A dedicated ‘blasting science’ team – including experts in engineering, physics, mathematics and geology – has become a key driver of innovation in BME, according to blasting technology director Tony Rorke.
“Research, learning and the scientific application of our field experience has helped BME to become a leading provider of mining explosives and blasting services,” said Rorke. “The days of just selling explosives as a commodity are long over.
Now a leading explosives company in Africa, BME has been an innovator since inception, introduced the first cold emulsion explosives to SA. While his work in the early days of BME had initially focused on stand-alone consulting jobs for clients, the company soon saw the need for research and development to be fully integrated into all its operations. So Rorke assembled a team over the years who have developed complex models and software, for instance, that enhance client value.
“The innovation we bring to our emulsion products and blasting techniques adds substantial value to each blast,” he said, “and so our commitment to technology is an essential part of the company’s ethos.”
Years ago, BME recognised the need to grow its own blast planning and execution technology, he said, as it could not just rely on what was generally available to address clients’ specific requirements.
“We have developed the in-house expertise to tackle complex modeling assignments that give clients much more control over their blasts and are invaluable to their bottom line,” said Rorke. “But even more than this, we can take these tested equations and models and build them into our own software so that all clients can benefit.”
An important field where BME’s high-level technical capacity is applied is in predicting the throw from a blast so that a mine knows, for instance, what kind of equipment will need to be employed to dig the muckpile. The models also need to be extensively tested, to ensure that they are predicting correctly.
Once the scientists are happy with the performance of the models, they can then be coded by dedicated programmers at BME into a form that the company can use in developing its products.
“This continuous improvement process works very well at BME because we are constantly reviewing what we do and taking it a step further,” he said. “Our need for innovation is coming from our daily work, and our solutions are feeding back into it.
Not only has this in-house expertise been able to develop various innovative products, but it also integrates their functions to good effect. The AXXIS digital detonation system, for instance, was a game-changer in its own right, as was the BLASTMAP™ III program that allows more accurate planning of complex blasts. The two products now also work in tandem, releasing powerful capabilities to plan and manage blasts more quickly and with greater flexibility
“Our electronic recording system – ExploLogger – also works with BLASTMAP™ III, allowing data on the explosive in each blast hole to be captured on computer and analysed,” he said, “giving actual drill hole depths, exact amounts of explosive used, three-dimensional views and other information.”
The real aim of all the science, he emphasised, is to give clients more value in terms of better blasting, higher ore recovery, less dilution and optimal plant performance.
“Clients have to see that value,” said Rorke. “That’s why we have these tools and the teams working on evolving our products. I’m glad to say that it’s now recognised as part of the company’s DNA.”