Features, Innovation, Safety technology, Work health and safety

Safety innovation underpins success


As blasting specialist BME steadily expands its footprint in Australia, its positive contribution to safety and health will be an important factor in its success in the local mining sector.

A member of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed Omnia Group, BME has a legacy of innovation across its portfolio, with safety a key priority in its technological developments.

According to BME managing director Ralf Hennecke, the attractiveness of the company’s offerings in Australia is due in no small measure to the country’s strict health and safety regulations.

“Our decade of experience in Australia has been built mainly on the success of our AXXIS electronic initiation system, which the local market has embraced enthusiastically,” Hennecke said.

“Our focus on safety is one of the main drivers behind our AXXIS range and extends into our emulsion explosives, our operating protocols and our range of digital tools.”

Safe logging, testing and initiation

AXXIS Titanium, the latest generation of BME’s initiation system, incorporates a Swiss-designed integrated circuit chip in the detonator. This affords the system more safety gates against stray currents and lightning and allows for safer logging and testing.

A unique safety innovation in AXXIS Titanium is the use of dual capacitors and dual voltage, allowing users to conduct low-voltage logging to avoid chance of unintended initiation.

Blasts are initiated by a robust, encrypted blast command, ensuring all electronic delay detonators (EDDs) receive their respective commands and fire as planned. This helps to ensure the detonator will only react if it receives the correct, encrypted firing sequence from the blasting equipment, not from any other source.

AXXIS Titanium is also highly resistant to electromagnetic pulses that can arise in a blast, which can affect the accuracy of detonators or even cause them to fail. This feature is especially beneficial in confined spaces such as hard rock mines, tight burden and spacings, and underground operations, where EDDs are particularly susceptible to resetting and misfiring owing to voltages from electromagnetic pulses, as well as from dynamic pressures.

BME is equipped with dedicated in-house research capability. Image: BME

Pushed to the limit

BME’s AXXIS EDDs have evolved through multiple upgrades with safety front-of-mind and have been successfully deployed across eastern Australia.

The rigorous testing BME applies to its EDDs includes exposing them to high voltages and currents, which can occur on mine sites due to factors such as human error or equipment failure. The result is an encapsulated electronic module, with an electronic printed circuit board that is over-moulded in a proprietary design.

In collaboration with South Africa’s National Electrical Test Facility, BME pushed its EDDs to the limit by subjecting them to levels beyond expected normal operating conditions.

No initiation occurred in all of the samples tested in this program, which BME described as evidence of its “ongoing innovation is finding new opportunities for safe blasting”.

“There has been a significant market shift away from shock tubes and towards electronic detonators in Australia’s mining sector,” BME general manager AustraliaMichael Wiseman said.

“These detonators also bring significant additional safety benefits in blast initiation due to their ability to be tested before being fired, facilitate two-way communications, reliability, programmability, and precision.

“Mining operations can now be more confident that misfires can largely be eliminated due to these attributes.”

Using electronic detonators also removes the possibility of a ‘slap, snap and shot’ incident, in which a signal tube detonator plastic tubing is stretched to snapping point. When the plastic tubing recoils after snapping, percussive slapping can initiate the thin layer of high explosives contained within the plastic tube and cause the detonator to fire (or shoot). 

Benefits of dual salt emulsions

BME’s expertise and innovation in dual salt emulsions have also contributed to health and safety. In her recent presentation to the Australian chapter of the International Society of Explosives Engineers, BME global product manager Rakhi Pathak said mines are increasingly concerned about harmful gases that could be emitted during blasts.

“Dual salt-based emulsions are highly robust systems that can be successfully pumped multiple times and are less susceptible to crystallisation (the cause of product breakdown and fumes),” she said. “They have extended shelf life, can tolerate extreme operating conditions, and offer improved blast performance.

“The chemical composition of dual salt emulsions can be easily optimised to minimise the generation of harmful gases.

Pathak also said that dual salt emulsions have proven themselves to be less harmful in terms of potential nitrate contamination and Nox gas emissions.

Another important benefit of dual salt emulsions lies in mitigating the risk of nitrate contamination from explosives. Mining companies have become more sensitive to this risk, as nitrates can leach into water and land, creating significant compliance risk in terms of mines’ environmental impact.

Pathak said that BME’s dual salt emulsions are less susceptible to nitrate leaching, reducing any harmful impact on surface or ground water.

The company is equipped with an in-house research capability aimed at continually improving and expanding its product offerings and has several product solutions dedicated to ongoing contribution to health and safety.

With BME’s current infrastructure build program, BME Australia intend to bring differentiated technologies to the Australian market to support and improve safer mining in Australia.

This feature also appears in the May-June issue of Safe to Work.

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