Tag Archives: Explosives

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.

Orica’s hardware and software platforms converging for Mining 4.0

Orica’s corporate vision of “mobilising Earth’s resources in a sustainable way” is being further realised through a host of developments from its Digital Solutions and Blasting Technologies divisions, IM reports.

Those involved in charging operations could soon benefit from the launch of Orica and Epiroc’s Avatel™ solution, which, in combination with the WebGen™ wireless initiation platform, offers the ability to remotely blast a development face.

At the same time, the company is busy with the sustainable production of emulsion, the integration of geological orebody information to optimise energy use for blasting, and the expansion of downstream mineral processing tools.

Avatel

Avatel is a combination of state-of-the-art hardware and software solutions designed to mechanise the blasting process.

It includes Orica’s HandiLoader™ emulsion process body, Epiroc’s M2C carrier integrating an RCS 5 control system with Orica’s LOADPlus™ control system, a WebGen 200 wireless initiation system and an automated WebGen magazine. Epiroc has also incorporated onboard dewatering and lifter debris clearing capability, while Orica’s SHOTPlus™ intelligent blast design software is leveraged to deliver superior blasting outcomes, Orica says.

Orica and Epiroc’s advanced technologies integrated into the Avatel system

These components help eliminate the need for personnel exposure at the development face throughout the charging stage of the mining cycle, keeping personnel out of the line of fire, by substituting inherently high hazard manual tasks with a mechanised development charging solution.

A prototype Avatel unit is set to commence operations at Agnico Eagle Mining’s Kittilä gold mine in Finland in the next few months. This follows “alpha trialling” of the complete prototype unit at Epiroc’s Nacka test mine in Stockholm, Sweden.

Adam Mooney, Vice President of Blasting Technology for Orica, said: “Our goal for Kittilä is to expose Avatel to a real mining environment, putting the unit through its paces in an active mine where safety, productivity and reliability are core requirements for success.

“We will gain a practical understanding of how Avatel will fit in with and benefit the entire mining cycle, while also taking the opportunity to measure the blasting improvements possible through the combined use of electronic initiation timing and the precise blast energy control available with Avatel.”

A separate unit, meanwhile, will head to Newcrest Mining’s Cadia copper-gold mine in New South Wales, Australia, later this year, for the first commercial deployment. This is currently undergoing pre-delivery commissioning at Epiroc’s customer centre in Burnie, Tasmania.

Cyclo

Not too far away in Papua New Guinea, Orica has successfully commissioned a Cyclo™ emulsion technology unit, which has been running at a customer site for around two months, according to Mooney. The unit in question has treated in excess of 100,000 litres of used oil, he said.

Cyclo combines the company’s emulsion technology with used oil processing technology to transform mine-site used oil for application in explosives. To provide the tight quality control and regular testing required to manufacture emulsions with such inputs, Orica has partnered with CreatEnergy to develop a standalone, on-site solution to treat used oil.

Orica initially scheduled Cyclo for market introduction in late 2022, but it scaled and sped up development and production plans to support customers’ operations and curtail material disruptions brought about by COVID-19.

The first automated containerised used oil recycling system was commissioned in Ghana late in 2021, with the Papua New Guinea unit being the latest deployment.

Cyclo – containerised, automated used oil recycling service at a customer site in Ghana, Africa

A Senegal Cyclo debut is on track for July given the unit is already in country and connected into the emulsion plant on site, Mooney explained.

The company also plans to bring to market a Cyclo unit suitable for Arctic conditions by the end of this year, with the solution already under construction.

Data to insights to intelligence

Aside from hardware and sustainable emulsion solutions, Orica has recently signed an agreement with Microsoft Azure predicated on creating data-rich and artificial intelligence-infused tools that enable productivity, safety and sustainability benefits on site, with Raj Mathiravedu, Vice President of Digital Solutions, saying such a tie-up enables the company to think of the blasting value chain in a much more holistic manner.

