The new generation of gas bags are the safest and most user-friendly yet. Leading provider of drill and blast solutions for mining MTi Group has combined the best of past experience and new technology to develop the BLASTBAG Ace. A pioneer in safety and useability, MTi Group’s latest offering is a genuine gamechanger for the mining sector.
A blast from the past
Chemical gas bags in blasting go back decades. Traditionally, a vinegar and bicarb mixture or part A/part B urethane mixture would be used to initiate the inflation process in the bag. Though commonly used at the time, they were basic in their design and didn’t offer the range of control that today’s gasbags bring.
Then, 20 years ago, aerosols were adapted. Easier to deploy, they were more consistent and offered a better feel.
“We did a lot of refinement on the aerosol product, working on the ergonomics and materials to make it the best in breed,” says Nick Bodley, MTi Group’s CEO. “We were pioneers in looking at all the pain points of the product and working on those individually.”
Once the aerosol technology had reached its full potential, MTi Group began to develop something new, Bodley explains: “We started investigating a chemical product again in 2018. We applied our 20-years-worth of product development experience, allowing us to evolve some older technologies. With Ace, the whole thing’s gone full circle – back to chemicals.”
As fate would have it, in late 2018, the Group received a call from a major iron ore producer that had been experiencing forced stoppages due to false trips in its metal detectors. Bodley recalls visiting the large West Australian project at the time to investigate.
“I remember one of the team members saying, ‘We can’t use aerosol cans because of the risk to processing.’ I said, ‘How can that be?’ He then proceeded to take me up on the conveyor to the secondary crusher feed. We took an aerosol can and threw it on the empty belt. The belt immediately stopped, and the alarms went off. It was a moment where we saw this was a legitimate problem.”
That single moment validated the clients’ feedback and legitimised the development of a new chemical gas bag. “If an aerosol can trip the belt constantly, it could mean processing is full of delays, which means millions of dollars lost,” says Bodley. Soon after MTi began discussions with the client on an alternative that was non-metal and chemical-based.
Introducing BLASTBAG Ace
Like most of the BLASTBAG range, the Ace is designed for underground and surface blasting. The revolutionary new gas bag Ace uses citric acid along with a carbonate mixture and other additives, to create a safe inflation gas.
Ergonomic, consistent and reliable, Ace offers the same benefits as an aerosol product without the associated risks. “That’s what makes the BLASTBAG Ace unique – it’s effectively an aerosol product, but with all the advantages of the chemical product,” says Bodley.
Improving on aerosol
Aerosol products are pressurised and can be highly flammable – meaning they are considered dangerous goods. This can make them difficult to store and transport. Part of the product development process for the Ace gas bag was ensuring their robustness in the face of rough handling. These bags can travel by air freight at 30,000 ft and on cargo and passenger planes without any concerns.
“That was important – to be able to ship the product as non-dangerous goods (NDGs) was a key deliverable from the project,” Bodley explains. Not only does the BLASTBAG’s robustness reduce the cost of logistics and handling, it means they can be delivered around the globe, including to remote areas. With over 450 mines using the BLASTBAG brand worldwide, easier access is a major win for all mines operating in an increasingly competitive global market.
MTi has also revolutionised the mechanical release system of the gas bag, offering unprecedented control, Bodley explains: “One of the advantages with BLASTBAG Ace is the way we control the inflation,” he says. “We’ve got numerous patents now where we’ve evolved the mechanical dispensing of the chemicals.”
One of these patents is a slow-release version of the gas bag, which opens up the ability to use the product in small-diameter holes of 60-63mm. This allows the potential for new blasting configurations, giving sites the ability to better control the powder factor, reduce oversize and improve the final wall, and potentially strip ratios.
The MTi approach
Bringing together the benefits of both chemical bags and aerosols, MTi has developed a market-leading product – and Bodley explains that client feedback has played a direct role in its success.
“We take every opportunity to trial the product, regardless of what phase it’s at – if it’s trial ready, get it out there, because you’re going to learn so much more when you’re actually using it for real,” he explains. “That may change the course of the product. That’s invaluable.”
This collaborative approach is part of the company’s DNA, whose history of product solutions include many stories of collaboration spurred by clients’ needs to optimise their processes. “I believe in developing modular products,” says Bodley. “Everything works together, and we’re building on the product portfolio that the customer already has. We’re looking at enhancing the lifecycle of a product.”
MTi works hand in hand with its clients to develop solutions that work for them. Just over a year after the initial consultation, BLASTBAG Ace was on-site in full operation-creating air decks* in the blast holes and driving blasting efficiencies.
Born as a result of MTi’s long experience, advanced expertise and spirit of collaboration, BLASTBAG Ace is the first in a new era of gasbags. Taking the best of the past and future, the product offers mining operators a transformative new blasting alternative.
* Air decking- using air space or void within a blast hole between an explosive charge and inert stemming to enhance the detonation force.
For more information, please visit MTI Group’s Blastbags™ page