Blasting company BME is expanding its operations in the Zambian copperbelt.
As Zambia’s copper mining focus shifts north-west from Kitwe, Ndola and Chingola to the growing operations at Solwezi and Kalumbila, BME is following in their footsteps, with further potential for growth across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to BME regional manager SADC, Deon Pieterse, the company supplies emulsion explosives to a range of Zambian mining operations, from the largest copper producers to the numerous smaller mini-pit operations in the coal-mining and quarrying sectors.
“This is one of the world’s most exciting regions for copper mining, including First Quantum Minerals’ established Kansanshi mine and its large new Sentinel mine – as well as Barrick’s Lumwana operation,” says Pieterse.
“While we have on-site manufacturing plants on the mines of our larger customers, our smaller customers are serviced from our plants in Ndola and Lusaka,” he adds.
BME’s electronic detonation systems have been well accepted in the Zambian market, with some of the largest ever electronically initiated blasts being conducted at Kansanshi mine in 2017, when 6 690 electronic delay detonators (EDDs) were successfully initiated using BME’s Axxis digital initiation system.
BME has established a strong technical base in Zambia, with its own in-country technical department – staffed and managed by Zambian experts. This capacity includes highly trained and experienced blasting engineers, as well as a specialised technical vehicle for on-site testing.
These facilities provide efficient testing capability to address challenges like reactive ground – which occurs not just on coal mines but also on copper properties. Faster testing on site leads to safer and quality blasting by allowing emulsion formulations to be fine-tuned in response to specific ground conditions; this is possible when customers have on-site manufacturing facilities where last minute changes to the emulsion mix can be quickly implemented.
Pieterse emphasises the technological readiness of Zambia’s large copper mines, and their insistence on being at the cutting edge of blasting practice.
“This means that BME’s technical expertise and products are well utilised in Zambia’s mining sector, including the application of down-hole calipers for testing borehole diameters in pursuit of accurate and efficient blasting,” he says. “We are also pioneering signature trace hole analysis with customers, adapting blast timing to enhance fragmentation and rock movement for more efficient loading.”
BME is currently making its drone technology and high-speed photography available to calculate rock response time and expects take-up to be enthusiastic.