Tag Archives: Explosives

AECI Mining expands Latin America explosives reach with Dinaser acquisition

AECI Mining says it has concluded the ZAR45 million ($2.4 million) acquisition of Dinaser Industria, an explosives business in Brazil.

The acquisition, executed through local entity AECI Mining Produtos Quimicos Ltda, includes 100% ownership of Dinaser’s explosives distribution and storage facilities as well as operating licences in the mining states of Minas Gerais and Bahia.

Holger Riemensperger, AECI Group Chief Executive, said: “This acquisition is in line with AECI’s strategy to continue expanding its already extensive footprint in the global mining sector. It builds on our existing reach in Brazil where we already own and operate a bulk emulsion and packaged explosives manufacturing plant, in the state of São Paulo, and have also seen good growth in the South American metallurgical extraction chemicals market.”

Mark Kathan, AECI Mining CEO, added: “Dinaser currently serves mainly the Brazilian construction and civil blasting industry. With our world-class products and know-how in both underground and surface mining, as well as our longstanding relationships with global customers, the opportunities to grow the business are significant.”

Mining3’s Alternative Explosives Project finding the right formula

Later this year, Mining3 is to demonstrate to funding supporters and commercialisation partners a significant ACARP-funded project milestone of a number of blasts in rock with hydrogen peroxide-based emulsion explosive at an increasing scale of production.

While rock-breakage displays in Queensland quarries with alternative explosives formulations were completed back in 2016, those formulations were proof-of-principle tests for a hydrogen peroxide-based explosive. The project has moved on significantly since then.

“Last year we completed a complete suite of United Nations (UN) authorisation tests to confirm that the new emulsion formulation has a feasible classification as a commercially viable product,” Mining3 said. “Our prior hydrogel-based formulations, whilst demonstrating rock-breakage potential, did not pass UN classification and have been abandoned.”

Last year, Mining3 and western New South Wales-based independent explosives testing partner, Rurex, comprehensively tested the novel emulsion formulation. The outcome of UN testing is a portfolio of results that, Mining3 says, will assist explosives delivery companies to apply for authorisation within their regulatory jurisdictions for the new emulsion formulation. Three series of tests were conducted to ensure that the new formula was safe to use regarding fire, impact, friction and heating.

Mining3 said: “We reported UN classification for a Class 1.1D UN0241 explosive as a significant achievement last year. But what the data doesn’t show is the countless failed trials and white knuckles that the researchers had when conducting the authorisation tests. Any single failure can scuttle the formulation from advancing to commercial application, and represented in some formulas, such as all the failed hydrogel formula, hundreds of hours of research. Whilst it is relatively easy to make a hydrogen peroxide-based explosive, the heightened energetics of the oxidiser was a challenge to make a safe explosive that is acceptable to industry.”

With the confidence of a supportive suite of UN test results, Mining3 says it is assured of commercialisation with the new emulsion formulation.

Following on from the UN test results, Sydney-based mining equipment manufacture, Elquip, has developed a prototype 500 kg duo-batch-mixer to produce the volumes of explosive material for mine site bulk trials. It has been an equally challenging path to a safe and effective mixer for a model of on-site, on-demand emulsion explosives manufacture.

An image from the Elquip prototype hydrogen peroxide-based Emulsion Mixer commissioning trials at Rurex, in western NSW, in July 2022. “We always take a safety-first approach in our research, so, in the pictured trial and initial commissioning tests, we used full body hazchem suites,” Dr Andrew Kettle says (photo courtesy of Ryan Esam, Rurex)

Scaling from the laboratory bench to the mine bench explosive formula manufacture is a journey requiring all the caution imaginable, and some unimagined. “Elquip has embraced the adventure and positioned themselves as the preferred equipment supplier aligned to the near-horizon commercialisation pathway,” Mining3 says. The specificity of hydrogen peroxide material compatibility, equipment design and safety for a hydrogen peroxide-based explosive has been captured by Elquip, ensuring its equipment and support of the Mining3 research projects is successful. Commissioning of the first prototype batch mixer was conducted at Rurex last year and is now being shipped to the blast trial sites, Mining3 says.

Senior Research Leader, Dr Andrew Kettle, said: “Rurex certainly challenged Elquip during equipment testing. Sub-zero temperatures during the winter months, last year, proved the ambient temperature manufacture claims for the emulsion formula. Importantly, the emulsion, made from two liquids, one obviously being hydrogen peroxide-based oxidiser phase, can be made at ambient temperature. From an Australian perspective, that reality is below 2°C to above 40°C. So, we have tested manufacture in these ambient environmental temperatures at Rurex.”

