used by BME with permission, the company clarified.

“In line with its strategic commitment to collaboration in the digital space, BME engaged VIGA Interactive to create a world-class user experience and design, as well as Sympl Technology Solutions for the development work,” Liebenberg said.

BME to capture blasting efficiencies and cost savings with AXXIS TITANIUM

BME says its advanced electronic blast initiation system is undergoing final trials in South Africa, with a 100% success rate to date.

The AXXIS TITANIUM™ system, the latest generation of BME’s AXXIS™ blasting platform, is expected to be launched later this year as a successor to the company’s GII version. According to Tinus Brits, BME’s Global Product Manager for AXXIS, the latest product is certified for trials in terms of South Africa’s Authorised Recommended Process 1717 standard and is being field tested with the permission of the country’s Department of Mineral Resources.

“The upgraded system has achieved trial certification from the first phase of testing, receiving a six-month trial period confirming that it is safe to use,” Brits said. “Trials are now proceeding under the control of BME, so that we can build up a history of performance data – which, to date, has been faultless.”

He said the trials have been conducted on seven relatively small sites around the country since February 2020, using up to about 500 detonators per blast. These trials will continue as and when COVID-19 lockdown restrictions allow, BME said.

“After about six months of trials are completed, application can be made for final certification from the regulator,” he said. Trials were also likely to be extended to international locations as travel regulations open up, according to BME.

Andries Posthumus, Product Development Manager for AXXIS, said AXXIS TITANIUM’s functionality – with a three-in-one blasting box that can also be configured as a control box or as a repeater box – allows a larger number of boxes to be easily linked, as well as many more detonators. This improves efficiencies in blasting and saves time and cost for customers, Posthumus said.

“Even with this additional capacity, the system speeds up the logging process, while allowing on-bench logging and testing of up to 500 detonators,” Posthumus said.

The robust blasting box also benefits from even stronger shell technology, which is matched by tougher downhole cables, according to the company. In terms of digital data transfer and storage, the system’s NFC communication protocols allow faster wireless transfer of files between loggers, with data stored and managed in the cloud.

The latest upgrade promises to provide mines with a significant productivity opportunity, Brits said, while demonstrating BME’s commitment to safety and continuous technological innovation.

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.”

BME builds blasting connections in North America

BME says continued lethargy in the global economy – aggravated by the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus – did not dampen the enthusiasm of the South Africa-based blasting leader’s review of the recent Prospectors and Developers Association Conference (PDAC) in Toronto, Canada.

BME was at the show, which took place on March 1-4, showcasing its brand and global presence, including in North America.

BME General Manager Technology and Marketing, Ralf Hennecke, said: “This year was particularly exciting for us to be exhibiting, following the launch of BME Mining Canada Inc last year – our joint venture with Consbec, the largest civils drill and blast contractor in Canada.

“There was considerable excitement among the decision makers and businesses we met about the entry of another experienced player into the region’s explosives and blasting market.”

Hennecke said the mood at the Toronto gathering was buoyed by a gradual uptick in exploration projects and several mine expansions – even though the outlook for most base metals was conservative.

“It was pleasing to see that Canada was in the top three exploration performers globally, which bodes well for the country’s mining future,” he said.

He noted many of the mining companies represented at the event also had operations in BME strongholds like West Africa, even operating in other BME territories such as Southeast Asia. The company’s globalisation strategy was also paving the way for greater future involvement in global mining tenders, he said.

“Events like PDAC allow us to steadily build links in new territories like North America, leveraging the relationships we already have with majors and juniors in that market,” Hennecke said. “In addition to prospective mining customers, we also regularly meet a range of important service providers and contractors with whom we might work in future.”

Emphasising BME’s commitment to collaboration in the market – especially in the digital and technological space – he said these links were increasingly important to facilitate the integration of technologies in the interest of more productive mining.

“Mines are looking to synergise their supply chains to ensure they benefit optimally from the various services and product developments,” he said. “This means that technology providers must have the capacity to continuously integrate their offerings into customers’ systems – even collaborating with other technology providers to do so. This integration is vital to allow mines to harness the power of new innovations.”

BME expands into US explosives market with AXXIS electronic detonators

South Africa-based explosives leader BME has taken another step in its global expansion by supplying its market-leading AXXIS electronic detonators to customers in the US.

According to BME managing director Joe Keenan (pictured), the company is already active with shipments of AXXIS detonators to customers in Atlanta and Texas, and the introduction of a number of BME’s other products and services is soon to follow.

“Our range of highly stable emulsion formulations has also been approved by the necessary authorities, and these will soon be available to the US market,” Keenan said. “We expect considerable interest from users and distributors alike as we unveil our offerings to this market.”

Keenan highlighted that much of the anticipated initial demand is likely to come from large existing customers who have experience of working with BME in Africa and Australia – and who also have US operations that could benefit from BME’s offerings. Providing a base for BME’s US presence is its recently opened office in Denver, Colorado.

The company took its first steps into the US market last year with a number of successful test blasts making use of its digital initiation system, blast planning software and electronic detonators.

“We expect that the powerful features of the AXXIS system and its user-friendly interface are going to prove as attractive to this new market as they are in our existing markets,” he said. “Our immediate plans for the US market are to establish and develop our distribution network for the AXXIS system and emulsion explosives – to develop customer relationships in mining, quarrying and construction.”

BME’s emulsion products, developed over the past three decades, will be toll manufactured in the US to BME’s specifications. The company’s emulsion technology, production capacity and customer service culture has made it one of the largest explosives suppliers to Africa’s open-pit mining sector.

BME’s AXXIS system has been behind the world’s largest surface blasts, measured by the number of electronic detonators fired in a single blast. At Zambia’s Kansanshi Mine – the largest copper mine in Africa – 6,690 electronic delay detonators were successfully initiated in one blast last year using AXXIS.

Electronic detonation has become increasing popular due to its reliability, accuracy and flexibility, making blasting practice more predictable and allowing for larger and more cost-effective blasts.