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Solar Mining Services is a new dynamic entrant to the explosives and related services segment for the South African mining and quarrying sectors. Inside Mining speaks to Charles Hurly, marketing lead, Solar Mining Services, about the company’s approach to business.

Can you provide a brief bio looking at the Solar Mining Services business from inception to date?

CH Solar Mining Services is an explosives manufacturer and related products services provider based in South Africa. The company gets its pedigree from the Solar Group based in India. Given the Southern African demand for competitive explosives, Solar established a local entity in 2015 to service surface and underground mining operations with explosives and services. The company has invested in the South African economy in the establishment of a manufacturing site and detonator assembly plant located in Middelburg. 

How has Solar Mining established a competitive edge in the local market?

Solar has a philosophy of providing competitively priced explosives based on imported ammonium nitrate costing models, which differ from the traditional ammonia-based pricing formulas. Solar also believes in using fit-for-purpose products, with the concept based around using the most effective products for the application required.

As a fairly new entrant to the explosives services sector, tell us what your take on the industry is?

The cost of running a mining business in South Africa is escalating, with energy, maintenance and labour being significant drivers. While the market value for any commodity is determined by forces outside the mining company’s individual control, efficiencies and total cost of mining are among the key elements to creating a sustainable competitive businesses.

If best mining practices are combined with competitive explosives, companies can achieve operational efficiencies in this area. With effective management of all the elements in the business and efficient, productive, committed labour, mining can continue to contribute and compete in the global mining landscape. This is also fundamentally underpinned by an enabling, consistent and investor-friendly government policy towards mining.

I read recently that Solar Mining announced some new appointments; can you share what motivates this evident appetite for growth for the company?

Solar has appointed senior sales people to position the company for consistent and sustained growth by adding experienced seasoned personnel. This will be through new businesses development opportunities and organic growth from existing customers. Similar to the ‘fit for purpose’ sales pitch, the company believes in employing people in line with its requirements to position Solar as a supplier of choice. 

Speaking of growth, what is the company’s strategy moving forward?

The company has a strategy of using ammonium-nitrate-index-based pricing in the market and ensuring we offer fit for purpose products that provide effective solutions to customers.

Can you give us some insight into your innovative blast solutions and services?

Solar is in the process of developing new blasting software that will be beneficial to customers’ experiences and blast results. This is still in the early stages of development.

We have also been very successful in revisiting the basics of the explosives business. For example, in a recent successful trial, Solar managed to significantly reduce the amount of shock tube used in underground faces, having found that there is a tendency to use excessive lengths of the instrument.

Most of your competitors import ammonium nitrate to supplement their supply and typically use NH3 pricing standards from Sasol Ammonia as their main nitrate formula component. How is Solar Mining different?

In South Africa, ammonia is typically converted into ammonium nitrate. Due to this, the companies that operate in this manner have adapted a sales price formula that follows this business process ( e.g. ammonia price, conversion costs and transport). Solar does not convert ammonia to ammonium nitrate but imports the finished ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate has its own international pricing index. The business models are different. Solar’s total business functions in this manner. It too allows for transparency of the rise and fall of input costs.

The importance of drilling accuracy cannot be understated, as it has a huge bearing on the success of blasts. What does Solar Mining do here to establish accurate drills?

Accurate drilling needs to be adhered to for effective blasting, as does using the correct and adequate lengths of shock tube. This allows for less environmental impact due to cutting down on the volume of single-use plastics and also offers a cost advantage to the mine.

Generally, for us, this depends on the level of involvement prescribed by the contract. In some instances, Solar only supplies product .The client has the responsibility of ensuring that the planning, marking and drilling are done according to the blast plan. Where Solar is contracted to perform this responsibility, however, by way of a full blasting service, supervision, reporting and corrective action are advised or recommended.

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