After six years of research and development, Protea Mining Chemicals has become the first to develop a solution that helps copper and cobalt mines reduce product contamination — improving metal purity levels — and maximize throughput in the solvent extraction process. Protea Mining Chemicals and BME form Omnia Holdings’ mining division.

“Over the past few decades, many unsuccessful attempts have been made by mining houses, global chemical manufacturers, as well as solvent extraction equipment and process engineers to address this issue of contamination,” Protea Mining Chemicals Managing Director Michael Smith said. “Needless to say, this has been a very challenging journey and we are delighted by what we have been able to achieve.”

Protea’s achievement comes on the heels of BME’s record-setting accomplishment. The division recently initiated the largest, single electronic-detonator blast in South Africa using 3,780 detonators at a manganese mine near Hotazel in the Northern Cape.

Powered by more than 461 metric tons (mt) of high-quality emulsion from BME’s Losberg plant in Gauteng, the explosion moved 890,000 mt of overburden. BME also supplied other necessary equipment for the blast, including boosters and surface wire.

BME said its AXXIS electronic initiation system was a key contributor to this success. The latest iteration of the initiation system — AXXIS Titanium (designed to provide longer lead times, greater control and better data) — is currently undergoing final trials ahead of its market launch, which is planned for later this year.

“BME’s ongoing product development has positioned us well to consistently produce quality blasts that deliver on customer requirements,” BME Managing Director Joe Keenan said. “Our versatile and easy-to-use AXXIS system facilitates larger less frequent blasts, reducing the disruption caused by blast-related pit stoppages and improving mine productivity.”

BME’s record-setting streak included initiating the biggest, single blast in the world. The division used 7,401 electronic detonators in a large copper mine in Africa, breaking its own record, which was previously held for firing 7,350 detonators in a single blast at a large open-cast coal mine in Queensland, Australia.

“These are not only great achievements for Protea Mining Chemicals, BME and Omnia Group, but also unparalleled wins for the African continent,” Omnia CEO Seelan Gobalsamy said. “This world-first discovery and greatly advanced blasting technology are testament to the intellectual capital, innovation and solutions-focused thinking that enables Africans to effectively compete on a global stage.”