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Buttbuster cuts costs, boosts underground safety

February 11, 2014
by Walter Franczyk
In: Technology

Nordex brings perimeter blasting solution to Canada

Nordex Explosives’ production facility in Kirkland Lake has the capacity to produce 120 cases or 3,000 kilograms of Buttbuster per shift. The new manufacturing line employs 10 people, raising the company’s total employment to 65.

A cutting-edge explosive that saves time and money while improving mine safety is opening new doors to potential clients for Nordex Explosives Ltd.

Canada’s only homegrown explosives manufacturer, Nordex has brought the Buttbuster to Northern Ontario.

Originally developed in Australia by Johnex Explosives, the Buttbuster is a semi-rigid, coiled explosive made in custom lengths for quick charging of perimeter drill holes in underground tunneling and shaft sinking.

It’s designed to produce smooth walls and a safer, controlled blast in development headings and shafts. Johnex estimates the Buttbuster cuts charging time by half, reduces scaling time 50-70 per cent and decreases the need for shotcrete coating by 30 per cent.

“It will minimize the amount of scaling and screening and bolting and all those things that they do to secure the underground for the protection of the miners,” said Nordex president and chief executive officer JimTaylor.

While the economic benefits of using the Buttbuster are many, he said, they should not overshadow what he considers its main purpose.

“This product is ultimately designed to make a safer workplace.”

In underground headings, ramps or tunnels, blasting without a perimeter control explosive in the outside holes of a blast can create a lot of fracturing, uneven surfaces and loose rock, Taylor explained. Perimeter control products are designed to control that violent release of energy and to minimize fracturing and loose rock.

While there have been a number of different products on the market for years, for the most part, they’ve had limited success, he said.

The proprietary chemistry and formulation of the Buttbuster is key to its effectiveness. Totally encased and sealed in plastic, it’s resistant to water damage or other contaminants and can be safely stored for 10 years without deterioration.

“This product, being encased in a plastic tube that’s almost like a rigid hose, is very easy for the underground miner to use,” said Taylor. “You literally just put the product into the hole. It has its own built-in booster and has a very secure place to affix the detonator, so that in the hole itself, everything is very well protected,” he said.

The Buttbuster has been used in Australia for about 10 years, but has never been exported. In 2008, Taylor began discussions with Johnex with a view to acquiring the rights to manufacture and sell the perimeter control explosive in Canada and, ultimately, all of North America. Nordex has first right of refusal to make and market the Buttbuster in the United States.

Getting the explosive tested and approved for sale in Canada and building a dedicated manufacturing plant was a lengthy process, Taylor said. Nordex spent “well into seven figures” to build the new facility at its plant near Kirkland Lake where its main product is bulk emulsion mining explosives. With the capacity to produce 120 cases or 3,000 kilograms of Buttbuster per shift, the new manufacturing line employs about 10 people, raising the firm’s total employment to 65. Nordex sold $750,000 worth of the new product for delivery in early 2014.

This is the first time the Buttbuster has been available outside Australia. Large, international mining companies, especially those with a presence Down Under, are familiar with Buttbuster’s capability because they’ve seen it in Australia.

“Some of the larger companies, quite honestly, were waiting for the product to be available here and we’re in discussions with some of them now,” Taylor said.

The exclusivity of the product and its benefits may open doors to new clients and to sales that Nordex normally would not have, Taylor predicts. Initial sales of the perimeter control explosive could lead to Nordex selling other products to new clients as well, he said.

Nordex also makes bulk emulsion mining explosives for underground and surface mines. Its main plant can produce 150-200 pounds of emulsion explosive per minute. The company supplies the equipment necessary to load blast holes, sometimes trains clients how to use it or provides the technical staff to do the loading.

“We designed our own trucks and our own underground equipment for handling bulk emulsions,” said Taylor.

Total sales in 2013 were expected to reach $17.5 million. Buttbuster also has applications in surface quarrying and highway construction.

It can blast clean cut, sheared rock faces where highways pass through solid rock.

“In a quarry situation, where you’re trying to achieve stability, where there’s not going to be a lot of loose rock falling off, you would use that product,” said Taylor.

Nordex is in the first phase of a major marketing campaign and has built a sales force and technical team to support sales and train clients how to use the Buttbuster. It recently opened a sales office in Sudbury. Satellite sites, primarily distribution centres, in Matheson, Manitoulin Island and Muskoka are geared to quarrying, construction and industries other than mining.

“We want to achieve a balance of 50 per cent of our business coming from mining and 50 per cent coming from other (sectors),” said Taylor. “That provides stability and long-term security for the company.”

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