In a new landscape where efficiency is the gold standard, mining leaders across the world are looking to decrease inputs, increase outputs, and raise the level of safety. Questions are also swirling around social license and the environment. Taken together, these challenges can seem overwhelming – but there’s no need to go it alone.
As with any great task, the key is to break things down into manageable steps. Electronic blasting experts occupy a unique position in their ability to do this. Why? Because the application of electronic blasting doesn’t rely on experimental or theoretical measures. It uses proven technology and expertise to unlock reliable pathways to greater efficiency. We’ve known for a long time that every shot has an effect on downstream performance, but only in recent history have we seen how profound those downstream effects can be.
So how can blasting experts help demystify the path to a leaner and more productive operation? Here are five specific problems that can be solved when current technology is skilfully applied.
- The blasting process is long and cumbersome
Safety and strategic concerns, in addition to outdated methodology, can make the blasting process painfully expensive and slow. The inability to fire multiple or larger shots at the same time makes the setup more arduous and requires a greater number of blast days. Limitations on the size of blasts will result in a loss of precision and less control over the operational effects. In co-operation with electronic blasting experts, operators can optimise their blasting, with the result of better wall formation, reduced downtime, and faster advancement of pits and tunnels.
- Vibrations are disturbing nearby existing operations and/or communities
For mining companies, success in the 21st century comes with a new set of rules and expectations. The effects of a given mine on nearby communities, and on the environment, have reached critical importance. Reducing ground vibrations is a definite and practical way to lighten those critical footprints. Electronic blast experts can reduce and predict ground vibrations by selecting a timing regime tailored to the geological conditions. Combined with a controlled firing of large and multiple blasts sequentially, fewer blast events translates to better relationships with surrounding communities.
- Safety is less than optimal
Key innovations in the historical timeline have reduced the dangers inherent to blasting, but the hardware and configurations at many mining sites remain less than optimal – and since one blasting accident or mishap is one too many, elevating safety standards during the blasting process is a universal priority. Notable safety features in some of the world’s most advanced electronic blasting systems include secure encoded communication protocols for superior firing control and data transmission. Safety is taken to higher levels through the expert application of hardware with multiple capacitors, integrated modems, smart shunts, and next-level detonators.
- Poor fragmentation and a lack of material uniformity
The blasting process has a critical impact on hauling, crusher-circuit throughput, and other key aspects of downstream operations. When fragmentation is poorly controlled and the material is not uniform, productivity suffers. Next-generation electronic blast systems bring a level of control over material uniformity that could only be imagined in the past. Real performance gains are unlocked at multiple points in the production chain.
- Lack of control over muck piles and dilution
The excavation of muck piles is another performance issue in mining operations which, if not overlooked, has perhaps been too readily accepted for what it is. With electronic control, the shape and looseness of the muck pile can be tailored to the excavation equipment and/or mining method, leading to efficiencies.
Dilution is another old problem that is taken as a given. The costs are multifarious – the unwanted material has to be moved, crushed, processed and then sent to the dump or tailings. Meanwhile, the grade of ore can be affected by high dilution levels.
We know that the blasting process has a large impact on dilution. The same processes – i.e. electronic blasting – can be used to reduce levels of dilution, preserve higher grades of ore, and reduce operational costs associated with processing dilution.
Proven principles and reliable technology
At a moment when new technologies are breaking onto the scene every day, so much remains in the realm of the theoretical, the unproven, the experimental. There is no doubt that automation will play a bigger role in years to come, and that new technologies will unlock new productivity gains. Meanwhile, the global mining community stands in need of immediate performance enhancements based on proven principles and reliable technology. The best electronic blasting hardware, as applied by dedicated experts, can deliver gains that are both practical and sustainable over the long haul.