Technology advancements and investments in R&D provide some new tools for blasters

Blasting is a serious business where safety is always a primary consideration. One wrong decision could result in the loss of life or thoroughly disrupt a mining operation. It's also a practice that combines an art form with engineering skills. Oftentimes the magnitude of a perfectly detonated blast can result in high fives among the blasting crew.

The mining industry is constantly pushing the limits when it comes to blasting. A bigger blast results in less downtime. If a bigger blast is poorly shot, fragmentation issues can lead to longer lasting head-aches. Fortunately, advances in blasting technology are helping blasters minimize the chances of that happening.

The new tools that are available today incorporate GPS with better software. They can store and share data more effectively. Remote systems allow blasters to withdraw everyone from harm's way. The blasting business continues to conduct research and development (R&D), and that investment is paying dividends.

Photogrammetry, Engineering Geology and Blasting

An Austrian company, 3GSM, has developed a face profiling system that uses technology to visually demonstrate the burden between holes. "Our core competence is combining know-how from computer vision, photogrammetry, engineering geology, blasting, and of course, software development," said Markus Pötsch, customer support and sales, 3GSM, at the International Society of Explosives Engineers meeting, which was held during February in Denver, Colorado, USA.

The company offers two packages, ShapeMetriX and BlastMetriX, which measure surface images and blast design. "We provide easy-to-use systems that do not require special surveying skills as with other approaches using classical photogrammetry," Pötsch said. "We use standard hardware components and specific software for geometric measurements from photos." 3GSM develops its own software. The company also works with Graz University of Technology and the Mining University of Leoben.

 

Image title
The BlastMetriX3D principle: from photos taken with a handheld camera (1), a 3-D image (2) of the bench face is computed. The 3-D image includes geometry and geology of the bench face and thus allows for an
optimal planning of the blast site by visualizing the true burden over the entire area (3), as well as
profiles and plan views (4).

 

BlastMetriX3D is used for bench face surveying and planning of blast layouts based on three-dimensional images. It uses photogrammetry to provide 3-D information that is digitally enhanced by modern algorithms from computer vision. The implemented modern algorithms allowthe use of an off-the-shelf digital camera equipped with zoom lens and freehand application without any external surveying. The resulting 3-D image is a digital photo combined with spatial information on the objects/surfaces it shows.

Profiles are generated by the intersection of a plane and the free surface of the bench. A minimum burden diagram plots this shortest distance from a search in any spatial direction, spherically around any location of the borehole. A minimum burden diagram daylights crucial information that pure profiles might hide.

Using the 3-D image and the data off-loaded from the drill, the software determines a relationship between the borehole and burden. Green is design burden, purple is excessive burden and red is minimum burden. Knowing where the minimum burden exists, blasters can use a decoupled charge or the blasthole can be decked. The system can also be used for stope blasting underground.

Remote Firing Devices

The 1673 Remote Firing Device (RFD) from Rothenbuhler Engineering is an intelligent and discrete two-way radio-controlled remote blast initiation system. The radio system's signal is digitally encoded (addressed). The latest microprocessor and message encoding/validation technology has been combined to provide a safe, reliable and accurate RFD.

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Rothenbuhler's model 1673 RFDs.

The Controller units are capable of commanding up to 64 remotes that can be either electric or non-electric, in 8-remote groups. With a minimum of 350 volts, the remotes can fire 75 electric caps in series, or a maximum circuit resistance of 150 ohms. Both the Controller and Remote units can run on standby (sleep) for typically 10 to 14 hours before recharging is required.

A history event log keeps a record of information such as unit state, post blast motion detect value, firing voltage level, battery level, and the date and time the event was logged. With the GPS included, each event will also have the longitude and latitude of where the unit was when the event was recorded.

Each Remote unit has a sensor that measures the seismic motion that may be expected when detonation occurs. The Controller unit reports a post-fire motion was detected, which is useful in underground operations when the successful initiation of a blast cannot be easily determined.

An automatic-disarming function ensures that the unit returns to a safe state in the event of a loss of communications, after a time-out period.

The Sequential Fire feature allows the user to space the firings of each Remote Unit so that they do not fire at the same time, 0-2 seconds between the firing of each Remote. This feature is particularly useful when firing multiple blocks where a delay is needed between each block.

Kumba Iron Ore Detonates Record Blast

During November 2013, AEL Mining Services (AEL) reported a new African record for the largest number of DigiShot Plus detonators fired simultaneously at Kumba Iron Ore's Kolomela mine. A total of four, 786 detonators were fired in the newly opened Klipbankfontein pit. Morne Stiglingh, managing director for open pit and massive mining at AEL, said the new record was 2,100 detonators more than the previous Africa record (also at Kolomela) and a mere 332 short of the world record of 5,118 detonators.