“Orica Digital Solutions’ purpose is to develop and deliver a suite of integrated workflow tools to enable the corporate vision of mobilising Earth’s resources in a sustainable way,” he said. “A key attribute to delivering this workflow is the journey that we need to incorporate from data to insights to intelligence.”

Mathiravedu says the company is looking to go beyond the traditional solutions pairing software and IoT devices for a discrete product to – with the help of Microsoft Azure capabilities – building “answer products” focused on improving workflows.

“These workflows can benefit from understanding how geology within the orebody intelligence space can help us determine the optimised energy required for blasting in a real-time production workflow,” he said. “We have started this journey and are already delivering value to our customers by integrating workflows from orebody to processing.”

One example of this is the company’s FRAGTrack™ suite of solutions, devised to provide blast fragmentation data with auto-analysis capability.

Delivered as part of the company’s BlastIQ Digital Optimisation Platform, FRAGTrack is able to capture real-time fragmentation measurement data for optimising drill and blast operations, improving downstream productivity and tracking of operational performance.

Originally developed for measurements on both face shovels and conveyors, the solution was expanded earlier this year with the launch of FRAGTrack Crusher for automated pre-crusher fragmentation measurements.

FRAGTrack Crusher installation at Stevenson Aggregates

There are several vendors offering fragmentation measurement tools throughout the industry, but Mathiravedu says Orica’s solution can carry out such analysis consistently and accurately – day or night – in extremely dusty and dynamic environments like mining.

“The FRAGTrack image processing technology can handle extremely dusty and lighting-affected conditions beyond any solutions in the industry,” Mathiravedu said. “It is also able to learn and adapt to specific operational environments like the dumping habits of different truck operators using artificial intelligence technology. Together with the integration with fleet management systems, it can provide a fully autonomous and integrated measurement solution.”

On conveyors, the FRAGTrack solution can reliably measure fines with increased accuracy compared with conventional systems that leverage curve-fit algorithms, according to Mathiravedu, with the advanced image and 3D processing techniques providing the ability to measure fragments down to 5 mm in size.

The combination of FRAGTrack Conveyor and Orica’s ORETrack™ solution can provide not only particle size distribution information, but also critical information on ore grade and hardness for the milling operations in real time.

“The FRAGTrack platform architecture has been designed to be scalable to incorporate different sensor inputs along with its high-performance GPU compute capabilities,” Mathiravedu said, explaining that there could be further analysis solutions down the line.

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.

Orica’s 4D bulk explosives tech gains traction in Australia

Having launched its 4D™ bulk explosives technology at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, in September, Orica is now demonstrating the innovation to coal customers on Australia’s East Coast.

The 4D bulk system enables the real-time tailoring of explosives energy to geology across a blast, delivering improvements in fragmentation, on-bench productivity and an overall reduction in drill and blast costs, according to Orica. It is designed to enable customers to, the company says, seamlessly match a greater range of explosives energy across a mine’s geology and target specific blast outcomes in real time.

Back in September, the company said the first release of 4D would begin with Australia from the end of 2021, and it appears Orica has stuck with that schedule.

“We are happy to share that, in Australia, we are currently demonstrating 4D to customers in the East Coast’s coal mines, each with a unique focus to their needs,” the company told IM. “For example, with one customer, we are demonstrating how 4D technology can reduce their overall drill and blast cost through lower explosives consumption, as well as better manage vibration in specific areas of their operation.”

With another customer, Orica is applying the 4D technology to its Fortis™ Clear range of bulk explosive products – formulated for use in applications where the generation of post-blast fume could be experienced – to demonstrate the reduction of fume risk in soft and wet ground, it added.

The technology is also being developed across Orica’s Fortan™ and Aquacharge™ bulk systems but will eventually be applied across Orica’s full suite of bulk systems.

4D is being delivered to these customers through Mobile Manufacturing Units (MMU™) equipped with LOADPlus™, Orica’s proprietary in-cab smart explosives delivery control system that, it says, enables accurate and efficient delivery of formulated explosives products to plan.

By combining emulsion blended with ammonium nitrate porous prills, 4D supports both pumped and augered loading methods across dry, wet and dewatered hole conditions. An outcome of this capability is greater on-bench productivity by Orica’s fleet of 4D-enabled, without the need to change raw materials in the MMU, Orica says.

