Blasting: Turning an art into a science

 Blasting has long been seen as an art. Skilled shotfirers are able to throw the rock in a way that almost mirrors the blast engineer’s design, obtaining fairly accurate patterns.

Now one company is aiming to change this art into a science. 

Speaking to Davey Bickford’s general manager Kim Greenock, he told Australian Mining that its new Synchroblast detonating system is providing more accuracy and dramatically increasing the size of blasts.

“We’ve taken existing technology that works – the wireless blast drivers – and updated its software.” 

Greenock explained that “although the detonation system isn’t the difference, it’s the wireless capabilities that are the cool part.

“What sets this system apart is that it can actually do its job, not just what it says on the spec sheets.”

Typically, when blasting the maximum number of charges that are fired are 1500 detonations by a single wireless detonation box. 

However, Davey Bickford has developed new software that allows multiple wireless initiation boxes to be used in the detonation process, allowing up to 4500 charges to be fired in a single blast.

“For instance,” Greenock said “if you wanted to fire 3000 charges it used to be three times harder than firing 1000 charges, but now with Syncroblast, you can sync up to three boxes with 1500 charges on each.

“As each box fires 1500 detonations, all you have to do if you want to fire more is just add more boxes … its all synched together.”

It also addresses the time issue when setting up a blast, as the larger the blast you have to carry out the more time it takes to set up and then blast sequentially.

Greenock used the example of a coal mine that has trialled the system, which said that previously it had to cut access to a main road near the mine for nearly ten minutes when it blasted due to the number of blasts, now it only takes around three  minutes to carry out the blast as it can all be controlled from a single unit.

He explained that it now allows shotfirers to detonate multiple small blasts all at the same time without damaging the blast chain, which allows for more complex blast designs.

While this was designed for the coal mining sector, it has since been a taken up by iron ore miners in the Pilbara.

The miners typically had to stop production three to four times a week while it carried out blasts consisting of up 1500 detonations.

According to Greenock, by using synchronised system “they can now carry out one single massive blast per week instead of four small blasts, completely cutting down the amount of time they had to stop operations at the mine while blasting.

One blast per week instead of four, think of the time savings.

The productivity gains from an ability to do these large blasts, not even including the capacity for greater accuracy, is massive, and now the potential to do both at once is going to change mining.” 

One of the most important things these new boxes do is ensure the reliability of the blast.

“It gives people the ability to fire a large blast with the knowledge of the integrity of the blast,” he said.

Regarding the timing of the blasts, Greenock said “all the timing is done via complex algorithms”.

To date the maximum duration of the blasts is only 14 seconds, although Davey Bickford clarified that it is working on this.

While the actual blaster can be up to two kilometers from the blast, the detonators are still wired to the charges.                    

Davey Bickford will begin accelerating trials.

“This technology will change the way mines plan and operate, with the system we can optimise the blast; it makes the process much more scientific, and will turn the art of blasting into a science.

"Now that we have this ability the fun starts.”



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