Tag Archives: BME

BME’s AXXIS Silver electronic initiation system passes the test in Lesotho

High in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, explosives and blasting specialist BME recently achieved the first blast outside of South Africa with its new AXXIS Silver™ electronic initiation system.

BME, a member company of the JSE-listed Omnia Group, is assisting a diamond mine customer to conduct quality blasts in all weather. According to BME’s AXXIS™ Support Manager, Hennie du Preez, BME has been active on this mine since 2016. Located at an altitude of over 3,000 m, the operation frequently experiences snow and sub-zero temperatures.

“This means blasting under challenging conditions, including extreme cold, snow and ice,” du Preez said. “BME provides everything from the emulsion explosive to the detonation equipment, which all continues to function well under these conditions.”

The AXXIS Silver initiation system employed at the mine is a leaner version of BME’s flagship product AXXIS Titanium™. The company conducts the priming, logging and firing of the blasts, and ensures a regular supply of emulsions to the site.

“Among the benefits of AXXIS Silver is its thin, copper-cladded downline wire, which de-coils easily for use in small diameter holes – even when they are waterlogged,” Du Preez said. “Due to their robust quality, our electronic detonators were able to remain in the holes for two days before blasting, in temperatures below zero where the hole collars froze solid.”

Despite the conditions, there were no issue encountered with the wire or the connector. BME’s latest logger, the TDC 600, also performed as normal in these cold and wet conditions, with no signs of screen lagging. Its battery lasted the entire duration of the logging and the firing of the blast, according to the company.

“We kept our blasting boxes in the vehicle until blasting time, and they switched on without any problems,” du Preez said. “Neither did the cold conditions cause any sluggishness of the screens.”

He confirmed that firing the blast went ahead as planned, with smooth communication between the logger and the blasting boxes. In the final communication check, there was no instability detected.

“This was another confirmation of the resilience of our system in cold climates and freezing weather,” du Preez said. “We have had AXXIS successfully tested in the US for operating in temperatures below minus 40°C, in anticipation of growing business opportunities in the US and Canada.”

AXXIS Silver allows up to 1,800 holes to be detonated in a single blast, initiated from two blast boxes linked.

du Preez noted that mines are increasingly asking for larger blasts to reduce downtime from pit stoppages during blasting. BME is expecting to apply AXXIS Titanium at the Lesotho operation, which can raise the number of detonators in a single blast to 20,000 – or 20 blast boxes firing up to 1,000 detonators each.

An added benefit of the copper-cladded wire, du Preez said, is that the steel wire responds to a magnetic field. After a blast, this allows remnants of wire in the blasted material to be removed by magnetic separators on the conveyor belts before entering the crushing and milling phases. It, thus, prevents potential damage to comminution equipment and contamination of mined material.

BME has also been supplying various Lesotho mine with up to 500 t of emulsion explosive each month. This involves the monthly movement of over 15 tankers through steep mountain passes to keep them supplied with fresh emulsion.

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’s urea-inhibited bulk emulsion comes to the rescue at zinc mine

When a South African zinc mine experienced a premature detonation in one of its blast holes, BME says it was soon on site to investigate the incident and apply a safe strategy to proceed.

According to BME Technical Services Manager, Deon Pieterse, the cause of the detonation was the reactive ground being drilled for blasting. This was an example of the exothermic chemical reaction that can occur between sulphide-bearing rock and ammonium nitrate-based explosives in the blasthole.

“The mine was found to have geologically-bounded reactive zones within its rich zinc deposits,” Pieterse said. “Due to the natural process of weathering and leaching, the upper benches of the transition zone are more prone to reactivity – as these benches contain more exposed sulphide or sulphide bearing rock and soils.”

He noted that the area being blasted had previously been mined and did not have a history of ground reactivity. Where reactive ground is known to occur, reactive zone mapping of the geology of the mine can be used to mark out potential reactive ground areas in the current and future mining blocks.

“In this case, an unexpected detonation of three holes occurred after the loading process was completed and before blast firing,” he said. “There were no injuries associated with these events.”

The blast block was immediately evacuated and barricaded. For two days, other blast holes showed signs of reaction. This included the emission of smoke and yellow-orange reacted emulsion froth coming out of the blast holes. After signs of reaction ceased, and the pit was declared safe, an in-pit inspection was conducted. Ground samples were collected from the reactive areas and sent for ammonium nitrate and ground-reactivity analysis.

“During our inspection, 35 holes were found to have shown signs of reaction,” Pieterse said. “Other holes were temperature checked with in-hole readings of between 131°C and 170°C at one metre below the hole collar. South Africa National Standards require detonators to function nominally up to 85°C; anything above this increases the possibility of unplanned detonation.”

Ground samples were collected from the reactive areas and sent for testing at the BME’s Losberg laboratory. Here, extreme reactions were observed in two samples of reactive ground that had been loaded with uninhibited bulk ammonium nitrate explosives.

“We monitored the temperature of the samples during testing with a temperature data logger and measured temperatures exceeding 700°C within an hour of mixing the samples,” Pieterse said.

