Tag Archives: XPLOLOG

BME launches Blast Alliance brand to encourage blasting technology collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albie Visser, General Manager at BME

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

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

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

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

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

Site precautions

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

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

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

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

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

Overcoming barriers

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

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

Joe Keenan, Managing Director of BME

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

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

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

Automation, remote optionality

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

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

Ralf Hennecke BME General Manager: Technology and Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

The future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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