Enaex Africa has been making huge strides on the continent thanks to the hard work and dedication of a team led by its CEO, Francisco Baudrand. Leadership’s Ralph Staniforth sat down with the industrial engineer by trade to chat more about the company and how it operates, how it has been growing, what it does in terms of sustainability, and what customers can expect when joining forces with Enaex Africa.
Enaex Africa is a subsidiary of Chilean company Enaex —the third largest blasting solution partner in the world. Their African operation is a joint venture with global chemicals and energy company Sasol, which was established in the middle of 2020.
Under the leadership of CEO Francisco Baudrand, Enaex Africa is seen as a world class blasting services and explosives supplier entity, which delivers premium solutions to the most important mining locations and organisations on the African continent.
Enaex Africa’s vision is to be ‘the preferred, not necessarily the biggest. The most knowledgeable, the experts on the blasting and explosives field. The one you would recommend to a friend. The one you know cares about people. These qualities make us trustworthy, proving that we deliver great added value. We will always strive to be the passionate experts paying attention to every detail, engaged and invested in humanising mining’.
Driven by that vision and armed with 1 300 highly-trained employees, Enaex Africa is able to provide explosives and blasting services to a number of mining sites in sub-Saharan Africa, with subsidiaries located in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, and Zambia.
With manufacturing sites in Secunda and Rustenburg, headquarters in Sandton, and regional offices in Postmasburg (Northern Cape), Rustenburg, Witbank, and Swakopmund (Namibia), Enaex Africa is able to service customers by producing and distributing a variety of explosives and value-added solutions.
The products created and supplied by Enaex Africa are used in blasting for open-cast and underground mining operations, quarries, and civil construction.
“In South Africa, we are the leaders in the underground sector. To keep this position bringing innovation to the table is key, with the likes of our digitalization progress and development of robotics for narrow reef operations. We continue growing in the open-cast in the country, and we are also making our mark throughout Africa, both with operations focusing in Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana and Zambia, Additionally, we export our products to DRC, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, among other Southern African countries” Baudrand explains.
Servicing the industry
Enaex Africa offers customers a one-stop shop for all their blasting needs, always conscious about Safety, the first and most important value of the company.
As they understand that every mine faces unique challenges and has differing expectations and needs from their explosive supplier, they are able to offer open-cast, underground, technical, product, and training services.
“Our goal is to provide premium blasting solutions to the mining industry. For that, of course, we supply a wide variety of products and services. We offer explosives that are used to carry out blasting in underground mines and also the open-cast mines in Southern Africa,” Baudrand, who is an industrial engineer with more than twenty years of experience, says.
“Furthermore, we have a clear purpose: ‘to humanize mining’. Mining environment is tough and also a job that can be unsafe. That´s why our innovations in tele-operations and robotics are so relevant, as they are enabling us to expose less people to risks on the ground”.
“I think it is important to say that even though we produce bulk explosives, packaged explosives, and initiation systems, the most important thing is that we provide a whole value chain. While we make these products for the mines, we also have the people and equipment to carry out the blasting operations on site.”
Those services includes the following:
- Product quality control: Enaex has a team of professionals, instrumentation systems, procedures, and instructions to ensure the quality of its products at all times.
- Magazine management: Enaex offers its customers a comprehensive magazine and plant management service, taking charge over the daily management, reception, storage, replacement, dispatch, and transfer of raw materials, high explosive, and mine accessories.
- Optimisation of blasting results: Enaex has teams of experts that can optimise results in terms of the impact on cost, performance, productivity, and the environment. They provide an agile response customised to the mining client, with the assistance of latest generation tools that allow for better data monitoring and management to proactively make high-impact decisions.
- Blast initiation: The explosive experts at Enaex guarantee that the blasting has been loaded safely, that all initiation systems are connected and ready to fire before clearing the area and beginning the blasting procedure.
- Blast hole priming, tying, programming, stemming, and plugging services.
- Bulk explosives pumping: Enaex can produce different bulk explosives and heavy anfo blends that can be adapted to meet a wide variety of on-site needs, both for opencast and underground operations. These products are pumped into the drilling holes using properly equipped mixer trucks (opencast) or pumping units (underground), that complies with the strictest safety standards and all applicable laws and regulations.
- Transport of explosives: Enaex has a robust logistics and storage structure, with exceptional experience and safety in the supply of bulk raw materials, packaged explosives products, and initiation systems to enable operational continuity and supply.
