Epiroc and Orica, in partnership with Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. (AEM), have successfully commenced live blasting with Avatel – the world’s first semi-automated wireless underground development charging solution at AEM’s Kittilä mine in Finland. The milestone brings to life an industry-driven concept to dramatically improve safety at the face during the charging cycle, which is one of the highest-risk activities in underground mining today.

The blasting innovation enables a single operator to prepare and wirelessly complete a full charging cycle from the safety of an enclosed cabin without compromising the quality of blast outcomes. The first successful blast was loaded and then fired wirelessly from the surface on November 22, at Kittilä.

“This is a true milestone achieved for our industry where Epiroc in partnership with Orica have led the way to a safer underground operation,” Sami Niiranen, President for Epiroc’s Underground division, said. “By building on our recognized solutions and advanced Rig Control System, Avatel paves the way to safe productivity for the mining industry.”

This solution will keep people out of harm’s way during what is considered one of the highest-risk activities for underground miners, explained Orica Chief Technology Officer Angus Melbourne. “With Avatel, we can now effectively manage risk for the people who spend the most time every shift directly exposed to hazards at the development face while delivering all of the blast optimization benefits that Orica’s flagship technologies bring,” Melbourne said.
The first commercial implementation of Avatel will take place at Newcrest’s Cadia Valley Operations in early 2023.