Could you give us a sense of Orica’s footprint and service portfolio in West Africa?
Orica is the world leader in commercial explosives and sodium cyanide for the mining and quarries industries. We have a history of over 140 years, and today we count customers from 100 different countries. In West Africa, Orica started operations in 2005, working together with Newmont, whom we continue to support across its sister mine sites.
Orica has also expanded beyond Ghana, and we have both underground and surface operations at Resolute’s Syama gold mine in Mali, and in Burkina Faso through our contract with West African Resources at the Sanbrado gold mine. Furthermore, Orica is working for Eurasian Resources Group (ERG)’s cobalt and copper mines, and for Glencore’s KCC mine, all in the DRC, and Terranga Gold’s Sabodala and Massawa mines in Senegal. We are expanding our footprint north-south and west-east in the continent.
Could you share Orica’s recent milestones and breakthroughs in the region?
Just recently we refreshed our strategy hinged on three key pillars- smarter solutions, optimised operations and partnering for progress. With that we launched a “value delivery program” or “value guarantee program” with Newmont through which we look at how best to minimize our client’s cost base. One of the most recent projects within this program is the use of refined used oil to replace diesel for our explosives; this alternative fuel allows the customer to save money, protect its business against volatile diesel pricing, and to reduce the overall carbon footprint of its operation.
In another example, we recently worked on a breakthrough project with Newmont Golden Ridge to introduce a high energy bulk explosive, followed by a blast pattern expansion program. We have been able to generate savings for drilling and blasting, while also maximizing productivity and the precision of the fragmentation.
How are digitalization and sustainability shaping Orica’s innovation focus?
One of our state-of-the-art technologies is BlastIQ, a cloud-based platform where we store and manage all blasting-related data, centralizing our blasting operations and improving our quality assurance and quality control (QA-QC). What BlastIQ also does is also to remove the need for a QA-QC manual system recording. Instead, our operators can make real-time decisions from behind their PCs.
Another innovative technology recently launched is the FRAGTrack, a fragmentation measurement tool that provides real-time, autonomous fragmentation analysis and insights into the outcome of the blasting process. This has been successfully implemented at Newmont’s Akyem site in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic. We installed two FRAGTrack cameras on two Liebherr 9400 face shovels. Each of the images collected offers spatial coordinates and timestamps so that Newmont can accurately attribute the results to a specific blast.
How is Orica strategizing in view of stronger local content legislation?
From Ghana to Burkina Faso and across the region, governments are pushing for local content legislation. It has become a “must” to partner with a local entity in order to stay relevant. We suffered some setbacks and lost some contracts because some mining companies require a JV partner as a condition to operate. Therefore, our strategy is to look out for the right partner and affiliate ourselves with an experienced and reliable local company, ideally in the next few months.
Our team is mostly made of Ghanaian, highly skilled locals, with only two expats. The future of the business is to rely on local personnel and make sure we offer our teams the requisite skills to run the business.
Could you summarize your main objectives for the next year?
Our vision for 2022 is to consolidate our footprint in Ghana and across the region. To do so, we use innovative technology to make ourselves more competitive and reduce our customers’ bottom-line costs. We are adamant about our sustainability agenda as we strive to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. In line with that goal, we want to continue advocating for alternative fuels, as we did with the diesel replacement at Newmont’s site. Finally, Orica is envisioning an autonomous future: We are already using wireless detonators known as WebGen in Mali and in engagement with Newmont-Subika UG to run some trials in the coming few months. This application significantly reduces safety risks by removing people from the brows and rills, reducing exposure time and enhances productivity significantly, especially in underground operations.