Stiglingh explained the aim of the blast was to minimize blast stoppages in the newly established pit and to showcase AEL's capability of delivering superior products and services. According to Stiglingh, a total of nine blast blocks and a presplit were fired in various positions in the Klipbankfontein pit. A crew of 10 AEL members worked for 14 days in temperatures above 30°C to make this possible. The success of the blast has enabled the mine to change their methodology by having the confidence to fire fewer and larger blasts to minimize mining interruptions. Subsequently, a second blast containing 4,787 detonators was fired further improving the Africa record by one detonator.

Tagging Systems for Initiators

In addition to showing its prowess at detonating large blasts, AEL is constantly working on ways to improve safety and security. As an example, in a joint venture with its technical partner DetNet, the company launched the CE4 Tagger, the next generation of tagging devices, which aims to revolutionize blasting in the mining through ease-of-use, simplicity, visibility, productivity and robustness.

Tagging systems test the integrity of the detonator, the harness and the connectors. The CE4 Tagger enhances this function by allowing testing of poor connections, which can be replaced at the site. "This enables the blaster to ensure electrical functionality of the system and to minimize misfires and possible lost blasts while remaining on the shot," said Gys Landman, CEO of DetNet. "The DetNet CE4 Tagger, which is GPS enabled, is an inherently safe device for testing and tagging of electronic detonatorsand will, through its design and usability, enhance productivity and accuracy of a blast.

"The unit features a bigger, higher quality LCD screen, which is easier to read especially in harsher climates and has a scratch-resistant glass screen. The tagger has also been designed for water resistance where the previous generation taggers were only splashproof," said Landman.

A new feature of the tagger is that it is compatible with two- and four-wire (with inter-changeable head) systems, reducing the amount of components needed for the electronic blasting system and also making it a more cost-effective option.

DetNet and AEL offer product-specific training prior to use and ensure that users also comply with all local regulations when using this device.

Initiation R&D

The R&D teams at AEL are working on a number of new concepts, which are showing promise, explained Cheryl Kelly, group technical manager initiating systems. "The launch of a new booster is imminent as we are busy building the first prototype pilot plant at our Pinelands site," Kelly said. "This booster will offer improved hot-hole resistance as well as less dependence on a long supply chain of raw materials. This will be a game-changer for initiation systems."

Kelly and her group have been working to optimize the pyrotechnic compositions and in particular the binder and oxidizer selection and concentration, which has significantly improved the timing and the reliability of the compositions.

The full range of delay powders for shock tube initiation has now been developed to cover both the underground and surface application. The development of a new surface connector (Rhino) offers more robustness and flexibility.

AEL invests 3% of its annual revenue into R&D to vigorously explore cutting-edge research while offering field and plant support on all new and existing developed technologies. The R&D team ensures that AEL maintains a firm grasp on the anticipated changes and developments in the world of explosives.

Over Pressure Monitor

Instantel's Micromate vibration and overpressure monitor is a four-channel unit designed to monitor and transmit event data with one triaxial geophone and one air overpressure microphone. Easy-to-use with a touch-screen interface including intuitive menus, color display, and an associated keypad, the Micromate offers a rugged design featuring a high-impact case. This advanced monitoring technology with a real-time operating system has a USB interface, expansive memory, and a variety of plug and play peripherals that provide versatility across multiple applications. Blasters can now download events usinga memory stick rather than a PC. The touch-screen monitor has large, high-resolution color graphics. An improved menu structure allows blaster to quick navigate through the system. The unit is equipped with remote access.

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Instantel's Micromate.

Instantel's Micromate vibration and overpressure monitor is a four-channel unit designed to monitor and transmit event data with one triaxial geophone and one air overpressure microphone. Easy-to-use with a touch-screen interface including intuitive menus, color display, and an associated keypad, the Micromate offers a rugged design featuring a high-impact case. This advanced monitoring technology with a real-time operating system has a USB interface, expansive memory, and a variety of plug and play peripherals that provide versatility across multiple applications. Blasters can now download events usinga memory stick rather than a PC. The touch-screen monitor has large, high-resolution color graphics. An improved menu structure allows blaster to quick navigate through the system. The unit is equipped with remote access.

Instantel's Micromate vibration and overpressure monitor is a four-channel unit designed to monitor and transmit event data with one triaxial geophone and one air overpressure microphone. Easy-to-use with a touch-screen interface including intuitive menus, color display, and an associated keypad, the Micromate offers a rugged design featuring a high-impact case. This advanced monitoring technology with a real-time operating system has a USB interface, expansive memory, and a variety of plug and play peripherals that provide versatility across multiple applications. Blasters can now download events usinga memory stick rather than a PC. The touch-screen monitor has large, high-resolution color graphics. An improved menu structure allows blaster to quick navigate through the system. The unit is equipped with remote access.

