A “safety-driven initiative” has been tested successfully at Newcrest Mining’s Cadia Valley Operations site using remote drilling, loading and wireless blasting to remove the exposure of workers to major hazards associated with draw points at Cadia East. The 30-day trial provided the opportunity to evaluate new technology from MacLean Engineering’s secondary break drill and blast system (Automated Explosive Charger) and Orica’s Wireless Blasting System (WebGen 100) in an isolated area.

Secondary break activities are used when oversized rocks block material from flowing through the draw points in caving operations or when they are deemed too large to pass through the jaws of the primary crusher underground. Many oversized rocks can be dealt with by preparation loaders or rock breakers. However, some of these situations require blasting where workers need to access the area to wire the charge.

MacLean’s secondary break drill and blast system removes workers from secondary break activities through the development of a prototype bolt-on piece of equipment, which is attached to existing secondary break drill rigs. This Auto Explosive Loader (AEL) can drill a hole in a rock and push the wireless explosive inside the hole, without the operator leaving the cab of the drill rig. The operator can then remove the drill rig, leave the area and remotely detonate the explosive, using a wireless device manufactured by Orica.

Cadia Acting General Manager Aaron Brannigan said the trial was successful and Cadia was able to meet the key objective of testing the machinery that eliminates human interactions on foot while working near an active draw point. “The trial has demonstrated the opportunity for significant safety benefits, through eliminating human exposure to the major hazards associated with secondary break activities,” Aaron said.

MacLean Vice President of Product Management Patrick Marshall said finding safe and efficient ways to introduce remote or autonomous fleet operations is a key area of technology development at MacLean and partnerships with customers and other manufacturers are a critical part of the success of this product development and commissioning process.

The next step will be a more comprehensive trial in a real-life production environment to further assess the safety aspects and productivity of the secondary break system.