Delivering up to 23% more relative bulk strength for hard-rock applications and up to 43% reduction in soft-rock applications, 4D will enable a broader range of applications, according to Orica.

Orica said in its half-year results to the end of March 31, 2022 that it was expecting to roll out the 4D technology to more sites in the second half of its financial year.

Incitec Pivot looks for EMEA explosives growth with Titanobel transaction

Incitec Pivot Limited, owner of Dyno Nobel, has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of the shares in Explinvest, the holding company of the Titanobel Group, an industrial explosives manufacturer and drilling, blasting and technical services provider based in France.

Incitec has agreed to pay €91 million ($103 million) for Titanobel in a transaction it says is highly complementary to Dyno Nobel’s existing operations, providing access to new markets where the company can leverage its premium technology offering through substitution and growth strategies.

Titanobel has a strong customer base in the mature and stable European market with exposure to the quarry and construction sector, the growing African hard-rock sector and the rapidly expanding mining of future-facing minerals in the EMEA region, Incitec Pivot said. The company is supported by a well-established manufacturing base in France, which will be key to the delivery of the Dyno Nobel strategy in the region.

The transaction remains subject to the satisfaction of key milestones and conditions, including the French employee works council consultation process, and Incitec Pivot receiving foreign direct investment regulatory approval from the French Ministry of Economy and Finance. It is expected to complete by June 2022.

Titanobel provides drilling, blasting and technical services in France and across Europe, as well as in parts of western and southern Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. It has two main business units, explosives as well as drilling and blasting services.

Following the acquisition, Incitec Pivot intends to leverage the existing manufacturing footprint, the skills and technical experience of Titanobel’s existing workforce, and to enhance its offering through the introduction of Incitec Pivots’ technologies.

“Over time, IPL’s value adding technologies will be expanded into other markets in the EMEA region from this newly enhanced base,” it said. “The EMEA market is significant in size, characterised by low ammonium nitrate requirements, stable or growing minerals markets, and large initiating systems usage with low penetration of electronic detonators.”

IPL’s Managing Director and CEO, Jeanne Johns, said: “Titanobel’s acquisition will fit well with our strategy of taking our core explosive business, for which we are recognised globally, to new markets. We are excited for the potential to service new clients and partners with our market-leading technology.”

Orica sets out to transform mine-site used oil explosive utilisation with Cyclo

Orica’s Cyclo™, a solution combining the company’s emulsifier technology with used oil processing technology to transform mine-site used oil for application in explosives, is off to a fast start with the first automated containerised system recently successfully commissioned in Ghana.

Cyclo is an example of Orica’s strategic focus on optimised resource use through circularity, it said in its recently released annual report.

While used oil/diesel blends have been utilised in process fuels for more than 15 years, the technique requires tight quality control and regular testing when used to manufacture emulsions, the company said. “As a result, it has only been feasible at sites with access to external laboratory services.”

To service a broader range of customers, Orica has partnered with CreatEnergy to develop a standalone, on-site solution to treat used oil to the quality required for emulsion manufacture.

Orica initially scheduled Cyclo for market introduction in late 2022, but it scaled and sped up development and production plans to support customers’ operations and curtail material supply disruptions brought about by COVID-19.

“Our first automated containerised used oil recycling system, Cyclo, was successfully commissioned recently in Ghana, Africa,” Adam Mooney, Vice President of Blasting Technology, said. “We are working to gradually commission further units across more customer sites in the coming months, including in Papua New Guinea and Senegal.”

Bulk emulsion manufactured with Cyclo™ processed used oil

Over 33,000 litres of used oil has been processed to date through the initial Cyclo service, according to Mooney, who explained: “This is a modest quantity as the Cyclo unit was only commissioned remotely in recent months due to COVID-19. In a year, this mine is forecast to reduce their diesel consumption by approximately 250,000 litres.”

Mooney told IM that its used oil recycling technology is designed to support customers’ remote operations where Orica’s site-based emulsion plants are available.