BME was then able to apply its urea-inhibited bulk emulsion – brand named INNOVEX™ RG – which is specially designed for use in reactive ground. Applying the same tests, this inhibited emulsion did not react, or cause any temperature spike.

“We then conducted ongoing characterisation work to understand the reactive ground at the mine,” Pieterse said. “As mining progresses, drill samples are analysed and tested, helping us to build reactive zone maps of the geology.”

In terms of safety practice associated with reactive ground, he explained that mines should conduct a risk assessment where they suspect reactive ground. This should include the monitoring of potential reactive ground indicators. If reactive ground is identified, he outlined a range of controls to manage this risk.

“Mines can use urea-inhibited bulk emulsion, as urea reduces the rate of reaction and slows heat build-up,” Pieterse said. “Blocks should then be kept small enough to be fully charged and fired the same day.”

He noted that, in some instances, holes may need to be sleeved with plastic liners before charging – to isolate the explosives from the blasthole walls. Drill assistants should then keep drill cuttings clear of the blast hole collars, to a radius of at least 0.5 m.

“Drill cuttings that mix in with explosives present a higher risk of rapid temperature build-up,” Pieterse said. “Clearing the hole collars of drill cuttings will prevent activity around the hole collar – such as charging and hole priming – from pushing cuttings back into the hole and onto the explosives column.”

As a rule, personnel on the block must be kept to a minimum during the priming and stemming activities. They should also be careful to check that all explosive and initiation products used to blast reactive ground are compatible; also, each product must be qualified to operate within the temperature range.

“It is important that imported stemming material must be tested to be free of reactive ground,” he said. “Unless stemming can be done rapidly using a stemming truck, blast holes should remain unstemmed.”

He warned, however, that with no stemming in the blast holes, there may be increased air blast and more fly rock from the surface cratering.

“If the holes need to be stemmed, then this must be done just before blasting time – so that all holes remain open for long as possible to release heat,”Pieterse said. “This reduces the risk of hole deflagration and unexpected detonation.”

He highlighted another benefit of having unstemmed holes: they can be observed more easily. For instance, reacting holes may emit visible fumes, in colours of yellow, orange, red and brown. If this occurs, then the blast area should be immediately evacuated and secured, and personnel moved to a safe distance.

This article was first presented as a white paper at the International Society of Explosives Engineers conference. You can download the white paper here.

BME Mining Canada readies advanced emulsion, blasting tech for Canada’s UG mining sector

BME Mining Canada Inc, a 50:50 joint venture between South Africa-based BME and Canada-based Consbec, is to use the upcoming Canadian Mining Expo to further highlight its blasting technology and other services to the Canadian mining industry.

Being held in Timmins, one of Canada’s important mining hubs, the event, running from June 8-9, provides BME Mining Canada with a valuable opportunity to reach particularly the underground mining sector.

According to Neil Alberts, BME’s International Underground Business Manager, Ontario presents exciting opportunities for the business.

“We look forward to engaging with small, medium and large mining companies at the expo,” Alberts said. “Our advanced emulsions and blasting technologies is well suited to this market, which is embracing high-tech mining and blasting operations.”

At the event, BME Mining Canada will display one of its Emulsion Charging Units for underground applications. This will be part of showcasing its emulsion loading technology, which has been proven in a variety of mining applications globally, the company said.

It also expects considerable interest in its dual salt emulsion products, its AXXIS Titanium™ electronic detonation system and its Blast Alliance suite of blasting technology tools. The company has recently established manufacturing and processing facilities at Nairn Centre – just west of Sudbury, Ontario.

“Among our strategic targets will be those large, remote mines who are on the look-out for economical and reliable ammonium nitrate supply lines,” Alberts said. “We are positioned to serve customers across Canada from our network of approved bulk explosive facilities from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, and up to Labrador in the north.”

BME to showcase AXXIS Titanium electronic initiation system at Mining Indaba

Omnia Group company, BME is set to showcase its breakthrough electronic initiation system, AXXIS Titanium, at next week’s Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa.

Globally launched in November last year, AXXIS Titanium is one of the world’s most advanced electronic blast detonation systems, the company says.

BME Marketing Manager, Michelle Fedder, says the wide international audience at the Indaba will be inspired by the advanced features of this electronic detonator system.

“Buoyed by strong commodity demand, mines in Africa nonetheless face a range of compliance demands in terms of sustainability – and are constantly in search of efficiency solutions,” she said. “AXXIS Titanium, in concert with BME’s ongoing innovations across its offerings, is helping mines drive down their energy costs and carbon footprint.”

She said AXXIS Titanium boasts improved safety levels enhancing communication with the detonator during manufacturing to avoid defects. Performance is raised through the increased blast duration per detonator, more units per blasting box and precise firing accuracy.

Safety remains BME’s priority, with the incorporation of a Swiss-designed application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip in BME detonators, delivering several added benefits. The ASIC gives the system more internal safety gates against stray current and lightning, enhancing safety levels and allowing for inherently safe logging and testing, according to the company.

