Safer, Greener, Better – The Practice of Progressive Mining

BME Mining Canada
Written by Allison Dempsey

Embarking on an explosive journey of innovation and growth, BME Mining Canada, a dynamic collaboration between Sudbury’s leading drilling and blasting contractor, Consbec, and South African explosive manufacturing expert, BME, unveils its cutting-edge production and service hub in Nairn Centre, Ontario. This grand inauguration not only signifies a major leap forward for the company but also sets the stage for an unparalleled global expansion in the realm of bulk emulsions, packaged explosives, and groundbreaking initiating systems.

The new world-class Centre in Nairn will comprise a detonator manufacturing facility for both non-electric and electronic detonators, with on-site plants producing BME’s leading brands: VIPERDET™ nonelectric detonators, AXXIS TITANIUM™ and AXXIS SILVER™ electronic detonators, and INNOVEX™ emulsion explosives. These facilities will also support AXXIS blast initiation equipment and offer upkeep, repair, and maintenance for the company’s trucks and subterranean equipment.

Not only are AXXIS products and BME’s array of digital technologies assisting miners in enhancing safety, reducing energy costs, and meeting ESG (environmental, social, and corporate governance) targets, BME has also recently successfully deployed AXXIS SILVER™ detonators to blast in below-freezing temperatures, owed to the superior performance capabilities of BME’s electronic detonators.

With an official grand opening scheduled for May 2024, the facility in Nairn Centre, a small town located outside of Sudbury, Ontario, has helped position BME for its projected substantial growth in the North American market.

“With Sudbury being very prevalent for mining, along with mining communities in the north, Nairn Centre was the perfect fit for us,” says General Manager Neil Alberts.

BME’s detonator manufacturing facility, located outside of Nairn Centre, is one component of this manufacturing hub which is now completed, and the company has installed and commissioned its manufacturing equipment with leading technology to offer a quality product to market to its customer base across North America.

“The facility itself will be the first new non-electric production line in Canada to be commissioned in more than 35 years, and we have built in sufficient capacity to support the North American market and beyond.”

In addition to the manufacturing of detonators, the Nairn Centre facility will be equipped with state of the art laboratories for quality control and further product development, allowing BME Mining Canada to build market confidence and deliver solutions through high-quality product offerings.

“We’re also proud to be expanding our abilities to include manufacturing of bulk emulsion products,” says Alberts. “It’s really exciting for us to be able to have a manufacturing facility that allows us to have a centralized point of manufacture and distribution for our complete product range, and which allows us to tailor products for distinct market needs,” he says.

“Our manufacturing and assembly of BME’s flagship electronic detonators is an element that we are really proud of, since we are confident in our world-class AXXIS Titanium electronic detonator brand, which has provided significant benefits to customers across the world in attaining impressive production outcomes, improving safety, reducing energy costs, and in the long term, even achieving ESG targets as well as delivering on sustainable practices.”

In terms of supply security, BME Mining Canada manufactures locally and has created redundancy for further growth and capacity at its manufacturing facility, allowing the company to deliver premium product solutions to the market in Canada and North America.

“It places us in a very strategic position and allows us to be very competitive from not just a global perspective, but an in-country perspective, as well,” Alberts says. “We are confident in our competitive advantage in terms of our technology, quality, and supply security, and being strategically located closer to some of the larger mining operations in Canada really bodes well for our expansion.”

Facility growth also means expansion of the company’s capacities in building, maintenance, truck shop, and servicing of equipment both for underground and surface use, as well as housing an office block to cater for its team.

“The manufacturing facility is being positioned to become the centre of excellence for BME Mining Canada, with a future focus of further expansion opportunities,” Alberts shares.

The overall reception in the market has been “very positive” so far, he adds, with the company recently landing its first major contract with one of the larger mining companies outside of Sudbury. The team has also conducted numerous trials locally around Sudbury and toward the north in the Timmins region—with very good results and feedback from customers that continues to be promising.

“With such optimistic outcomes,” Alberts says, “the substantial investment in the detonator manufacturing technology allows us to demonstrate to the market our commitment and dedication to growing in the Canadian and North American market.”

BME Mining Canada is also serious about bringing its ESG commitments to market, both locally and globally. The recent announcement of the partnership with Hypex Bio Explosives Technologies, based in Sweden, and Omnia Holdings confirms its commitment to technologies that drive ESG benefits and outcomes, as well as leading the way in cutting-edge and environmentally friendly explosives solutions. Hypex Bio has created a revolutionary emulsion using hydrogen peroxide (HP) that offers far more environmental advantages than traditional nitrate-based products. This presents an opportunity for BME Mining Canada to provide a differentiated product offering in Canada and North America.

This partnership will significantly improve the company’s continuing research and commercialization of Hypex’s HP emulsion technology in strategic markets, and additionally provides Omnia, BME’s parent company, with access to state-of-the-art technology. By comparison with conventional emulsion products, the hydrogen peroxide emulsion delivers a 90 percent reduction in carbon emissions due to its non-nitrate chemistry solution.

“What we’re very excited about and very much looking forward to, is that one of those key markets of development for sustainable product initiatives is going to be Canada,” Alberts says. “And that will be driven by the BME Mining Canada team.”

In the near future, he adds, the company will have the ability to manufacture a non-nitrate explosive emulsion in Canada and for the Canadian market.

BME has overcome all the challenges imposed by the pandemic and is now delivering on its objectives and strategies, some of which—for example, the HP technology—is to be realised in the next 12 to 15 months.

“That’s a major focal point for us right now: to get that infrastructure set up, get the manufacturing capability ready for production, and put that to market and gradually build up a clientele with our range of new green explosive solutions and our differentiated value-adding products,” Alberts explains.

Other goals include embracing and maintaining robust safety standards, achieving stability and performance—both key factors in the manufacturing of emulsion products—and looking ahead to building the product range further.

“We’ve pushed the boundaries with AXXIS TITANIUM™,” Alberts says. “Our AXXIS TITANIUM™ detonators are world-class, and have elevated capabilities in terms of safety, reliability, and advanced technology. We also have a suite of software technologies that contribute to our ecosystem of products, including our detonators and emulsion products.”

BME’s software suite, namely BLAST Alliance, supports customers from design to outcome for standard and specialised applications that have proven to optimize drill and blast performance of customers globally.

“Many companies have that; it’s not unusual for a company to have a suite of offerings that are leveraged off each other,” Alberts says. “What sets us apart is that we have a specialized focus on the client’s needs. These technologies and applications are specific and dedicated to providing a complete ecosystem of solutions for our customers.”

Another aspect that truly helps set the company apart is its cold emulsion product technology, which was developed in South Africa close to 40 years ago, a dual-salt product which comprises an ammonium nitrate and a calcium nitrate product.

Why is that relevant? “It makes for better blasting, and it contributes to factors like safety, durability, and performance, which are vital for the mining sector,” Alberts says.

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