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Blasting’s role in making mining more sustainable

Technology in blasting alongside advanced low carbon emission emulsion explosives – are helping pave the way on mining’s sustainability journey.

“The digital age has given us the opportunity to leverage the quality of our people, products and service – to optimise blast technology,” said BME Managing Director Ralf Hennecke. “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 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 that innovative digital tools could operate seamlessly with a mine’s existing systems. An innovation that has received global acclaim is BME’s electronic detonation system, AXXIS. Developed by an in-house team of specialists, AXXIS improves the quality of blasts and mine productivity.

“The entire system was designed in South Africa and built by our own engineering department,” said Tinus Brits, Global Product Manager for AXXIS. “All the support and maintenance on the system is conducted by our dedicated in-house technicians.”

Blastmap

Applied in conjunction with BME’s Blastmap blast planning software, AXXIS demonstrates the value of product integration. 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,” he said. They 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, allowing a more streamlined mining process.

“Safety remains a key focus in mining, and a safe mine is a productive mine,” he 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 of safety of emulsions when compared to Class 1 explosives. Emulsions are inert until sensitised in the blasthole, 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.

“By using this waste oil in our emulsions, we are eliminating the use of diesel, which is a high carbon source,” said Sachin Govender, BME’s Used Oil Manager. “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, said 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, he said, 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.

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