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AECI’s CEO Shares Fresh Strategy At 100-Year Milestone 

With a 100-year track record in South Africa, AECI already has a strong vision of where it aims to go in the next century of its existence, expanding its international footprint further, while transforming digitally, and driving important net zero goals.

As the company celebrates its centenary, AECI Limited Group CEO Holger Riemensperger claims that international expansion is high on the group’s agenda for the next stage of its business journey.  

While the JSE-listed business commemorates a century of shaping industries and ground-breaking solutions in 2024, Riemensperger is already focused on what lies ahead, including digitisation, its net zero goals, and ensuring mining is its primary growth focus. 

Celebrating 100 not out 

Established as African Explosives and Industries (AE&I) on 20 March 1924, AECI Limited has evolved from its origins as an explosives provider for South Africa’s growing mining sector into a global leader in the chemicals and mining industries.  

The company’s influence now extends across Africa, Europe, South East Asia, North America, South America, and Australia, and he says the aim is to continue its internationalisation drive, as 80% of its business currently lies outside of South Africa. 

“We have 100 years of being a registered business, but 128 years of operational and industry experience,” he says. “I firmly believe that the enduring success of AECI lies in our unwavering solution-focused value proposition and the dedication from our workforce. 

“Our business is built on unique customer relationships and an exceptional ability to adapt to evolving global landscapes. We’re recognised in the industry as a training ground for the best people, in terms of technical capabilities and on-bench support, which is why our customers refer to us as the industry university.” 

Riemensperger notes further that the recent agreement with Newcrest Lihir not only enhances AECI’s presence in the broader Asia Pacific region, but also marks a noteworthy achievement in its pursuit of sustainable international business expansion. The contract encompasses the establishment of a modular emulsion plant on Lihir Island in Papa New Guinea.  

“This strategic move positions us to provide comprehensive blasting services, utilising our specially crafted hot and reactive ground bulk products, along with our purpose-built delivery systems and initiation systems. Our research and development team successfully developed a new product, the S300 Volcano, tailored to meet the unique requirements of this customer.” 

The Lihir mine sits on volcanic ground, he says, presenting challenges of extreme hot ground conditions. “Through a collaborative approach, the AECI team delivered a product that is safe, suitable, and effective for application in such an environment.” 

Riemensperger adds that AECI’s customer relationships and technical expertise are backed by the company’s consistent production of safe, reliable, and quality products. “We will continue to rely on these strengths as we concentrate our efforts on a more focused AECI moving towards the next 100 years.” 

Maximising international expansion 

“AECI is dominant in Africa, however global expansion will require a different approach. Decarbonisation within mining companies is a critical priority, along with the shift from CO² to Nature Positive, and a fundamental move towards energy transition metals and sustainable water management.” 

He adds that zero harm and sustainability remain a key part of AECI’s growth strategy, with a vision of delivering sustainable solutions for a better world through innovation and excellence.  

“Key to this is our commitment at group level to net zero emissions by 2050,” he says. “AECI has committed to reducing its Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions (direct emissions from owned or controlled sources and indirect emissions from electricity, steam, heating and cooling) in pursuit of this target, and we have implemented a system to track our Scope 3 emissions for raw materials produced through leveraging digitisation.” 

Ambitious targets 

Ultimately, he says, AECI’s aim is to become a global top-three integrated mining explosives and chemicals solutions provider by 2030, a leader in profitability, safety and operational excellence. 

“On the mining explosives side, we will pursue this goal by protecting our core markets, building value-added capabilities, leveraging existing client relationships and leaning on our underground mining expertise and differentiated capabilities,” says Riemensperger. 

AECI, he says, has a longstanding tradition of innovation, evident in its range of explosive products and associated services tailored for its customer. The company has continuously sought to enhance its operations through digital solutions, spanning from manufacturing to storage and use of these offerings.  

“By integrating digital solutions into our product and service applications, we’ve achieved tighter value chains, precision blasting and consistent results. Our range of solutions includes smart delivery systems, digital blast software, and the groundwork for transitioning towards an AI-driven future. 

“With a legacy built on innovation and a vision focused on shaping the next century of progress, AECI is well positioned to inspire and drive digital innovations that will redefine the landscape of its industry for generations to come,” says Riemensperger.  

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