BME, part of the Omnia Group, has continued rolling out its plans for North America and South America, despite a few hurdles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Aaron Austin, general manager Americas at BME, mines in the United States and Canada have generally been operating with limited impact from pandemic-related restrictions.
“Perhaps the biggest impact for BME has been where mines have had to restrict our trials, as part of limiting the number of non-essential personnel on mine sites due to COVID-19. There have also been some restrictions on personnel movements,” said Austin.
He noted that BME’s supply to customers has remained unaffected. The company currently operates in Canada and the United States with its headquarters in Denver, and has experienced only minor inconveniences outside of air travel restrictions.
“Our suppliers and operations based in the United States and Canada have been fully operational throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns,” he said.
There have been some mine shutdowns in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, where BME is in the planning phases of its outreach. The general picture, he said, is that BME’s work has continued. Where face-to-face meetings are not possible, communication with customers and target markets continues through digital platforms.
“At some point, of course, the entire economy will be hit as the impacts flow through to long – cycle businesses, and the demand for durable goods suffers,” said Austin.
Among the future impacts on the mining sector, will be a growing demand for efficiency, said BME Managing Director Joe Keenan – which will make technological innovation more vital.
“Our efforts remain focused on efficiently and safely running our mining operations, mitigating against any challenges arising from the pandemic. A key aspect of this involves leveraging technology. Having said that, we do anticipate considerable changes – some exciting – in how suppliers like BME will support our customers in the future. There are many plans that are being fast-tracked – the world over – and BME is no different,” said Keenan.
Speaking on the company’s emphasis on social distancing he highlighted how digital processes are being harnessed to reduce proximity between people.
“Our product development, over the years, has put us in a good position to contribute to solutions in this space,” he said. “For instance, the installation of our XPLOLOG system in our emulsion trucks allows paperless handling of data between us and our customers.”
BME’s BLASTMAP software for blast planning generates digital blast designs, which can be easily shared between users in remote locations. With digital communication largely replacing the usual face to face interaction, he emphasised that communication systems in mining would have to evolve to streamline the sales process and manage the issuing of contracts.
“Many practical issues are still to be resolved so that normal procurement can continue,” said Keenan. “For example, we are exploring creative solutions for how to manage tenders, especially where site visits are required.” Within BME’s manufacturing operations, supply chain security is enhanced by extensive automation. While the initial driver for automation had been quality improvement, its value has been tremendous in facilitating the application of social distancing protocols, on site.
The latest generation of BME’s AXXIS system – AXXIS TITANIUM – is completing final trials in South Africa ahead of its expected launch to market later this year. It will be the most advanced electronic blast initiation system on the market, according to Tinus Brits, BME’s global product manager for AXXI.