BME note positive tone at IQSA conference
Blasting specialist says South African quarries are moving with technology as better times beckon
A POSITIVE tone at the recent Institute of Quarrying Southern Africa (IQSA) conference is giving hope that the region’s economy is recovering, according to Tinus Brits, BME’s global product manager for AXXIS.
He noted that the presentations at the IQSA event provided an encouraging picture of emerging economic opportunities, especially in road construction, which relies on quarries for aggregate and other building materials. As plans are implemented to repair national infrastructure and roll out new projects, contractors are expected to become much busier this year.
‘There are definitely improvements in the performance of a range of sectors, and it was exciting to hear that organizations such as the South African Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL) have a strong pipeline of projects,’ said Mr Brits. ‘As quarries position themselves for the growing demand, they are also looking at the efficiencies of their operations – which is where BME makes an important contribution.’
At the IQSA event, Omnia group company BME showcased their new AXXIS Silver digital initiation system, which was specifically developed with quarrying in mind. Over time, electronic detonation technology has become steadily more popular in the quarrying sector, and Mr Brits sees more quarry managers moving toward newer blasting technology for two key reasons.
First, as quarries age, areas to be blasted can become more challenging, requiring that blasting techniques and equipment become more accurate, flexible, and controlled. Secondly, there is a cost factor related to energy consumption, where rising electricity prices are incentivising energy efficiency.
‘Quarries want their primary blasted rock to be optimally fragmented so that their crushers operate as productively and efficiently as possible,’ said Mr Brits. ‘A presentation at the IQSA conference estimated that the added cost of secondary blasting or breaking of large boulders could reach four times the cost of the initial blast.’
This is where electronic detonators – and the suite of digital tools that accompany this technology – allow quarries to achieve a higher quality of blasts, with better results. Conference visitors showed considerable interest in AXXIS Silver, which is a slimmed-down version of BME’s flagship initiation system, AXXIS Titanium.
According to Bennie van Nieuwenhuizen, BME’s AXXIS quality manager, AXXIS Titanium allows large blasts using up to 20,000 detonators, while AXXIS Silver boasts the same high levels of safety but is aimed at smaller operations.
‘Existing customers operating our AXXIS GII system are enthusiastic about moving up to AXXIS Silver, and we also received considerable interest from potential customers who would like to see the new system demonstrated and tested at their sites,’ said Mr Van Nieuwenhuizen.
For those quarries still using non-electric detonation methods, the step to take them to AXXIS Silver is easily manageable. ‘There has been a steady annual conversion rate of quarries from non-electric detonators to electronic detonators of about 12–14%,’ said Mr van Nieuwenhuizen. ‘Within the next five years, it is likely that most quarries will have moved over to electronics.’
AXXIS Silver retains all the stringent safety features that has made AXXIS Titanium so popular in the mining sector, including an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip in the BME detonators. Among the added benefits of the ASIC is more internal safety gates against stray current and lightning – which enhances safety levels and allows for inherently safe logging and testing.
‘The new system speeds up the blasting process, as the logging, testing, and programming is done with one unit and requires only one visit to the blasthole,’ explained Mr van Nieuwenhuizen.
The AXXIS Silver initiation system integrates with BME’s Blast Alliance suite of digital tools, including their BLASTMAP blast planning software, XPLOLOG data logger and online dashboard, and the Blasting Guide App for Android devices. This allows customized solutions that can be implemented with speed, accuracy, and safety.
‘There are also specific advantages for quarries that we have built into AXXIS Silver, such as the thinner wire which we’ve developed to suit small-diameter waterlogged blastholes,’ said Mr van Nieuwenhuizen. ‘This results in a perfectly straight wire down the hole, so you know exactly where the booster is, without compromising on the line strength.’
He added that in addition to being fit for purpose and quick to install, the reduced thickness also translates into a cost benefit for the customer.