Blasting quality boosted by technology and data

BME is responsible for 7350 AXXIS electronic detonators that were fired in a single pattern 1.7 kilometres long.

BME has developed a detonator system that set the world’s previous record blast in a coal mine in Australia. The company is now introducing complementary technologies that help contribute to a seamless blasting operation.

Technological innovation and data integration are driving blast accuracy and quality, as explosive companies constantly improve the way that blasting processes are planned, executed, monitored and automated.

According to BME Australia Asia general manager Brad Bulow, the South Africa-based global blasting leader is poised to broaden its application of explosive products, manufacturing and application equipment, electronic consumables and cutting-edge software in Australia’s mining sector. It is also actively integrating its blast design, blast recording and blast delivery systems.

Conducted in collaboration with partners in total mine design software systems, the company’s data integration initiatives will allow for easier interrogation of blast results, guiding the drilling and blasting process to consistently produce quality blasts, says Bulow.

Over decades of innovation, BME has developed a range of blasting tools which address mines’ requirements from the blast design stage through to blast operations and monitoring.

He highlights the AXXIS electronic detonation system as one of BME’s key innovations, which is now used extensively in mining countries worldwide, including Australia.

“For blast initiation, the design hole firing times can be downloaded from our BLASTMAP blast planning software into BME’s AXXIS Logger for electronic detonator programming,” Bulow says. “When the blast has been conducted, data from the AXXIS Logger can be used to effectively compare as-designed versus as-fired initiation information.”

The AXXIS system has held the world record for largest number of electronic detonators fired in a single event twice in Australia. The most recent of these blasts was at a central Queensland coal mine when 7350 AXXIS electronic detonators were fired in a single pattern 1.7 kilometres long. The logging, testing and firing process was completed in two days with zero errors.

Among the more recent tools developed by BME is the Blasting Guide application for Android mobile devices, a valuable resource for quickly calculating blast designs. This free mobile app, available for download from the Google Play Store, replaces traditional paper booklets carried and referenced by in-field users.

It includes a blast design calculator, quick calculators and prediction calculators. Other app features include surface blast design rules of thumb, environmental guidelines, a table of common rock properties and a BME contact directory per country.

The app runs both metric and imperial unit measurements, making it useful across the globe.

The company’s powerful BLASTMAP software tool is used to specify explosive hole loads and assign hole firing times. The latest version of this popular software includes a new design tool to heat-map initiation burden relief times.

“Burden relief times are important factors in rock fragmentation and displacement for blast designers to achieve their specific blast outcome, they need to understand and manage burden relief times. BLASTMAP, therefore, provides invaluable support in doing so,” BME’s global manager for Blasting Science, D. Scott Scovira says.

This tool can also estimate blast fragmentation outcomes, based on standard geo-mechanical rock properties specific to any given blast design.

“With data from in-field fragmentation distribution measurements, the fragmentation distribution prediction tool can be calibrated to site-specific conditions and results,” Scovira says.

BME’s tools ensure that mines can achieve optimal rock fragmentation distribution, a key performance indicator of blast performance. This also allows mines to achieve the best possible outcome for their total mining cost.

Accurate fragmentation assessment tools are also vital to understand specific site conditions and to optimise initiation designs and loading of blast explosives. In addition, blasters must be sure that their designed blast is being translated accurately into the actual fired blast.

On the blasting operations side, BME’s tools include the XPLOLOG data recorder, which can capture data on the BLASTMAP designed hole charge. XPLOLOG can be used by blasters on the bench to capture as drilled hole depths and compare these to the design depths.

XPLOLOG also provides a real-time dashboard of block preparation progress to the blast management team. Reports are available for download for post-blast analysis and reporting.

“XPLOLOG can also be used by the bulk explosives truck operators to target the as designed bulk explosive hole loads and stemming columns, and capture the actual loads placed,” Scovira explains.

This article also appears in the August issue of Australian Mining.

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