"We need to support the African mining industry through added-value services and tools that increase the profitability of mining."
Can you provide an overview of the latest developments at Maxam?
The impact of the pandemic manifested differently across our sectors of operation. Mining was less severely affected, quickly recovering after only a few months of downtime. With the gold price increasing substantially during 2020, many of our mining clients were keen to sustain or increase production guidelines. Maxam had to find ways to ensure business continuity for our clients despite the complex environment and supply chain challenges. The situation for our clients in the construction sector was very different; these saw much of their work cancelled, many people laid off, and the industry is yet to recover completely from last year’s shocks.
Overall, I am proud that Maxam demonstrated once again its support to customers, especially under difficult circumstances, by leveraging our expertise, innovative spirit and logistics network. We truly see ourselves as partners to our customers throughout the different stages of a mine’s life, and we work hard for them to boost productivity and optimize their costs because their success is also ours.
Where do you biggest regional opportunities for growth in the mining sector?
Whereas Zambia has continued on a steady growth thanks to stable market dynamics in the copper markets, West Africa has been truly booming. Maxam has expanded to Mali and Burkina Faso, and we have also grown organically in some of our existing markets such as Ghana, where we have experienced increasing demand. Similarly, we strengthened our partnerships in Côte d’Ivoire, which is growing at a mode moderate pace.
What has been the reception in the market for Maxam’s new X-Energy?
The X-Energy is being implemented with three of our main customers in West Africa, based on the selective energy, the application combines Smart RIOFLEX loaded with adaptive control systems and a set of digital tools for optimized blast design and execution, tailored to address specific needs. It allows us to use the right amount of energy where we need it based on the knowledge of the rock.
What are the main trends shaping innovation in blasting technologies?
The blasting industry is moving in two directions: commodification and customization. We’d like to take this latter path that is technology-driven and adds value across the mining cycle, from ground exploration to recovery rates and final sale. If we can impact each of these stages in the mine’s life, blasting can indeed create huge savings and increase productivity, which is precisely what we are achieving with and for our customers.
In general, innovation in blasting is focused on creating tools that adapt to the geology of each rock. Simultaneously, digitalization is becoming key to storing all blasting data on the cloud, which in turn enables data visualization and data modelling for a personalized offer. Another trend is related to the improvement of current chemical formulations to make them more efficient and, again, better adapted to rock conditions. Finally, the industry is progressively adopting electronic detonators.
Can you elaborate on Maxam’s contribution to youth training and education?
We are proud to have a strong collaboration with the University of Mines and Technology of Tarkwa in Ghana. Through the YESS Program, every year we either sponsor or provide internships to young engineers. In fact, our current regional operations manager was part of that program many years ago. This same program is available in Burkina Faso, where Maxam is rapidly growing. Besides running our own initiatives, we always try to align with our partners’ social initiatives in each country. Maxam is very much guided by a philosophy of giving back to the community.
What opportunities are there in Africa for metals other than gold?
Africa has it all. Apart from gold, there is iron in Mauritania, or copper in Zambia and Congo, and the base metals are much more stable than the more volatile precious metals. Mined as a by-product of copper, cobalt can also be found in abundance on the Copperbelt, while the eastern part of the DRC is also rich in tantalum.
Do you have a final message for our audience?
We need to support the African mining industry through added-value services and tools that increase the profitability of mining. By contributing to the profitability of our partners, we also automatically contribute to the development of the communities, and more broadly, of the country itself.