EPC Groupe (Africa) : Having a Blast

Joshua MannLucy Pilgrim
Joshua Mann - Regional Director Lucy Pilgrim - Senior Editor
Highlights
  • EPC Groupe was first founded in France in 1893 by Chairman, Eugène-Jean Barbier. In just a short amount of time, the organisation became a world leader in the manufacturing of explosives, storage and distribution, and drilling and blasting.
  • EPC Groupe has been present in Africa for over 60 years, originating in the civil explosives market with the establishment of trading companies initially in Cameroon in 1953, before expanding further across West Africa.
  • EPC Groupe proactively harnesses Africa’s abundance of mineral supplies, comprising platinum group metals (PGM), copper, cobalt, iron ore, chrome, manganese, gold, and lithium.
  • “We are all in line to strengthen our position in West and Central Africa, and continue our development across the continent,” says Wilfred Latte, Regional Head of Business Development, EPC Groupe.

Frontrunners in drilling and blasting services, the African division of EPC Groupe has consolidated the continent as an integral part of the global mining industry. Wilfred Latte, Regional Head of Business Development, tells us more.

HAVING A BLAST

The drilling and blasting sector in Africa has experienced significant pressure in the face of challenges caused by harsh environments, increased energy costs, and land disputes in recent years. Despite this, the industry has prevailed by taking advantage of its vast mineral reserves.  

In Africa, EPC Groupe possesses the requisite rich history, extensive global experience, and project ambition to sufficiently navigate the continent’s ever-expanding mining sector.  

EPC Groupe was first founded in France in 1893 by Chairman, Eugène-Jean Barbier. In just a short amount of time, the organisation became a world leader in the manufacturing of explosives, storage and distribution, and drilling and blasting.  

“For 130 years, EPC Groupe has enjoyed a reputation for effective solutions, technological innovation, and high-quality customer service,” introduces Wilfried Latte, Regional Head of Business Development.  

In the early 2000s, the organisation progressed from its predominantly distribution activities to drilling and blasting services via its African subsidiaries in Guinea – Nitrokemine and Nitrokemfor – who still hold an exclusive contract with Compagnie des Bauxites (CBG) for mine drilling, on-site explosives manufacturing, and blasting operations.  

This global expansion of capabilities elevated EPC Groupe to become pioneers in explosives manufacturing, as well as drilling and blasting, cementing itself as a leading international player in the fields of mining, civil construction, demolition, and the circular economy.  

Today, EPC Groupe has a vast range of divisions to cover the scope of the industry, with more than 40 subsidiaries in over 20 countries worldwide. This can be split into five main regions that handle business across Nothern Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia Pacific, the Americas, and sub-Saharan Africa. 

As such, EPC Groupe has been present in Africa for over 60 years, originating in the civil explosives market with the establishment of trading companies initially in Cameroon in 1953, before expanding further across West Africa.  

The group oversaw drilling and blasting operations in Gabon, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea, and Cameroon with its vast customer base comprising leading names in mining, cement, aggregates, civil engineering, and defence.  

“Today, we manufacture and supply a range of commercial explosives and tailor-made services, both from our national industrial plant based in Ivory Coast and on-site for our clients in Guinea and Ivory Coast,” Latte highlights.

OPTIMISING OPERATIONS

In 2022, Africa and Asia contributed to 22 percent of EPC Groupe’s turnover, following a considerable 57 percent increase in output over the last two years.  

“Africa offers room for EPC Groupe to develop its activities in a very demanding area; we are all in line to strengthen our position in West and Central Africa, and continue our development across the continent,” comments Latte.  

This is demonstrated by the company’s industry-leading supply and manufacture of commercial explosives, including cartridge and bulk explosives. 

More specifically, EPC Groupe was a frontrunner in the development and use of mobile bulk explosive manufacturing units for both surface and tunnelling work in Africa. This equipment presents a notable advantage for the productivity of its customers’ sites and guarantees a higher level of safety and reliability.  

“Our involvement does not stop at making the product available in such an optimised way; we also offer a range of customised services in accordance with our clients’ needs, organisational structure, and objectives,” he adds.   

One of the company’s most innovative tools used across its services is VERTEX©, a digital suite implemented to optimise drilling and blasting techniques in the field. The toolbox was developed in-house by the company’s Research and Development Division to ensure cutting-edge and fully-optimised mine to mill operations.

As a result, EPC Groupe can provide vital solutions to the recurrent challenges of the continent’s mining industry, namely by maximising the fragmentation of rock to allow for more efficient ore extraction, precise drilling patterns, and controlled blasting, which minimises the need for secondary blasting or excessive crushing.

Additionally, well-executed drill and blast strategies facilitated by VERTEX© lead to better ore recovery rates, optimising the overall efficiency of the company’s mining process and lowering operational costs. Therefore, the toolbox is an integral component of the group’s growth.  