“The key difference in the Cyclo service with existing offers in the market is that the containerised processing system is fully integrated into our on-site emulsion plants, enabling the used oil from the mine to be directly recycled without leaving the site,” he said. “The processing unit guarantees used oil quality to the standard required for emulsion manufacture by removing potential contaminants and, when combined with proprietary Orica emulsifier technology, guarantees finished bulk product quality.”

These installations will, the company said, reduce the annual diesel consumption for explosives manufacture for customers, depending on bulk product consumption, by some 250,000-800,000 litres per year per site when operational, delivering an environmental and commercial benefit to customers. On top of the obvious diesel consumption benefits, the solution will reduce truck movements through local communities and the associated logistical challenges and risks, particularly for remote operations.

A version of the Cyclo system to suit Arctic conditions (eg in Russia and parts of Asia) is currently being designed and will be operational in 2022, Mooney added.

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.”

MAXAM’s automation and digitalisation efforts continue with X-Energy

Blasting solutions provider, MAXAM is continuing its automation and digitalisation drive with the development of its X-Energy innovations, all of which are aimed at ensuring the proper use of its explosives’ energy to optimise downstream outputs, according to MAXAM Technical Senior Advisor, Vicente Huélamo.

As part of this, MAXAM has developed a “powerful and structured” digital platform called MAXAM Blast Center for storing, managing and sharing blast-related data. The platform is a user friendly, customised web-based system that can be accessed remotely.

Users can track information and generate reports detailing blasting activities in real time, since the platform enables the full integration of MAXAM digital tools to design, plan and conduct efficient drilling and blasting operations, the company said. The MAXAM Blast Center can include downstream data from the mine to track and optimise drilling and blasting, with the process commencing with blast design information generated in RIOBLAST, MAXAM’s blast design software, and transferred to the Blast Center platform.

RIOBLAST takes into account rock characteristics and blasting requirements to define the blast loading plans, timing configuration and the bulk explosive density profile for each specific rock layer along the borehole.

The complete blast design is then transferred to the Blast Center from where it can be assigned to the specific Mobile Sensitising Unit (MSU) and the X-Logger. On the bench, the blaster can gather actual data with the X-Logger, such as stemming length and hole conditions, while the MSU loads the boreholes according to the blast loading plan, MAXAM explained. The actual loading data is transferred back to the Blast Center where the information can be shared and processed.

“Innovative solutions using data science, business intelligence, equipment utilisation and blast optimisation can be developed as a consequence of the digitalisation of blasting processes,” MAXAM says. “The application of artificial intelligence and machine learning are key to generating value at each stage of the mine production cycle.”

The new generation of MAXAM’s fully digitalised MSUs, X-TRUCK, represents state-of-the-art technology for the manufacturing and loading of bulk blasting products, according to the company.

X-Truck offers a means of communication between the MAXAM Blast Center and the MSU control system, the company said. Loading plans can be sent directly to the loading units via a high-speed Wi-Fi network, allowing each MSU manufacture the specified quantity of product and load it directly into each borehole.

“The sensitising and loading of explosives is an operation that requires the highest quality standards to achieve the desired results,” the company explained. “MAXAM Blast Center ensures that the entire process, from blast design, data exchange, to final product application and blasting outcomes, is consistently performed safely, correctly and efficiently to always produce the optimum blasting outcomes.”

X-Logger, meanwhile, is an application for portable devices designed to collect and digitise actual data on the bench, such as borehole parameters after drilling, the amount of product loaded in each borehole, stemming control and other attributes. The device is fully integrated into the MAXAM Blast Center in a way that the data retrieved from the field is automatically updated in the platform using the internet connection. In the absence of such a connection, the data is synchronised when the connection is re-established.

MAXAM concluded: “The integration of geology, blasting design and drilling information into an innovative explosive application technology contributes to the mine optimisation program. These optimisation capabilities involve the ability to continuously model and measure all related phenomena and operational performance and consolidate them into a continuous improvement program of all the mine operations.”

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.