Quarries move with technology as better times beckon

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BME notes that more quarry managers are moving toward newer blasting technology

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 – AXXIS™.

At the event, Omnia group company BME was showcasing its 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, said Brits.

He noted said 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 material. As plans were implemented to repair national infrastructure and roll out new projects, contractors were 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 organisations like the South African Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) had a strong pipeline of projects,” he said. “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.”

He sees more quarry managers moving toward newer blasting technology, for a couple of key reasons. As quarries age, areas to be blasted can become more challenging, requiring that blasting techniques and equipment become more accurate, flexible and controlled. There is also 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,” he said. “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™, he said, 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™ allowed large blasts of up to 20,000 detonators, while AXXIS Silver™ boasted the same high levels of safety but are aimed at smaller operations.

“Our 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 on their sites,” said Van Nieuwenhuizen. For those quarries still using non-electric detonation methods, the step to take them to AXXIS Silver™ was easily manageable.

“There has been a steady annual conversion rate of quarries from non-electric detonators to electronic detonators, of about 12-14%,” he said. “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, 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 blast hole,” he says.

The AXXIS Silver™ initiation system integrates with BME’s Blast Alliance suite of digital tools, including its BLASTMAP blast planning software, XPLOLOG data logger and online dashboard, and the Blasting Guide App for Android devices. This allows customised solutions that can be implemented with speed, accuracy and safety, he said.

“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,” he said. “This results in a perfectly straight wire down the hole, so you know exactly where the booster is – without compromising on the line strength.”

In addition to being fit for purpose and quick to install, the reduced thickness also translates into a cost benefit for the customer.

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