The alternative explosives research to date has been supported by ACARP and collaborating companies, such as Elquip and Rurex. Going forward, Mining3 has launched an Expression of Interest (EOI) to companies to build a commercialisation roadmap and deliver the technology to the mining market.

“The interest in our EOI for Mining3 alternative explosives technology has been very successful,” Dr Kettle says. “We have built on the industry awareness of our research and are looking at viable pathways to market. We have had numerous discussions covering the broad application of the formula in open-cut, underground and civil applications, and ancillary product applications of the formula with a large variety of industry interests. We’ll continue to work with the myriad of companies to ensure a safe and effective transition for this technology.”

BME enhances blasting control and monitoring with next-generation Xplolog release

Mining solutions specialist BME has released a new version of its Xplolog system for capturing and analysing data on blast holes and decks.

BME – part of Omnia’s mining segment – developed Xplolog as a powerful tool for mines to monitor their block progress in real time, providing the necessary data to track trends and continuously improve the quality of blasts, it says.

The focus in developing this next-generation Xplolog has been the detailed guidance by users, according to Christiaan Liebenberg, BME Product Manager Software Solutions. This has led to making the system more user friendly, scalable and streamlined with other BME digital solutions – while also benefiting from improved data security, the company says.

“We engaged our Xplolog users in a highly systematic way to inform us at every step of our upgrade process,” Liebenberg said. “After our first structured interviews with users, for instance, we developed mock-ups and wireframes that we could take back to the user group for further testing. This approach was even taken into the design and prototype stages, ensuring that the system was in many ways actually built by the users.”

With the design and application code built from the ground up, and with a new and upgraded database using Google’s Cloud Services, the performance of Xplolog has been enhanced. The capacity of the system can also be rapidly increased, allowing better scalability; customers can have a site set up within a matter of hours, according to BME.

Christiaan Liebenberg – BME Product Manager Software Solutions

“Security has been improved through a more robust login and registration process,” Liebenberg said. “There are different user access levels in the new version, giving customers more control over who can access information related to their role in the organisation.

“Users will appreciate how everything is centralised in this version of Xplolog, and how we have improved the workflow for third party blast design uploads in the system.”

The look and feel of Xplolog has been revised in line with the progressive standardising of design across BME’s Blast Alliance digital solutions. This makes users feel familiar with the BME offering, through increased brand identification and continuity of the customer experience with Blast Alliance, Liebenberg said.

“Another important aspect of our upgrade is that users can easily customise their dashboards, creating a personalised view of block information important to the user,” he said.

Customised reports can be created and saved, allowing users to return to that recurring daily, weekly or monthly report each week or month as required. A summary view of block data is visible to track progress at a quick glance for the user.

“We have also given users the ability to better visually track block progress, with the creative use of colours and iconography,” Liebenberg said.

The process of inputting data has been optimised by rationalising the number of steps or actions wherever possible. Importantly, Liebenberg pointed out that Xplolog’s integration with BME’s mobile manufacturing units (MMUs) has taken account of different regional preferences and conditions around the globe.

“The system also provides mines with a digital audit trail, so that they can track operator performance during the drilling and charging phases, as well as provide hole loading information per truck,” he said.

Xplolog is integrated with other BME offerings like its blast planning software Blastmap, and to third-party blast software.

Integrated with BME’s MMUs, Xplolog, BME says, allows the MMU operator to charge and top-up holes accurately from the source application, which will have the latest blast design updates loaded. The actual charged and top-up values from the MMU’s digital panel will automatically be sent back to Xplolog, which will make the data available on the cloud platform for review and analysis.

“Our new version of Xplolog continues to raise the bar in leveraging digital technology,” Liebenberg said. “Our software engineering team continues to add new features and implement continuous improvements as we receive feedback from users of the system in the field – to help mines operate more efficiently, cost-effectively and safely.”

These updates are released to all existing customers of Xplolog every quarter at no additional cost, according to BME.

Austin Powder develops lead-free explosives detonator

Austin Powder has developed a lead-free primary explosive detonators for its clients that, it says, comes ahead of regulators mandating the use of such an alternative.