- Packaged explosives supply: Enaex manufactures a wide range of products. Its product development ensures a safe supply for clients, with the capacity to react quickly in the event of contingencies and guarantee quality. These products are widely used for underground mining and pre-splitting blast in opencast
- Blast design: Enaex comprehensively design the drilling and blasting polygons to ensure the following tasks and objectives: optimum drilling pattern the initiation sequence, and blast loading rules, thanks to modelling, design and analysis tools that allow for the simulation of results according to information on the rock mass and its condition. Deliver evacuation plans.
- In order for the above to be executed correctly and safely, Enaex Africa requires highly-skilled and highly-trained employees to fulfil their services.
Baudrand insists that only the best are employed by Enaex Africa to ensure the highest possible service. An important aspect of this is to ensure that all employees are given the chance to grow within the company and are treated fairly, as losing talent can have serious consequences on the day-to-day operations.
“I think, to us, it is the most important thing to have the right people. I am very passionate about people and I really love when we promote people within the company,” Baudrand says.
“We are seen as the place to work within the industry because we are really looking after our people—promoting professionals and also promoting women into the industry. The empowerment we give to the people that work with us is very effective and that, I think, is the best way to make this company work.”
Growing Enaex Africa
While Enaex Africa has only been around for three years, the growth they have experienced has been nothing short of exceptional.
This is evident in their blasting services expansion beyond South Africa’s borders, as well as their ability to enter the export market with their products.
Baudrand has really enjoyed the experience to date, but he feels there is still room to grow across the continent.
“These first almost three years in South Africa have been very nice and have been successful in terms of getting new contracts and bringing clients on board. However, our growth will not stop here. We have experience both in South Africa and in other African countries now and we will continue focusing on expanding our operations and maintaining our leadership in underground mining in South Africa,” he avers.
The growth of Enaex Africa is in part down to the successes which Baudrand and his team have managed to achieve.
Local production has helped make a dent in South Africa’s high unemployment rate, while their hard work to achieve a high B-BBEE score is paying off tenfold.
In the past year, the first Daveytronic® facility—which produces electronic detonators—was opened outside of France in Secunda in November 2022, while Enaex Africa was certified as Level 2 B-BBEE compliant in the last audit conducted at the end of February 2023. Baudrand explains: “We have been very successful in terms of producing locally, including the expansion of our bulk emulsion facilities at Secunda. We have invested a lot in local production since we started in July 2020. What we are producing in South Africa is very important because it creates jobs, but it also helps on increasing our product competitiveness.
“By having more local procurement helps with our scorecard in terms of B-BBEE. We have become Level 2 B-BBEE compliant, all in less than three years. This is a really big achievement. If you are not Level 4 or below you cannot do business with the mining industry, so we are currently in a very important position compared to other players.”
It would be naive to think that this growth has been easy. The hugely competitive mining industry constantly throws challenges at you. This means that it takes a special company in order to grow in these tough conditions, as there can be times when nothing seems to be going your way.
Baudrand has experienced this first-hand, but his commitment to his customers has seen him work to ensure that they are kept happy. It has definitely been a learning curve.
“Working in South Africa is very complex, particularly with a very challenging supply chain. It’s sometimes very difficult to move your products. I would say that is something that we have faced, but we have been doing a lot of leg work to deliver what we have committed,” the married father of four says.
“One of our main objectives remains honouring our customers, listening to their needs, and being able to deliver products in Africa. I come from Chile and I have learned that you have to understand the different factors within a country, and this happens by getting involved.”
To continue this growth trajectory, Baudrand is targeting expansion in terms of leadership within Southern Africa, while a move into West Africa is very much on the cards within the next five years.
Enaex Africa: A conscious entity
Enaex Africa’s sustainability management mission is to ‘apply sustainability policies and programmes so that its activities are carried out in an environmentally and community-friendly manner by establishing a work plan focused on the following areas: Environmental, Commercial, Social, and Corporate Governance’.
Enaex has coined the GLOCAL concept regarding the sustainability strategy’s implementation. This means that each country’s subsidiary will respond to its stakeholders’ needs and interests, which are then identified and prioritised according to the local reality. However, globally, all subsidiaries have the same purpose: the constant search for shared value, where there are benefits for society, the environment, and the company.
