Breathing easy in blasting

Despite the evolution of detonation and blasting, explosives still face a universal problem – fumes.

Whilte most projects use standard ammonium nitrate fuel oil explosive mixes as they are cost effective and relatively easy to store, they do present issues.

In certain mining environments soil conditions and damper ground lead to a greater risk of harmful fumes developing during blasting, in particular nitrogen dioxide or NOx.

This gas, often created during shot firing, can turn into nitric acid in a person's lungs once inhaled.

Earlier this year Peabody's Wambo coal mine faced court over an alleged botched blast that saw "a cloud of odorous fumes associated with the blast emitted from Wambo's premises, impacting on nearby residents in Jerry's Plains," according to the EPA.

The company was previously convicted, fined $13,000 and ordered to pay costs of $24,000 by Singleton Local Court in relation to a blast incident that resulted in offensive odour impacting nearby residents in July 2012.

Last year BHP also came under investigation for a massive orange blast plume that spread several kilometres from the site, after the blast material was left to 'sleep' in the ground longer than the recommended period.

While steps are taken to avoid post blast fume events, the formation of this potentially deadly gas is always a possibility.

Explosives manufacturer Dyno Nobel has been working towards developing a solution to this safety and environmental issue.

Working with an unnamed miner in the New South Wales coal fields, the company has created a new reduced energy, bulk emulsion explosive that it is designed to assist with post blast fume management, the TITAN 9000xero.

"Miners facing post-blast fume problems now have a product that has been successful in reducing post blast NOx," the company stated.

The technology was developed in-house by Dyno Nobel's R&D team, focusing on creating blasting operations that rate a zero on the Fume Rating Scale.

Tested as part of the Hunter Valley coal miner's fume reduction program, thirteen blasts of TITAN 9000xero were carried out in high risk fume areas.

"All thirteen of these blasts recorded a zero rating," Chris Melmeth, Dyno Nobel's area operations manager, stated.

During the trial the Environmental Protection Agency was able to see the transformation in an area of known high fume risk where prior blasts rated three to four on the NOx rating scale; the consistent rating of zero resulted from the client changing their bulk emulsion explosives from the ANFO mix to TITAN 9000xero matrix blend, Dyno Nobel said. 

"All observers of the blast were extremely happy and satisfied with the results of the product," Melmeth said.

According to Dyno Nobel it is specifically designed for use in ground conditions that may be soft, wet, or damp.

"Flexible delivery with these holes with these ground condi­tions is critical," Dyno Nobel said.

"This is why the product can be delivered into dewatered blast holes, via augur, or pumped into the bottom of wet blast holes." 

Melmeth added: "TITAN 9000xero is a fume reducing, water resistant, flexible solution, solving many of the challenges that mines may be facing."

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