Broken down, the first product of the suite, named Expertir©, is a blast design tool for shotfirers to optimise drill patterns, alongside loading and sequencing. Meanwhile, VERTEX© also incorporates an app known as Expertab™, which is used daily by operators to feedback data of the high-quality standards achieved in the field.  

Thirdly, the web platform, Explore, interfaces the Expertir© design with the Expertab™ field reality, along with the key performance indicators (KPIs) extracted from EPC Groupe’s African mining operations.  

“In a nutshell, our VERTEX© digital suite ensures cost-effective and productive extraction methods by helping each mining operation to design, execute, and optimise its drill and blast operations,” surmises Latte.  

Currently, the group is leveraging its tools across Africa, present in locations such as Senegal, Gabon, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin, Cameroon, and Ivory Coast.  

To add to this, EPC Groupe looks forward to delving into some new mining contracts in the latter specifically. This includes the supply of explosives and blasting services for Australian-based company, Perseus Mining Limited, for their Yaouré Gold Mine located near Yamoussoukro, the capital of Ivory Coast.  

“We effectively started the contract in January 2021, with the key specification of providing the first emulsion manufacturing plant on-site, named the Euro Modular Plant (EMP), which was designed and built by our R&D department, EPC Innovation and Industry (EPC2I),” recounts Latte.  

“The plant is working well and has the capacity to provide up to 20,000 tonnes of emulsion per year, in preparation for the demands of both open-pit operations and upcoming underground projects,” he adds.  

EMP provides EPC Groupe with a greater capacity to provide tailored solutions for its clients from a variety of locations.  

Furthermore, the company anticipates new developments in Gabon, where it is preparing for the ramp-up phase of the Belinga project, providing explosive and blasting services.  

“We are currently in the process of providing on-site solutions to enhance productivity at the Belinga project and match the increased demand forecasted by the mine operators,” Latte informs.  

EPC Groupe has a deep understanding of the local regions in Africa and their mining demands. Therefore, it is knowledgeable enough to approach potential customers from a local development perspective.  

“All of the General Managers in our subsidiaries are from Africa, so their local understanding, involvement, and commitment are key for our operations. We are a trusted partner in the region,” Latte explains.  

“Innovation is part of our DNA. We are investing in R&D for sustainable products and equipment, whilst strengthening our digital solutions to generate value for our customers.” 

“Africa remains the place to be if we want to play our part in the energy transition. Alongside the products and services we offer, we therefore take great care to ensure that the environmental aspect is taken into consideration”

Wilfred Latte, Regional Head of Business Development, EPC Groupe

ACCELERATING THE ENERGY TRANSITION

EPC Groupe proactively harnesses Africa’s abundance of mineral supplies, comprising platinum group metals (PGM), copper, cobalt, iron ore, chrome, manganese, gold, and lithium.  

With the accelerating pace of decarbonisation and the resulting transition to renewable energy, demands for green minerals have increased exponentially. The continent has already significantly benefitted from the uptake of such minerals, particularly with the increasing need for gold.  

This is especially significant in the context of growing demand in the value supply chain for mine to mill and drilling and blasting activities, which forecasts a bright future for the company.  

However, new challenges are arising in the mastery of the supply chain and the transportation of raw materials to specified production areas. This enables EPC Groupe to remain competitive and consistently cater for the increasing demands of its customers whilst meeting the needs of renewable energy.

“Africa remains the place to be if we want to play our part in the energy transition.  Alongside the products and services we offer, we take great care to ensure that the environmental aspect is taken into consideration in all our working procedures,” Latte details.   

Moreover, the company prides itself on exceeding typical corporate social responsibility (CSR) standards, as EPC Groupe is devoted to the advancements of the local African communities in which it operates.  

“Our decisions and activities are planned and conducted to comply with the group’s own broader definition of CSR, which corresponds with our vision of being responsible in front of our own people, the community as a whole, and our stakeholders,” Latte details.  

With such a passion for doing right, not only from the company but its surrounding people, EPC Groupe’s priority for 2024 is to expand its presence across Central and Southern Africa, particularly in the development of emerging subsidiaries that are entering the mining market.  

“As an organisation, we strive to strengthen our market share and continuously provide solutions to our customers,” Latte concludes.

EPC GROUPE PARTNER

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By Joshua Mann Regional Director
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Joshua Mann is a Project Manager for Outlook Publishing. Joshua is responsible for showcasing corporate stories in our digital B2B magazines and Digital Platforms, and sourcing collaborations with Business Leaders, Brands, and C-suite Executives to feature in future editions. Joshua is actively seeking opportunities to collaborate. Reach out to Joshua to discover how you and your business could be our next cover story.
By Lucy Pilgrim Senior Editor
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Lucy Pilgrim is an in-house writer for Mining Outlook Magazine, where she is responsible for interviewing corporate executives and crafting original features for the magazine, corporate brochures, and the digital platform.