Drilling and blasting specialist Blasting and Excavating (B&E), a part of the Basil Read Group and a sister company to Basil Read Mining, has set its sights on increasing its territory market share across the African continent. The more immediate focus is mineral-rich territories such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where the company believes it has significant technical expertise to offer the country’s mining industry, writes LAURA CORNISH.

B&E is a household name in South Africa – its reputation precedes its capabilities in both drilling and blasting, within the mining and civil infrastructure sectors. “Our ability to deliver these quality services in remote areas is unparalleled and we are looking to share this critical service value with the mining industry across the greater African continent,” starts Nathan Williams, executive officer and MD at B&E and Basil Read Mining.

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN MINING REVIEW AFRICA ISSUE 3, 2021
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The DRC mining sector in particular stands to benefit significantly from B&E’s entrance into the country. “While we bring technical expertise into a region, our strategy is to partner with local firms, enter into joint ventures with these firms and train local residents who can then help drive our business objectives in-country,” Williams continues. This approach is not only the right approach, but is necessary considering the DRC has legislation requirements that fall in line with B&E’s strategy for foreign expatriate companies looking to do business in-country.

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“Mining firms in the DRC can rest assured that our commitment to the country’s development extends to every aspect of our business. We also focus heavily on community development which includes training programmes, wellness facilities, education, and business development,” adds Nqobile Khumalo, contracts director at B&E and Basil Read Mining. This is another dynamic approach which the DRC mining sector stands to benefit from significantly.

Unpacking B&E’s multitude of core strengths further

  1. Turnkey service offering

B&E is recognised primarily for its drill and blast capabilities but its full service offering extends beyond this and includes load and haul (for small and medium-sized mining projects), construction as well as crushing and screening. Also housed within the business are advisory experts who can give valuable input on mineral economics and technical processes in the earlier phases of a project.

“These are not new services but have been part of our greater offering for years. We believe that providing the industry with a turnkey service across these various activities has a variety of benefits but primarily, it enables clients to interact with fewer contractors on site and in doing so makes ourselves accountable for delivery across the spectrum – an easier prospect for managing site performance,” Williams outlines.

“Beyond this, through our sister company, Basil Read Mining, our longer-term strategy could see us take this offering to larger-scale mining clients as well,” he adds.

  • Comprehensive fleet

Between both Basil Read Mining and B&E, Deon Rajoo, engineering director for B&E and Basil Read Mining, says the companies own a +500 strong fleet of equipment including drilling machines and earthmoving equipment (trucks and excavators). “These machines have been operating on some of our key account sites for as long as 20 or even 30 years. Client retention easily showcases the exceptional performance we deliver for our clients.”

Importantly, not only does the company work only with premium equipment brands that ensure minimal downtime requirements and optimal operating performance, the company is also underway with two major equipment focus areas at present – replacing older drilling machines within its fleet and expanding its tonnage moving capabilities to between 50 and 80 t. “And for those clients that need a quick or cost-effective option, we are able to lease equipment thanks to the close working relationships with have with our OEM providers,” Khumalo highlights.

  • Technology evolution

The mining industry in Africa is taking technology evolution seriously – spurred on by COVID-19 operational restrictions and also the benefits technology delivers. “We have done a lot of work in this regard to enhance our operating performance, the benefits of which we then pass onto our clients,” Rajoo outlines.

The company has partnered with RPM Global to secure the use of its AMT asset management software – an in-shift maintenance solution that provides an accurate lifecycle position and optimal maintenance strategies. “We have sourced further software tools will allow effective business metrics and monitoring as well as GPS tracking for loading metrics, telematics and camera surveillance which will interact with our operations planning system,” Rajoo continues.

B&E’s technology plan further includes integrating autonomous drills into its fleet in a phased approach – be it the purchase of new machines or incorporating autonomous software into existing machines. “The end goal to client through these efforts is to reduce our tonnage costs and enhance our competitiveness,” reflects Sandile Masondo, business improvement director for B&E and Basil Read Mining.

  • Investment in people

Technical capabilities may be a significant portion of B&E’s performance, but this would be incomplete without the correctly trained personnel. “Under the guidance of our long-standing engineers, we are actively employing newly graduated engineers, which does form part of our equal employee and gender diversity opportunities, and brings vibrancy and passion to the job as well as an understanding of current digital technologies. Their new ideas, fresh outlook and skills sets deliver a further added benefit to our performance, over and above our family-style approach,” says Mark Roberts, senior contracts manager for Basil Read Mining and B&E.

“This is a steadfast commitment from our business and a continual and ongoing process. We believe the people in our business offer another key differentiator and is something we should showcase to the industry,” Roberts concludes.