The lack of new investment in the form of new mining projects has resulted in little growth for the explosives industry, and while the expansion projects of existing operations have helped the industry somewhat, greenfield projects can facilitate more significant growth.
The mining explosives industry is growing at possibly 1% to 2% a year, which is “very slow”, says joint venture (JV) explosives and blasting solutions company Enaex Africa CEO Francisco Baudrand.
A significant challenge in South Africa, which uses about one-million tonnes of explosives a year, is that there has been no important growth curve because there is no investment in new projects, he explains.
The lack of greenfield projects is largely owing to general uncertainty among investors about South Africa. However, global explosives group Enaex saw investing in South Africa as an opportunity to establish a footprint on the African continent.
By starting Enaex Africa as a JV with integrated energy and chemical company Sasol, the Enaex group was able to move into developing operations in Namibia, Lesotho and Botswana.
The Enaex group’s purpose is to “humanise mining”. In line with this aim, it has introduced a tele-operated mobile mixing unit – Mine-I-Truck. The truck mixes and delivers down-the-hole explosives products to customers. The company is looking towards the future of mining explosives by providing its customers with remotely operated blasting equipment, with the objective of reducing employees’ exposure to potential safety hazards.
Enaex is also working towards introducing the Robominer – a robot that can do priming and manual labour, especially in mining conditions that are unsafe. Phase 1 of Enaex’s move towards teleoperated technologies contributes to creating a “zero accidents” operational environment in the mining industry.
The first full teleoperated blast was performed at global mining company Anglo American’s Los Bronces copper mine, located in Valparaiso, Chile.
Enaex plans for a second phase in which teleoperated robots and teleoperated mobile mixing units will be as productive as people are, improving the teleoperated technologies’ current pace.
Facilitating the development of tools and equipment that can work in challenging and potentially dangerous conditions can make mining safer, he adds.
“Teleoperated blasting equipment is one of Enaex’s most important innovations and Enaex Africa is currently in the process of reviewing the registration requirements to implement them in South Africa. We are targeting to start offering these solutions to the African mining industry in the next three years.”
However, technology that the African market can look forward to using soon is Enaex’s value-added heavy Anfo solutions, which encompass a reactive ground emulsion, a comprehensive hot-hole solution, as well as high power fragmentation and low-energy, low-density products. This aims to introduce a larger scope and address its customer’s main challenges.
Enaex Africa is also rebranding former Sasol bulk emulsion products under the Enaex Africa banner.
Enaex values transformation, which has made the company eager to be not only a broad-based black economic-empowerment- (BBBEE-) compliant company but also continue to improve its BBBEE rating.
“We now have a BBBEE partner, Africa Rising Explosives (Afris), which is headed by Dr Mandla Gantsho. Afris owns a 26% stake in the venture, with Sasol owning 23% and Enaex the remaining 51%, making it the controlling partner,” explains Baudrand.
Enaex Africa has adopted Enaex’s work culture in terms skills development, management, control, procurement and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Enaex Africa’s first BBBEE verification was in May, when it obtained Level 3 on its BBBEE scorecard.
Baudrand says Enaex Africa aims to obtain Level 2 in the short term, which he regards as “a nice challenge” for the company.
The BBBEE rating can help the company grow, enabling Enaex Africa to contribute to the growth of South Africa and its communities through job creation and tax payments.
Enaex is also strongly committed to the safety of the communities in which it operates, as well as educational programmes for youth and women, as part of its CSR.
Work in Progress
Enaex Africa is working on two major projects. Firstly, the expansion of its current bulk emulsion plant located in Secunda, in Mpumalanga.
“Our bulk explosives plant will increase the capacity to 3 000 t/m, which will help us achieve product growth and meet the growing demand for bulk explosives products,” says Baudrand.
Secondly, Enaex Africa has also approved the construction of the first DaveyTronic assembly plant in South Africa. The plant will be located in Secunda. Daveytronic is a high-end electronic detonator produced by Enaex’s French initiations system company Davey Bickford.
In addition, this local assembly line will also produce the new DaveyTronic Swift detonator specially designed for underground development applications. The local plant will service the African market and strengthen Enaex’s electronic detonators security of supply, serving as a backup plant for any market in the world.
The local plant will provide new jobs and require new skills. It will increase the company’s local procurement and add supply security for South African and African customers, Baudrand concludes.