Austin Powder started looking for a lead-free alternative to lead azide back in 2007 at its detonator facility, Austin Star Detonator. The initial work was started by Morris Bannerman and Göran Jidestig.

“Developing, testing, and producing a new primary explosive is the biggest nightmare for any explosive/detonator maker,” Jan Jidestig, Director of R&D and QC, said. “It is a project that has taken us nearly 15 years. The new substance was designed by experienced chemists who worked collaboratively with the engineers to design the production process. We couldn’t rush the process, and we had some dead ends and had to significantly change the product design, and even parts of the entire manufacturing process. But we did it.”

By 2016, a pilot-scale reactor was designed, which could produce small-scale batches. This was then used to develop the method and to produce enough powder to perform a qualification test. The first field test was carried out in 2018 with 8,500 detonators for Philipsburg in Pennsylvania, USA. During this time, a full-scale reactor was developed with the help of Daniel Rontey and the engineering team at Austin Powder. The first full-scale reaction was completed on April 5, 2019. Production with the new component started in late 2020, with over 93,000 detonators shipped to the field for trials. In 2022, a total of 2.6 million detonators were shipped and used throughout Mexico and the US.

Otta Greben, Global Director of Detonator Products, says: “There is a rule for any explosive makers – don’t change it if it works. But the world is changing, and our approach to safety and health within our production is changing. Here we have internal and external contributors to drive the change. We also have requirements from regulators (you must) and our own decision to improve production hygiene and safety (you should). However, we proactively made the decision to develop lead-free detonators way in advance.”

“The world is changing, and so is Austin Powder,” Homer Solis, Director of Austin Star Detonator, said. “Like most responsible companies, we felt obligated to contribute to making this world a better place. Sure, it was a difficult decision since the biggest fear was a change, but our advantage was that we were not producing the primary explosive. It took years to develop, but our young team of chemists and chemical engineers were able to accomplish this challenging task.”

Orica commercialises Cyclo automated used oil recycling service for explosives manufacture

Orica has successfully commissioned an automated used oil recycling service that, it says, enables treated used oil from mine sites to be used in the manufacture of quality emulsion for bulk explosives, reducing waste, cost and risks for customers and impact to the environment.

Mine sites where Orica’s site-based emulsion plants are located can now realise the benefits of Cyclo™ – a process that allows customers to transform used oil from heavy machinery into raw material for the manufacture of high-quality bulk explosives, Orica explains. When used in combination with Orica’s proprietary emulsifier technology, Cyclo offers customers a high-quality bulk explosive product, while reducing cost and risk associated with the disposal of used oil.

Delivering environmental and commercial benefits to customers, the fully containerised and automated Cyclo system is capable of treating up to 1,000 litres of used oil per hour and is estimated to reduce up to 800,000 litres in diesel consumption annually per site for customers, the company said.

Orica’s Chief Technology Officer, Angus Melbourne, said: “Cyclo is an example of how we are constantly looking for ways to reduce the carbon footprint for our customers and Orica, while creating value to stakeholders. The benefit of the Cyclo service is its ability to fully integrate into our on-site emulsion plants, enabling used oil from the mine to be directly recycled without leaving the site.”

Locations where Cyclo has been implemented have realised a reduction in diesel consumed in the production of bulk explosives by up to 50%, according to Orica. Additional environmental benefits to customers are delivered by reducing heavy vehicle movements through local communities and reducing carbon dioxide emissions through transport.

Cyclo units are currently installed across several customer sites in Africa and Asia/Oceania – including in Ghana. Further installations in Latin America and more sites across Africa are slated for completion by the end of the year, while a version to suit arctic conditions is being developed for Canada, China and Mongolia.

Blasting and explosives leader BME hits safety milestone with zero RCR

After five years of steadily implementing its Safety for Life brand, Omnia Group company BME says it has successfully achieved one of its key safety targets – a zero recordable case rate (RCR) – for the year ending January 2023.

“We consider our zero RCR over the preceding 12 months as a proud landmark to have reached, based on the positive safety culture that our Safety for Life initiative has fostered within the business,” Ramesh Dhoorgapersadh, General Manager for Safety, Health, Environment, Risk and Quality at BME, said.

The RCR is based on the number of safety incidents which resulted in treatment beyond first aid.

Dhoorgapersadh highlighted that BME’s achievement has its foundation not only in sound policies and systems, but in the committed and practical application of these principles every day.

