Antonio S. Aldana
Director General
Nitro Group
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View from the Top

Mexican Explosives Pioneer Helps Mines Blast Further

Wed, 10/21/2015 - 07:42

Q: How did the relationship between Nitro Group and Dyno Nobel come about?

A: I was a partner in Dyno Nobel Mexico, one of the top explosives manufacturers in the world, ten years ago. Two years later, all of Dyno Nobel’s global operations, with the exception of the Canadian, US, and Australian offices, were sold. At that point, I decided to sell all my shares and talked to Dyno Nobel in the US about starting a new partnership. Since we entered into this new partnership with Dyno Nobel in Mexico, it seems as though nothing has changed. We kept the same staff, the same product portfolio, and even increased our sales. Nitro Group consists of nine companies that are involved in the producing and commercializing of explosives, as well as transportation, drilling, and security. This allows us to take care of the logistics, training, commercialization, and product adaptation for the Mexican market. Dyno gives us the necessary technology and any support that we need. We distribute products from Dyno Nobel’s production plant in Torreon, as well as Dyno Nobel ammonium nitrate products imported from the US. We service our clients from the production of blasting products, to their delivery and use. In other words, we deliver turn-key solutions and services for breaking rock.

Q: What have been Nitro Group’s principal contributions to the Mexican mining industry?

A: The Mexican mining industry applies some of the most advanced mining processes, with the help of high-level engineers and technical staff. Considering that safety is a priority for Nitro in all its processes, the group offers on-site engineering and technical support for mining companies, to provide a competitive advantage for their operations. Our down the hole service includes not only the procurement of the right explosive product, but also the transportation and the technical support during blasting, until the required rock size is attained. Nitro is already one of the leaders in high-quality explosives in Mexico, which is supported by the growing annual sales of the group, and we are working with Industrias Peñoles, Argonaut Gold, CEMEX, Calica, and various medium-sized mining producers. Calica is one of Mexico’s leading aggregate producers and presents an interesting operation. It faces a water table that is just 10cm below the ground, which means the explosives it uses need to be fully waterresistant for a long period of time.

Q: What innovations has Nitro released to achieve its current positioning in the Mexican mining industry?

A: Our leading product is the Super Nitro, a high-velocity explosive with a high resistance to humidity, far exceeding the regular ammonium nitrate/fuel oil (ANFO) performance.

This product has been used all over Mexico in open-pit and underground mines and has been very successful due to its formula balance and its great resistance to humidity. Regular ANFO absorbs water from highly humid environments, causing the explosive to begin losing its properties, while the Super Nitro lasts much longer in such circumstances. Additionally, its greater velocity achieves a higher rate of rock fragmentation. As far as accessories go, our electronic initiation system is one of the most advanced on the market. It can be used for special applications, open-pit or underground mines, for instances of vibration control, or when the broken rock needs micro-fractures for the leaching process. Our newest product is the Nitro Special AG, a low-cost cartridge explosive for underground mines, which was developed by Nitro Group. This product was developed to help mines keep production costs low, by providing the same performance as high-end explosives but at a lower cost. Since the Mexican mining industry is suffering from decreasing metal prices, the fact that we are selling our Nitro Special AG product at a lower cost ensures that its use is rapidly becoming widespread. Although the Super Nitro and Nitro Special AG have completely different formulas, they can be used for similar applications. Yet, the Super Nitro’s ideal use is for open-pit mines where high volumes are managed, while the Nitro Special AG is best suited to underground mines.

Q: How do you ensure that the high quality of your explosives is maintained in their application?

A: For explosives, high quality means that their performance in the field is optimal. The only way to assess performance is through blasting. With high quality explosives, the rock ultimately needs to be of the grain size required by the customer. Delivering high quality products means delivering exactly what the customer needs. For example, if a company needs a product that explodes and pre-split at the edge of the blast zone, then we would need to produce a blasting product with a specific density and size to deliver that result. We have the possibility to be as flexible as the customer needs; we do not only offer generic solutions. Our engineers fully understand the capability and the performance of our explosives, which is why the Nitro on-site engineers blend their knowledge with the knowledge of the mine engineers. The main contribution of our engineers to mining operations is to increase the amount of meters by which the mine advances with each blast. We require highly trained personnel in the explosives market and all new staff undergo a year-long training period with our senior engineers.

We can also supply the drilling service, produce emulsions on site, provide advice on the legal requirements related to explosives, and help our clients overcome their operational challenges. At the end, we give them a better price for these integrated services compared to hiring different companies to take care of all of these issues. We also provide explosives transportation services through our trucking company, which has the transportation of hazardous materials license from SCT and a military license to transport explosives. When transporting and using dangerous goods, companies need to comply with the law. We work very close with the military and follow all the rules that they set. Also, we were the first company in Mexico to implement a tracking system for each of the cartridges inside a box, which typically contains 220 cartridges. We did this before the regulation demanded it while it is now a common industry practice. Nitro Group is thus uniquely positioned to offer a fully integrated service that meets all blasting needs of the Mexican mining industry.