As part of bulk emulsion explosives and mining technology manufacturer BME’s ongoing strategic global expansion strategy, the company plans to continue growing its footprint in mining in West Africa, states BME West African operations GM Michael Klaasen.
“BME has been active in West Africa for many years, building a reputation and footprint that are well regarded by the mining community. We continue to pursue opencast and underground opportunities across commodities and national boundaries.”
While gold is the dominant metal in the region, there is also scope for more activity in commodities such as copper, iron-ore, bauxite, diamonds, emeralds and lithium, he adds.
Klaasen says West Africa contains significant potential for mining, particularly because of the Birmian greenstone belt, which has contributed to Ghana’s strong gold mining industry.
Only 19% of this geological formation is in Ghana, while 45% is in Côte d’Ivoire, where commercial gold mining is still “in its infancy”.
The belt also reaches other countries, such as Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso, providing opportunities for these countries to grow substantial mining industries, owing to multiple resources in the belt.
“It is reasonable to foresee many new greenfield projects taking off in West Africa over the next five to ten years. The region will remain a leading producer of gold in particular.”
Klaasen explains that the orebodies in West Africa tend to be thick and wide and are exploited using longhole drilling and open stoping. This makes BME’s emulsion explosive products suitable, as it is easier and quicker to load holes with emulsion, he adds.
He asserts that government authorities in most countries in the region have now recognised BME’s emulsions as a 5.1 oxidising agent, and that these emulsions are only an explosive when loaded into a blast hole and chemically gassed.
This promotes safety at the mine site and throughout the supply chain, and facilitates easier procedures for transportation, storage and on-site delivery.
Klaasen states that the mining sector in West Africa, similar to those on the rest of the continent, is driven by productivity and cost competitiveness.
“BME supports our mining customers’ efforts to control their costs – not only with our blasting products and services but also in terms of downstream efficiencies. This starts with our reliable emulsions and secure supply chain and includes optimum blasting to ensure the highest efficiency in loading, hauling and communication functions, which are energy intensive.”
Further, BME sources its raw materials from a global range of sources and is constantly striving for cost-competitive, sustainable quality options.
Klaasen stresses that this ability to source raw materials from a range of sources has become vital, following the global disruption of ocean freight because of the Covid-19 pandemic, as shipping is currently a significant challenge for many companies in West Africa.
Consequently, shipping is unreliable and expensive, as the costs of Class 1 containers have risen by about 40% to 50%, he points out.
“In the face of supply chain risks, our priority is to avoid stockouts at all costs. We, therefore, maintain a multimonth supply of stock for every operation. While this affects our working capital, it has proven to be the correct strategy during the hard lockdowns early in the pandemic. We source from a range of suppliers to ensure that a supply is always open,” he explains.
To service customers reliably and timeously, BME has seven manufacturing plants for emulsions across West Africa.
Mines of the Future
BME’s continuously improved technologies positions the company to make the most of mining opportunities in West Africa as “mines increasingly look to build mines of the future”, he adds.
In addition to BME’s emulsions and blasting accessories, the company’s digital solutions portfolio, Blast Alliance – including BME’s BLASTMAP blast planning software and XPLOLOG data logger – has been accepted by many mines in the region.
asserts that the company’s Blast Alliance portfolio is also contributing to West African mines’ monitoring, control and productivity efforts.
Klaasen states that BME will also roll out additional smart technology enabled solutions at flagship mining operations in West Africa later this year to increase mines’ transparency and the efficiency of their logistics systems.
“BME is proud to be contributing to the success of mining operations in West Africa, including a leading gold mine in Mali, which boasts a ranking in the top ten lowest-cost producers in the world. We deliver thousands of bulk emulsion tons a month to this mine and use electronic detonators to optimise production through quality blasts.”
The company is also involved in the mine project of a large gold producer, also in Mali, which Klaasen emphasises hosts one of the world’s largest deposits.
He advances that the company seeks to form long-term business relationships, demonstrated by BME’s decade-long presence at a diamond operation in Sierra Leone.
“In grasping opportunities to work with mining customers, it is also vital that we align closely with their safety culture. Like the mines, BME puts safety first, and with our extensive headcount in West Africa, we have had zero recorded safety incidents for the past six years,” he concludes.