“Companies’ systems and processes often look very good at face value, but these need to be effectively translated into action,” he said. “A RCR of zero does not happen overnight and requires constant reinforcement from the highest level before it forms part of the prevailing culture in the workplace.”

He explained that BME’s safety protocols were driven by a range of safety interventions. These included working on visual felt leadership, process safety, near-miss reporting, driver awareness programs and fatigue management.

BME Managing Director, Ralf Hennecke, re-emphasised the importance of ‘leading from the front’.

“Visual felt leadership has been vital in helping to embed the culture of safety in BME,” he said. “This means a daily commitment by senior executives to focus on how safety plans are being applied on site.”

He noted the corporate alignment of BME’s efforts with the Omnia Group’s vision of zero harm and positive impact through responsible business practices. These frameworks also aligned with the stringent standards of mining customers, many of whom are major global players.

Dhoorgapersadh said the zero RCR was not an end point in the safety journey. The challenge of safety, he explained, was to continue finding ways to improve – thereby steadily reducing any risk of incidents.

“In recent years, for instance, BME has placed growing focus on the medical wellness of our employees,” he said. “They often work under very stressful conditions – frequently out in the open or on the road. Our medical surveillance programme has become more intense, to ensure that their physical condition is optimal at all times.”

This intervention also included subcontractors, especially in the transport sector, to ensure that similar attention was paid to the health of all drivers. He said BME’s focus on safety extended beyond people to the natural environment as well. The effectiveness of safety protocols had also contributed to the occurrence of no chemical spillages that could have an environmental impact.

“We are very aware that, to sustain our enviable safety record, we need to be revisiting all aspects of our progress to look for ways to refresh our approach,” he said. “An important aspect of safety management is about doing the simple things better and better. In every task, you need to be identifying where the risks are – and find ways of preventing those risks from becoming reality.”

NRW subsidiary wins drill and blast contract at Talison’s Greenbushes lithium mine

NRW Holdings’ wholly-owned subsidiary, Action Drill & Blast Pty Ltd, has been issued a notice of award by Talison Lithium Australia for drill and blast services at the Greenbushes lithium mine in Western Australia.

This award follows the longstanding relationship Action has with Talison Lithium since Action commenced drill and blast activities on site in 2011.

The seven-year (plus two-year option) contract is valued at circa-A$300 million ($213 million) over the initial period and is scheduled to commence in July 2023.

The scope of works under the contract include ore, waste, pre-split and RC grade control drilling together with loading, stemming and initiation of bulk explosives. Plant requirements for the project will be sourced from within the Action business together with new equipment capital expenditure of circa-A$30 million over the life of the contract, it said.

The contract will require a peak workforce of some 160 personnel, including the 56 currently employed on site.

Action said the majority of the workforce will be sourced from the local community, building on current relationships and training programs.

Together with its predecessor company, Talison Lithium has been producing lithium concentrates at Greenbushes since 1983, which are ultimately used in lithium-ion batteries. The Greenbushes project, directly south and adjacent to the town of Greenbushes in Western Australia, is a major supplier of lithium mineral concentrates.

BME supports industry skills development with new graduate program

A two-year graduate program has been launched by Omnia-group company BME to, it says, address youth unemployment and skills shortages in an evolving mining industry.

The program targets various disciplines in engineering and science – including mining, chemistry and microbiology, as well as skills in the fields of safety, health, environment and quality assurance. This is part of the commitment by BME’s leadership to support skills development and the growth of young people within the mining industry. The initiative is also instrumental in attracting and retaining talent for the company, it said.

Announcing the initiative, BME Managing Director, Ralf Hennecke, said that many businesses in industry require work experience, and graduates are often overlooked as they do not have the necessary skills or the understanding of the work environment to fill the role.

“Coupled to this, some graduates consider the work environment to be daunting,” Hennecke said. “We, therefore, believe our role will be to ensure that each graduate on our program is provided with the opportunity to grow and develop and reach their full potential. It is vital that we invest in skills development of the next generation of people who will drive the mining industry in the future.”

BME has recruited 19 graduates and placed them at various underground and surface mining sites where the company is currently active. Some graduates have also been placed at BME’s Losberg emulsion plant and its AXXIS™ initiation system plant.

BME Human Resources Manager, Tebogo Seakamela, said: “In a country like South Africa, it is crucial to train graduates without prior work experience, and this is what BME aims to do. Skills development and bringing new entrants into the sector is critical in growing our economy and the mining sector, which is still one of the largest contributors to the country’s gross domestic product.”

