Aug 21, 2020

Mining in West Africa steams ahead despite pandemic

gold mining
West Africa
Megan van Wyngaardt
3 min
With some of the world’s highest gold grades, the West African mining sector is generally producing well even under Covid-19 conditions
With some of the world’s highest gold grades, the West African mining sector is generally producing well even under Covid-19 conditions...

With some of the world’s highest gold grades, the West African mining sector is generally producing well even under Covid-19 conditions – and is relying on explosives companies to maintain supply security and technical assistance through these challenging times.

According to Michael Klaasen – General Manager of West African Operations at explosives and blasting global leader BME, a member of the Omnia group – the Covid-19 pandemic has had minimal effect on its mining clients’ production from a blasting perspective. 

“Most mine sites are locked down, with access limited to only certain essential deliveries,” said Klaasen. “Some mines were considering reducing production in the event of a shortage of raw materials, but BME has managed to keep clients blasting during this time with sufficient stocks, continued deliveries and dedicated personnel on sites.”

Borders between countries have remained open to cargo, allowing BME’s supplies to reach customer sites in Mauritania, Mali, Sierra Leone and Burkina Faso. Goods and raw materials are shipped into Nouakchott in Mauritania, into Dakar in Senegal and into Tema or Takoradi in Ghana. 

“Our cross-border channels have allowed BME to keep three months of stock on site, in line with customers’ expectations,” he said.

A number of BME technical personnel have remained on mine sites around the region since the start of the lockdowns in the different countries. In some cases, these personnel have even been able to stand in for mine blasting staff, to ensure that blasting takes place safely. He said BME has applied all the necessary Covid-19 measures required – in line with its own health and safety protocols as well as the customer’s policies and the national regulations for that country. 

“This generally includes the wearing of face masks, the use of sanitisers, regular temperature checks and ensuring social distancing,” he said. “Our emulsion trucks are also sanitised before entering mine sites to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.”

In addition to supplying emulsion explosives and electronic detonation systems, BME has also assisted customers in West Africa with blast design using its BLASTMAP software. 

“This has been done on-site where possible, as well as on-line when necessary,” said Klaasen. “During the Covid-19 lockdown, this on-line assistance has made a valuable contribution to keeping mine operations up and running.”

Customers are able to send their blast-related data to the BME office in Bamako, Mali, where its technical managers assist mines with the planning of their blasts. 

“BLASTMAP allows the blast designs to be conducted anywhere in the world,” he said. “It just requires the relevant information from the customer.”

BME Managing Director Joe Keenan noted that the future will see considerable changes in how suppliers support their mining customers. 

“The leveraging of technological innovation to keep mine sites safe and efficient becomes an even more vital imperative for technology providers,” said Keenan. 

With Covid-19 restricting access to mines by senior BME management, contact with customers has been maintained by regular cellular and internet communication with various tools such as WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams and Skype. 

Klaasen expected that business would proceed more or less as usual, provided there was no sudden increase in infections – either in the countries where BME is operating or in countries from which it sources raw materials. 

“It is important that borders remain open for cargo, as closures could impact the supply of stock to sites or to the regions where customers operate,” he said. “The three-month stock availability that we ensure for customers allows them to see through any temporary disruptions.”

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May 6, 2021

Copper, iron ore surge as Chinese investors unleash demand

Iron ore
3 min
Iron ore broke $200 a tonne for the first time, while copper approached a record high as Chinese investors unleashed fresh demand following May holiday

The reopening of major industrial economies is sparking a surge across commodities markets from corn to lumber, with tin climbing above $30,000 a tonne for the first time since 2011 on Thursday.

In the wake of mounting evidence of inflation fuelled by higher raw materials prices, investors are also increasingly focused on when the U.S. Federal Reserve might start throttling back its emergency support.


Many banks say the rally has further to run, particularly for copper, which will benefit from rising investment in new energy sectors. Copper is at the highest in a decade, fueling bets it will rally further to take out the record set in February 2011. Steel demand is surging as economies chart a path back to growth just as the world’s biggest miners have been hampered by operational issues, tightening ore supply.

“The long-term prospects for metals prices are ‘too good’ and point to higher prices in the next few years,” said Commerzbank AG analyst Daniel Briesemann. “The decarbonization trends in many countries, which include switching to electric vehicles and expanding wind and solar power, are likely to generate additional demand for metals.”

Trading house Trafigura Group and several major Wall Street banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Bank of America Corp. expect copper to extend gains.

Copper rose as much as 1.6% to $10,108.50 a ton on the London Metal Exchange before trading at $10,080 as of 4:07 p.m. in London.


Iron Ore

Benchmark spot iron ore prices rose to a record, while futures in Singapore and China climbed.

The boom comes as China’s steelmakers keep output rates above 1 billion tons a year, despite a swath of production curbs aimed at reducing carbon emissions and reining in supply. Instead, those measures have boosted steel prices and profitability at mills, allowing them to better accommodate higher iron ore costs.

Spot iron ore with 62% content hit $201.15 a ton on Thursday, according to Mysteel. Futures in Singapore jumped as much as 5.1% to $196.40 a ton, the highest since contracts were launched in 2013. In Dalian, prices closed 8.8% higher.

Erik Hedborg, Principal Analyst, Steel at CRU Group commented: “Recent production cuts in Tangshan have boosted demand for higher-quality ore and prompted mills to build iron ore inventories as their margins are on the rise. Iron ore producers are enjoying exceptionally high margins as well, around two thirds of seaborne supply only require prices of $50 /dmt to break even.”


Still, some analysts including Commerzbank’s Briesemann expect a short-term correction as metals become detached from fundamentals. There’s also a risk that China could engage in policies that may cool demand for iron ore and copper.

The metals rally has boosted concerns about short-term Chinese demand. Some manufacturers and end-users have been slowing production or pushing back delivery times after costs surged, while weaker-than-expected domestic consumption has opened the arbitrage window for exports.

Tin climbed as much as 2% to $30,280 a ton on the LME, boosted by rising orders for the soldering metal. Tin is at the highest since May 2011, with a 48% gain this year making it the best performing metal on the LME.



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