South Africa-based explosives leader BME will be showcasing its African presence, expertise and technology at the 2019 Investing in African Mining Indaba from February 4 to 7 in Cape Town; it will also highlight its strengthened presence in West Africa, which is poised to become one of the top five gold-producing regions in the world.
“The mood is even more buoyant than it has been in previous years,” says Michael Klaasen, BME’s general manager for West Africa operations. “Almost all the countries in this region have vast mineral reserves that remain untouched, making it a very lucrative area for foreign investment.”
With some of the world’s largest deposits of gold, bauxite, iron ore and diamonds, Klaasen noted that it was encouraging to see many West African governments seeking to make their mining charters easier to adhere to – a step likely to further encourage investment in minerals. Governance and political instability remain constant challenges, however, and illegal mining has increased across the region in the last couple of years, he said.
A division of the JSE-listed Omnia Group, BME manufactures explosives at emulsion plants across the region and supplies mining and quarrying operations in a number of countries.
“We will have eight emulsion plants in West Africa by the end of the first quarter of 2019, after we commission a new plant at Endeavour Mining’s Ity mine in the Ivory Coast,” he says. The contract was awarded in October 2018. He said Ivory Coast had considerable mineral potential, with important occurrences of gold, diamonds, iron, nickel, cobalt, copper, manganese and bauxite.
“Like much of West Africa, gold has been at the forefront of exploration,” he says. “Companies conducting exploration there include Teranga Gold Corporation, who are spending $11 million exploring four prospects, as well as Perseus Mining at their Sissingué project, Red Rock with three prospects, RandGold, Taurus Gold, Endeavour Mining and Newcrest Mining.”
BME was awarded the Riverstone Karma project in Burkina Faso in 2017, and in the same year completed the commissioning of its plant at B2Gold’s Fekola mine in Mali. He added that the company hopes to be conducting trials at other operations early in 2019 in Mali, the country that remains BME’s busiest in West Africa.
“There are three possible deposits – all situated in the Kenieba province – that may well be developed in the near future,” he says. “These are the gold deposits of Tintinba, Kandiole Sud and Siribaya.”
In Burkina Faso, as the fourth largest gold producer in Africa, BME also supplies a large number of small quarries; there are 22 operating mines in the country and a significant number of exploration licences have been issued in the last year.
“There is considerable exploration activity underway in Burkina Faso, being undertaken by mining companies such as Newcrest, Teranga, Red Rock, Endeavour, Semafu and Taurus Gold,” says Klaasen.
BME are also active in Sierra Leone, supplying emulsion, explosives and blasting accessories products to Meya Mining’s diamond mine close to the town of Koidu. It will also be supplying two more operations by the end of 2018 – the opencast Sierra Rutile operation and the Tonguma underground mine.
There are three main mining operations in Mauritania – Kinross’s Tasiast opencast gold mine, the state-owned Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière (SNIM) iron ore mine and the Guelb Moghrein copper-gold operation owned by First Quantum Minerals’ Mauritanian Copper Mines (MCM).
“We supply to MCM, and will also be hoping to supply a new gold mine that is due to start operating in 2019,” he says.
He also highlighted Guinea – where BME supplies explosives to AngloGold Ashanti’s Siguiri Mine – as a country with substantial prospects; while it hosts the largest bauxite deposit in the world, exploration is busy and two new mines are expected to open in third quarter of 2019. The government is also reported to have resumed talks with mining giant Rio Tinto on the development of the world-class Simandou iron ore deposit.
There are possibilities for BME in Senegal, said Klaasen, which hosts RandGold’s new Massawa project in the east of the country – on one of the larger undeveloped gold deposits in West Africa.