Optimizing Underground Blast Planning

CAE Mining announced the launch of Aegis, an underground drill and blast planning system. This new product, according to the company, provides a unique combination of features giving blast planners the tools to optimize the entire mine-to-mill process, resulting in significant cost savings.

Aegis, the latest addition to CAE Mining's Underground Planning Solution portfolio, is described as combining the power of intelligent, automatic blasthole placement and charging with the simplicity of an intuitive interface. "Aegis provides tools to improve drill and blast operations by helping to make smart design decisions based on past experience," said Ian Lipchak, solutions manager at CAE Mining.

A database containing information on rock type properties, explosives, drill rigs, slot raises, and report templates allows Aegis to rapidly and automatically generate hole layouts and charging plans.

Aegis allows users to adjust individual rings and holes and then output the final drilling, charging and blasting layouts in a printable format or directly to compatible drill rigs using electronic data transfer. This product also contains configurable reporting templates for statistics such as explosives quantities and drilling and explosives costs.

The Aegis package consists of two modules: Aegis Designer, for underground drill and blast design; and Aegis Analyzer, which provides analysis and forecasting tools, adding to the forecasting features of Aegis Designer by providing blast recovery, dilution and value estimates. It also provides advanced blast modeling and cavity prediction algorithms. According to CAE Mining, Analyzer provides an unobtrusive, content-rich interface that integrates seamlessly with Aegis Designer, allowing planners to instantaneously see the consequences of design decisions.

A new face profiling system from Laser Technology Inc. combines reflectorless laser-based measurements with the company's Face Profiler software to calculate bench heights, minimum and optimum burdens, drill hole angles and offsets, hole depths, and more. The system includes a BAP data collector with Face Profiler software and a TruPulse 200X laser rangefinder. LTI's point-and-shoot handheld lasers have the ability to measure directly to any type of surface and the Face Profiler software is easy and intuitive enough that anyone can do it. The system provides precise data to help improve blasting safety, pinpoint blasthole locations and angle and optimize fragmentation.

Maxam Provides an Alternative for the Americas

With a large presence at both the ISEE 2014 and Expomin 2014, Maxam presented its full range of mining products and services to the Americas earlier this year. Founded in Spain by Alfred Nobel in 1872, Maxam is the world's third largest blasting products and services provider.

Rioflex is a bulk explosive, which the company characterizes as a very versatile product, adaptable to extreme conditions (from the -40º experienced in Siberia to +40º of the Caribbean), low smoke generation, and high energy potential given its reduced water composition, as well as its high performance even in environments where water is present and its easy use in the loading of boreholes.

In addition to Rioflex, Maxam also manufactures ANFO and provides on-site services to its customers in both underground and open-pit mining operations with its bulk mobile sensitizing units.

Seismic Analysis Software

AnalysisNET from GeoSonics/Vibra-Tech is the company's most comprehensive and advanced software for its SSU 3000 seismographs. It combines seismic analysis and event manager software into a single package that employs the .NET framework. The system allows easier access to data files, provides multiple report combinations and gives blasters the ability to manage data. Other features include: auto hide/docking of multiple screens, direct email of results from the program, direct link to GeoSonics online tools, FFT Analysis, and multiple U.S. and international compliance standard formats. The software is compatible with Windows 7 operating systems and provides the latest innovations from GeoSonics.

Doctorate in Explosives Engineering

The Missouri University of Science and Technology has been approved by the Coordinating Board of Higher Education to offer the U.S.'s first doctorate in explosives engineering, said university officials. Missouri S&T, they noted, was also the nation's first to offer undergraduate and post-graduate minors in explosives engineering in 2005, a postgraduate certificate in 2006, and a master's degree in 2010.

The new doctorate will help accommodate critical shortfalls in the government and the industry, according to university officials. In the mining industry alone, they noted, more than 5,000 engineers will retire in the next decade.

Explosives engineers work in mining, construction and demolition industries, among others. Some 6 billion to 7 billion lb of explosives are used annually in the U.S., 85% in providing raw materials for various uses and 12% for new construction.

More than 150 students have graduated from Missouri S&T with explosives credentials, including 18 with master's degrees, said university representatives said. The program's 16 courses are available on campus and via distance learning, they added.

The Missouri S&T explosives engineering program is directed by Dr. Paul Worsey, professor of mining engineering, and is a part of the mining and nuclear engineering department. The 72-hour doctorate curriculum requires a dissertation and explosives engineering core courses and electives. Field work and research will primarily be conducted at the university's experimental mine facility in Rolla.


Information about the explosives engineering program at Missouri S&T can be found online at explosives.mst.edu.

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