She noted that BME prioritises the nurturing and development of young talent, highlighting that these graduates gain immeasurable knowledge and understanding of the real world of work while on the program, ultimately preparing them for the workplace.

“Due to their resilience, agility and bold characters, our graduates have remained committed to the program,” she said.

As a trend in the market, most locally trained graduates are also recruited into other countries after having completed a graduate program – including those around Africa. “This is commendable and a testament to the calibre of our South African mining graduates,” she said.

She highlighted that while the graduates were from various universities across the country, the majority were from Wits Mining Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

The industry is also evolving in terms of minerals extraction, she said, noting that with the introduction of automated and artificial intelligence-based mining, the graduates will get first-hand experience of these technologies being used in the workplace.

“We are building the skills for the future, as well as ensuring that we cultivate a learning culture that encourages and enables critical thinking and innovation,” she noted. “At the same time, these graduates are offered diverse career path options.”

Mampe Mogale, a Mining Engineering Graduate currently based at a mining operation in the Northern Cape, noted that BME held a two-day induction for all its interns across various disciplines at the beginning of October.

“The aim was to familiarise us with the company structure, various disciplines and the people responsible for certain roles within the organisation,” Mogale said.

Clement Marilela, a Mechanical Engineering Graduate, explained that BME made his transition into the company as smooth as possible, informing the graduates about the organisation, while helping them realise the “incredible opportunity” they have been offered.

“It was great to be given the chance to interact with and learn from some of the organisations’ leaders as they shared their expertise and passion for the business,” Marilela said.

Hennecke concluded: “BME is proud to play its part in cultivating the future workforce, preparing them for the field of work. South African graduates are talented and, with on-site experience, can be gainfully employed.”

BME pushes the boundaries with AXXIS Titanium electronic delay detonators

Blasting and explosive solutions provider, BME says it is once again pushing the boundaries of safety with its initiation system, this time testing the resistance of its AXXIS Titanium™ electronic delay detonators (EDDs) to high current AC voltages.

“There are a number of different voltages that underground mines employ for their various machinery and equipment,” Tinus Brits, BME’s Global Product Manager – AXXIS™, said. “The tests we carried out with an independent research partner were able to show that the AXXIS Titanium EDD is very resistant to high current AC voltages.”

South Africa’s Department of Minerals Resources ARP1717 certification is relevant to this aspect of blasting, providing a foundation for the safety levels expected from blasting equipment, according to Bennie van Nieuwenhuizen, Quality Manager for AXXIS.

“In line with our innovation focus and our commitment to safety, the tests we conducted were to push the boundaries even further in the interests of safe blasting and mining,” van Nieuwenhuizen said. “We were therefore interested in characterising the response of our detonators at far higher currents and voltages than the standards require.”

The context for these tests is that EDDs are typically deployed in mining environments where the range of energy levels is difficult to predict – as every mine will have their own preferred power supplies. In some mining applications, EDDs are used near electrical wires or electric initiation systems.

Andries Posthumus, AXXIS Product Development Manager, explained: “This gives rise to the risk that the EDDs could be exposed to high voltages and currents due to human error or equipment failure. It is therefore important that EDDs should have resistance to initiation when unintentionally exposed to high voltage and current.”

He highlighted that the AXXIS Titanium EDD consists of an encapsulated electronic module, with an electronic printed circuit board that is over-moulded with a plastic material in a proprietary shape. The area closest to the explosive part of the detonator forms a friction fit, as the detonator tube is tapered to the bottom. This forms a seal mechanism, isolating the electronic components from the pyro-technic head and base charge.

The testing protocol required specialised high-power inputs, so BME partnered with the National Electrical Test Facility, according to BME Electronic Engineer, Hendrik van Niekerk.

“The tests involved a high current AC voltage source consisting of a live node, connected through a resistor to the one wire of the detonator, and the neutral node to the other wire of the detonator,” he said. “A remote contactor was used to start the AC exposure, while we measured the voltage with a high voltage probe and measured the current level with a current probe.”

The test levels were pushed to extreme levels not expected in normal operating conditions and, in all the samples tested, no initiation occurred.

“We were pleased with the results of the tests, which showed that BME continues to operate at the highest levels of safety,” Brits said. “Our innovative approach ensures that our ongoing research and testing finds new opportunities for safe and efficient blasting.”

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.