B&E International expands blasting division

Having previously operated as an internal service provider to the Crushing and Screening division, B&E International’s Drilling and Blasting business has been expanded into a fully-fledged, commercial ‘rock-on-ground’ (ROG) division that caters for external customers as well. Contracts Manager Mark Roberts unpacks the thinking behind the latest development. By Munesu Shoko.
B&E International’s ROG division provides a full range of drilling and blasting services.

Renowned for its integrated crushing, mining and mineral processing solutions, B&E International, part of the larger Raubex Group, has always had a Drilling and Blasting component to its business. Traditionally, this division was largely meant to support the company’s Crushing and Screening division. However, with effect from August 2023, the business has been expanded into a standalone, commercial ‘rock-on-ground’ division that also caters for external ROG clients.

Headed by Contracts Manager Mark Roberts, the division provides a full range of drilling and blasting services, including specialised blasting techniques, pre-splitting, post-splitting, trench blasting, in-place treatment and smooth blasting.

The service offering further includes full blast designs (for specific applications), face profiling and bore-tracking, while observing ‘mass per delay’ effects to ensure restricted blasting control requirements on all projects. “From basic principles to fragmentation analysis, as well as monitoring of environmental effects by means of measuring air and ground shockwaves, we do it all,” he says

Roberts tells Quarrying Africa that the expansion of the division positions B&E International as a one-stop shop for the mining, quarrying and construction industries in South Africa, offering a full suite of services from rock-on-ground to product-on-the-ground.

“Since taking over as MD of B&E International, Chris Weideman has always had a vision to grow the drilling and blasting side of the business beyond its internal jurisdiction, and his vision has come to fruition,” says Roberts.

“Our ROG division will serve quarries, the civils market and large mining operations,” says Roberts. “The expansion comes at a time when we see a marked improvement in tendering activity in the civil projects space. In fact, we have already picked up a number of projects in the civils market, as well as the quarrying sector.”

One of the two new Epiroc PowerROC T50 surface drill rigs purchased by B&E International’s ROG division.

Quick growth

Following the arrival of Roberts in August last year, the division has grown significantly, more than tripling its staff complement in the last three months. With more projects in the offing, Roberts expects his division to grow at least four to five times than what it was before he came on board.

“Our growth to date has largely been driven by quarrying and civils projects that we have acquired. At present, large mining contracts constitute approximately 30% of our business and our goal is to grow this percentage split to at least 50%.”

Commenting on the projects acquired thus far, Roberts says the division is already doing work at more than 18 quarries all over South Africa. The client base includes some of the major construction materials groups in the country. In addition, the division has been contracted by one of the major construction contractors in the country to provide a full suite of drilling and blasting services at two of its flagship projects. Meanwhile, the division continues to execute a couple of internal projects, supporting B&E International’s Crushing and Screening division.

Plant expansion

To cater for the growing project base, the division has invested heavily in its plant. Previously, this division owned nine drill rigs, with the capability of drilling holes from 76 mm to 127 mm. To grow the capability, especially to cater for larger hole size requirements, the division has already invested in five new drill rigs, allowing it to drill hole sizes from 92 mm to 140 mm. The next natural step is the expansion into larger hole diameters, in excess of 140 mm for the opencast mining sector.

The five new machines comprise three Sandvik Pantera DP1500i and two Epiroc PowerROC T50 surface drill rigs. In total, the company now owns seven large surface drill rigs, having recently purchased a used Sandvik Pantera DP1500i and an Epiroc PowerROC T50 from an auction. Four of the larger units have been deployed at a project in Rustenburg, with one each working in Lesotho and the Western Cape.

“From August 2023 to date, we have bolstered our fleet from nine to 23 surface drill rigs. This is testimony to the scale of expansion and the growth achieved within a short space of time,” says Roberts.”

Designed for large hole drilling, the Sandvik Pantera DP1500i is suited to production drilling in large quarries or open pit mines.

Experience matters

One of the key competitive edges is the team’s wealth of knowledge in drilling and blasting. It starts right at the top, with Roberts’ three decades worth of experience. Roberts moved to B&E International with members of a team that he has previously worked with for many years, which includes drillers, supervisors and artisans.

Blasting operations, says Roberts, can be a daunting task, especially for those who may be unfamiliar with the processes. The use of explosives makes any blasting operation inherently dangerous. Having an experienced team that understands the intricacies of blasting, following a strict adherence to the blasting plan, allows for smooth, safe and efficient blast outcomes all the time.

Having assembled an experienced team means that the division has the safety stability required in blasting operations. They are a meticulous team which is very familiar with all the quality and safety requirements in blasting. This is particularly important at quarrying operations, where flyrock and air blasts, for example, are out of the question, especially given that most quarries are located in the midst of communities.

Another benefit, adds Roberts, is that there is an element of trust, both internally and externally. Knowing his teams’ capabilities, Roberts trusts their skills and commitment to the cause. In addition, most of the customers the division has picked up are already familiar with most of the team members and know their competencies.

“We have assembled a strong team, and each individual has sharpened their skills over many years in this specialised drilling and blasting field. Together with the B&E International culture, which has made the company successful for many years in the industry, we believe we have a good recipe for success,” concludes Roberts.

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