Explosives don't usually factor in discussions of innovative mining technology. Yet cutting-edge explosives that look like Vaseline rather than sticks of dynamite are at the forefront of state-of-the-art technology designed for mines. AEL Mining Services says there is a sudden and growing demand for its products as mining companies closely examine their operations to realise cost savings. AEL is a division of listed chemicals company AECI and holds more than 50% of the surface and underground explosives markets in SA. Explosives are one of the top five costs for any mining operation. By using new blasting technologies, AEL says, a mine can save up to R1m per blast, and many more millions of rand in operational expenses a year. The company has been on a mission to convert mines away from package explosives (that look like the sticks of dynamite), in particular to move them from “quick and dirty” bulk explosives to its main offering of the petroleum jelly-like emulsion. Emulsion blast...

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