While it is of vital importance for Enaex Africa to adhere to all local protocols and regulations regarding their output, another area where they are carrying the sustainability torch is in their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
Not only do they run various training courses in-house, they also constantly look to give back when it comes to early childhood development. In the past, Enaex Africa has spent important amounts on a Rural Education Access Programme (REAP). This programme is aimed at helping youngsters in rural areas with their education needs.
The company has also launched a national reading for enjoyment campaign to help children realise the importance of books, reading, and storytelling.
Baudrand explains: “This is all part of our social responsibility study. We work with the communities where we operate. We have a passion for education and have launched an early childhood development centre in Limpopo. It is located in a poor village that needs support. We feel we can help in primary schools and high schools, too, where we can create professionals in time.”
Enaex Africa are also very keen on spotting talent early and mentoring them to become key figures within the company. The one way they do this is by visiting universities and offering engineering students the chance to learn from ENAEX Africa, with the view to a potential full-time job.
“We engage with universities to spot talented engineers,” Baudrand, who has been with ENAEX for over a decade, reveals. ”When they are just about to start their working lives, we incorporate them in the company for a training programme. This is for people who don’t have work experience and we train them so that they are ready to take positions with us. This also allows us to empower women engineers, as they are often difficult to find.”
In a bid to ensure that Enaex Africa conducts ethical business, a whistle-blower channel was created to allow any wrongdoing to be reported and dealt with timeously.
Baudrand the leader
The best leaders out there have the ability to learn lessons from every interaction they have. Drawing knowledge and a greater understanding makes a leader grow and shows that they are willing to take the time to better themselves—and ultimately the company.
One of the lessons which Baudrand has learned shows that he is a humble leader who cares deeply about his staff.
“The most important lesson so far at Enaex Africa is that I have learned that when you have so much responsibility leading a whole company, you really do have the opportunity to impact the lives of others. For me, that’s the most important lesson and I work on that day by day,” he says with a sense of pride.
As the leader of Enaex Africa, you would expect Baudrand to be confident in what his teams are able to provide to customers. While that is the case, it is even deeper than that. Baudrand knows that what Enaex Africa has to provide is the very best, and there simply aren’t two ways about it.
“First of all, it is important for our customers to know that we deal with a very high level of professional safety. We understand what they need, and we take it on to tailored make solutions for them. We deal in quality products and solutions that can improve the customer’s productivity, which is what the customer wants. We strive to make their lives better,” Baudrand concludes.
Ralph Staniforth is the production editor for Leadership
The history of Enaex in Africa
Sasol, who launched their South African explosives business unit in 1984, commenced with an asset review to ensure optimal financial contribution to the bottom line. In line with this review, Sasol Explosives business unit was identified for possible partnering with a world class explosives brand.
Enaex was selected as Sasol’s preferred strategic partner to create a world class explosives business on the African continent.
Sasol Explosives and Enaex started a joint-venture. Sasol Explosives becomes Enaex Africa. Francisco Baudrand, CEO of Enaex Africa, noted: “This is truly an incredible day for Enaex with a new venture on a new continent. This joint venture is a platform of growth for Enaex not only in Southern Africa, but also for us to become the leaders in explosives and blasting services for the mining industry on the African continent.” In May 2021 a BBBEE partner was identified, Afris, so today the shareholding of the company is Enaex (51%), Sasol (23%) and Afris (26%).
What is Blasting Digitisation?
The mining industry is transitioning towards more intelligent digital mining, incorporating different technologies and adapting its processes to this purpose. These changes help increase the availability of information, use advanced analytics to improve performance, enhance worker safety, and achieve greater coordination during operations.
One of the areas where the digital transformation may add value is in the blasting process.
Enaex Bright will be a digital platform designed for blasting optimisation and digital integration, for the final purpose of enhancing productivity by reducing the variability of the processes. Today in South Africa is still known as IBIS, as an in heritage name from Sasol.
This platform will provide the opportunity to learn about the operational process through artificial intelligence tools for the purpose of proposed operational optimisations. Moreover, it will generate digital information to facilitate the integration with their client’ systems and enable traceability of the complete process from design to the blasting result.
Using advanced instrumentation and the Internet of Things, the platform will receive input from different data sources in the mining subprocesses (drilling, explosives mixing truck loading, blasting results, etc.). The data collected will be processed and analysed to generate valuable and accessible information for different areas and players, which may then be used to make decisions on how to dynamically optimise the process in order to quickly adapt to changes in the environment.
“When you have data, you are able to use that in favour of getting better results, planning better, and changing and defining how you drill,” Baudrand says.