How to Reap the Financial Benefits of your Drill and Blast Data

19 March 2020 (Last Updated March 19th, 2020 10:57)

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Imagine you’re a blast supervisor heading up multiple blast crews at site.

The pattern has been drilled, the crew has dipped the holes and recorded the data on paper dipping sheets, including several long holes at one end of the pattern. Dipping data has been passed on to the truck operators for loading.

Fast forward to after the blast is complete. You and your team noted a flyrock incident during the blast, which was later confirmed by looking at the video recording. You need to finish up today’s shot reports but now you’ll have to complete an investigation into the blast.

How do you figure out what went wrong? Last time this happened it took days to piece together data from the various paper records; the ground transport is leaving in ten minutes, and tomorrow you have two large blasts on the docket.

Furthermore, this is the third incident in as many weeks. How can you ensure it will not be repeated on the next blast? On top of all that, fragmentation has been poor lately but it has been impossible to keep up with production and analyse the sudden decline in blast performance.

This is just one example of frustrations and issues felt by blast crews, blasting engineers and managers around the world every day.

Luckily, the digitisation of drill and blast data is helping relieve some of the more common pain points associated with drill and blast operations. And with access to that data in real-time, mines like yours are seeing improvements in overall drill and blast efficiency, accuracy and safety.

But just having digital data, and even real-time digital data, is not enough. You need to have a system that enables proper management of your drill and blast data for it to be truly useful.

Employing a drill and blast management system will not only help relieve common pain points in your operations but also help your entire mine site through 3 distinct financial benefits.

3 financial benefits of drill and blast data management systems

1. Identification of improvement areas in drilling

If you are not measuring it you cannot improve it. And in order to improve, the records of those measurements need to be accessible, now and in the future. This is especially true in the area of drill and blast – where, once you actually initiate the blast, you have no way to go back and measure what was actually drilled or actually loaded.

With accessible digital records of both drilling and dipping information, operations like yours have the ability to more tightly control drilling activities. This can be accomplished through the use of a drill and blast data management system such as Maptek BlastLogic, which enables the management of operator performance and can help to inform best practices under specific conditions (geology, area of the pit, or environmental considerations).

Several Maptek customer sites have been able to dramatically improve their drilling activities and have reported significant financial benefits – all due to better management of drill and blast data with BlastLogic.

One site has reported a 5% reduction in drilling costs by managing the amount of overdrilling. On top of these savings, this site has reduced the number of drill hours needed through effective management of drilling equipment and activities. This alone netted a savings of over half a million dollars in a matter of months.

2. Reduction in explosive costs

Explosive products and services make up a good proportion of a site’s mining costs. Poor inventory management, or loose discipline of on-bench activities, can result in wasted product and ultimately, lost dollars.

However, using a system to manage your drill and blast data enables you to reduce explosive costs without sacrificing performance. With drill and blast data at your fingertips, you can more effectively manage inventory, audit and improve on bench activities, as well as better manage and assess contractor performance.

For example, with tighter discipline at bench level, you can reduce the number of overloaded holes, which is a big source of wasted product.

Let’s take a look at how:

One of the most common reasons for the overloading of blast holes is due to improper backfilling of long holes. When backfilling of long holes is not performed, or is done incorrectly, you incur an immediate cost with loading unnecessary product, and there is an associated cost related to the poor blast performance. Overloaded holes can negatively impact fragmentation, equipment efficiency and even ore recovery. Even more concerning is the potential safety risk.

Implementing a blast management system gives you greater visibility into holes that were marked for backfill and the actual actions taken for a particular hole. Some systems, such as BlastLogic, can notify you in real-time, enabling you to make adjustments before it’s too late.

One of our customers found that a significant number of their long holes were not being backfilled and were, therefore, being overloaded by the powder trucks, driving total explosives product costs up and affecting shot performance. The availability of this data in BlastLogic enabled that site to more closely manage crews and contractors to ensure adherence to the blast design and get explosives spending back under control.

In terms of measured values, we have seen customers report at least a 5% reduction in explosives costs through the use of blast management systems. This is in addition to the savings that can be realised through controlled loading and optimised blast performance. These downstream impacts from blasting activities have traditionally been hard to quantify, but solutions like BlastLogic enable operators to associate these outputs to a specific blast and provide the opportunity to use that data to better inform future blasts and optimise explosives usage.

3. Wall control and slope optimisation

Mining is not an exact science, which means that there can be variances between the design and what was actually implemented in the field. Without monitoring, measuring and quantifying these variances, it can be easy to dismiss them unless something drastic occurs with a particular event. However, the cumulative effect of non-compliance to design can result in significant impacts to mine performance and safety.

For example, we are seeing more customers embarking on initiatives to optimise their slopes. This requires great confidence in the design and in the proper execution of the design in order to optimise slope angles while still maintaining an acceptable factor of safety.

Two key components that contribute to a successful slope optimisation program are:

  • Reliable and continuous slope monitoring
  • Tightly controlled blasting outcomes

Digital drill and blast management systems enable sites to quantify drill and blast design conformance in real-time and understand the impact of each blast on slope quality and the overall slope optimisation initiative. Design conformance measurement systems for quantifying dig conformance of the shovels can also be employed to understand digger performance and blast impacts on ‘digability’ and wall quality.

Couple these systems with continuous slope monitoring, such as the Maptek Sentry system, and you can maximise safety and preempt incidents associated with slope movement. This is especially crucial when looking to safely steepen pit slopes.

Effective execution of slope optimisation initiatives has a significant impact on ore recovery, stripping and overall mine financials. In some cases, we have seen a change of 1-2° in slope result in tens of millions of dollars gained through the recovery of additional ore material. However, this must be done with great care to maintain the high standard of safety required at the site. This is achieved through strict discipline in drill and blast activities and constant vigilance in monitoring slope stability.

Maximise performance. Maximise value.

Increasingly, operations are facing greater complexity in mining due to deeper deposits, tougher environmental challenges and increased social pressures.

Now more than ever it is imperative to make each dollar count and squeeze each bit of efficiency possible from every function. Whether through lowering operating costs, increasing productivity or increasing recovery, digital drill and blast management systems can help you increase profitability at your operation.

Want to learn more about how digital drill and blast management systems can optimise downstream productivity? Check out this case study on how Anglo American uses BlastLogic to analyse and improve design compliance to sustainably achieve desired blast outputs.