“With our sustainability-aligned offerings, we are feeling very enthusiastic about the mining industry and its prospects – especially as it forges the commodity path to a lower-carbon future,” Fedder said.

International Mining is a media sponsor of the Investing in African Mining Indaba, which is running from May 9-12.

BME’s achieves another record-breaking blast with AXXIS Titanium electronic detonators

Another record-breaking blast has been notched up by Omnia Group company BME using its latest generation AXXIS Titanium™ electronic detonation system.

The blast of 5,209 detonators was conducted recently at a chrome mine in South Africa’s North West province, according to Tinus Brits, BME’s Global Product Manager – AXXIS. Brits highlighted how the enhanced features of AXXIS Titanium allows mines to respond quickly and easily to raised production demands.

“While a record blast is always an achievement to be celebrated, this was a standard production blast requiring nothing different or extra from the mine,” he said. “The ease-of-use of AXXIS Titanium, the speed at which blasts can be prepared, and its rapid testing features make this possible.”

The dual-voltage basis of the new system means that detonators can be tested while they are logged in, with the logging and testing conducted as a single function. As a result, this record blast could be primed, charged, tied-up, logged, tested and programmed in just two days.

“With AXXIS Titanium, the logger does everything for you,” Brits said. Multiple loggers were used on the blast, with each operator logging a portion of the blast to speed up the process; the log files were then seamlessly combined.

By consuming less energy, AXXIS Titanium allows up to 1,000 detonators to be initiated by each blasting box – reducing the amount of equipment that is needed on site.

“This helps improve the reliability of blasts, as there are fewer items of equipment to communicate with each other,” Brits said. “These high levels of reliability ensure a quality blast with no misfires, even in single-prime blasts – where there is just one detonator per hole – as was the case in this record blast.”

He also emphasised the intuitive fault-finding capacity of the AXXIS Titanium system, which identifies those detonators which have not been logged onto the harness wire. The operator is informed precisely where the relevant detonator is to be found, so it can be quickly logged.

“It also solves the problem of ‘intruders’ – those detonators that were accidentally missed during the logging process,” Brits said. “Again, the operator can speedily fix this issue wherever it occurs, ensuring that there are no misfires in the blast.”

The design of the AXXIS Titanium connector is another important factor, allowing blasters to log and test detonators without the need to open the connector. The gel in the connector that ensures a good seal, therefore, is not disturbed during testing and logging.

“It only gets opened up once you connect it to the surface wire, which is why the sealing of our connectors is so good – eradicating resistance or leakage on the block,” Brits said.

Ralf Hennecke promoted to Managing Director at BME

Ralf Hennecke has been appointed as the Managing Director of BME, a division of the Omnia Group, with effect from December 1, 2021.

Hennecke started his career in 1987 at Rand Mines Limited and was employed at Johannesburg Consolidated Investments, following which he joined Omnia BME in 1995.

He has deep operational, marketing, sales, commercial and technical expertise, having been part of BME’s executive team for over 20 years and played a key role in BME’s recent global corporate development and strategy. In July 2021, Hennecke was promoted to the position of Managing Director for BME SADC.

BME, a leading manufacturer and supplier of explosives products, technology and blasting services to the mining sector, says it has a balanced presence in sectors that are essential to the sustainable use of the world’s finite resources and focuses on developing intellectual property to add value to the global mining sector.

Hennecke said: “It is an honour to accept this role, and with the support of my team, we are deeply committed to executing on BME’s growth plans across our global markets. We will achieve this through consistent product, technology and services delivery, close customer and stakeholder relationships and partnerships, whilst playing our part as a responsible and sustainable corporate citizen in the mining sector.”

The recent launch of AXXIS Titanium™, an advanced electronic blast detonation systems, will play a key role in driving growth, while the “Blast Alliance” approach will further entrench the division’s reputation as a collaborative partner, the company said.

Seelan Gobalsamy, CEO of the Omnia Group, said: “In line with Omnia’s growth strategy, it is vital to ensure that we have the leadership bench strength required to achieve our ambitions. It, thus, gives me great pleasure to welcome Ralf in his new role. Ralf’s wealth of experience and understanding of our group allows us to continue to execute on our growth strategy.”

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 brings technical blasting services online

Omnia Group company, BME, says it is now providing technical blasting services online, giving the industry access to experienced specialists through virtual consultations and solutions.

The service is an important part of BME’s recently upgraded website, according to the company’s Global Manager for Blasting Science, D Scott Scovira.

“Our online technical blasting service is provided not only by BME’s in-house technical staff, but it is also in association with other recognised third-party specialists in blasting, mining and construction,” Scovira said. “The initial online consultation to discuss and scope out a blasting project is at no charge, and the service is not limited to existing BME clients only.”

The range of services offered include blast fragmentation distribution prediction for surface greenfield sites, fragmentation distribution optimisation for supporting mine-to-mill initiatives at established surface and underground sites, and rock characterisation and specifications for blasting in hot or reactive ground. The team are also able to provide solutions related to highwall blast design and management, as well as novel and disruptive blast design and mining methods, it said.

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.”