Austmine member Hexagon Mining shares its insights and experience of smarter drill and blast processes.
There are few certainties in mining, but reduced ore yield is all but guaranteed if errors are made at any stage of the complex, multi-layered, drill and blast (D&B) process. The potential for wasted energy, time, and opportunity costs business more now in an age of declining grades when miners are digging more earth for less ore.
In the mining cycle, D&B is arguably the first and most important step to get right.
D&B operations impact the entire mining process, from mining equipment efficiency, through crushing and grinding circuit performance, to recoveries and final product quality. Costs and energy usage increase throughout the comminution process. Efforts targeted at optimising the blasting process can pay huge dividends downstream, reducing costs and energy consumption.
A correct blast not only optimises the cost of that blast but also improves the total cost profile of the entire mine. Correct fragmentation means easier digging, reduced shovel cycle times, reduced rework, less oversize causing downtime at the crusher, lower-cost crushing, and improved tons per hour (TPH) through the processing plant.
A continuous D&B feedback loop underpinned by technology not only increases the profit from every blast, but also increases a mine’s purchasing power over one of the most expensive parts of the process – explosives.
Hexagon’s MineMeasure is a tailored portfolio for D&B, improving yield, fragmentation, and dilution by combining blast design software, high-precision drills, blast movement monitoring, fragmentation analysis, and enterprise analytics.
From one platform, MineMeasure ensures data does its best work, empowering customers with a feedback loop, calibrated to increase profit from every blast. It’s a good example of Hexagon’s Power of One approach, a holistic, life-of-mine platform connecting sensors and software, infield apps and cloudware.
MineMeasure represents a scalable, platform-agnostic answer to challenges previously addressed by point solutions and multiple vendors. Here’s a closer look.
Blast design and high-precision drilling
A well-designed blast pattern and the effective execution of the blast plan using high-precision drills are an important part of an effective D&B operation.
MineMeasure includes a comprehensive software utility for D&B and reconciliation. Rather than risking high-wall stability problems, uneven blasting, poor fragmentation, unnecessarily high energy costs, and dangerous working conditions, MineMeasure incorporates charge and blast design templates that are based on sound engineering principles and methods proven in mines worldwide.
The portfolio features machine guidance for drills (as well as dozers and loading equipment). This ensures that drilling is performed to the right position and elevation. It provides accuracy and instantaneous feedback, meaning improved loading times across the fleet, less mis-routed material, fewer hours of rework on ramps, roads, and benches, and fewer over- and under-drilled holes. It is proven to improve both the quality of material produced and fragmentation with precise drillhole placement and depth.
Integration with Hexagon’s operational management hub means a single source of reporting and support.
Blast movement monitoring, fragmentation analysis and blast optimisation
Preparing for the D&B stage, mine operations have already spent significant amounts of money (running into the millions) to accurately locate the ore body and maximise the information known about the surrounding geology. Proven fragmentation analysis and blast monitoring solutions minimise loss and dilution and deliver the data necessary for the next blast pattern design.
Acquired by Hexagon in 2020, Blast Movement Technologies (BMT) is an integral part of MineMeasure, providing accurate ore location information for open-pit mines. Via sensors and software, BMT provides accurate blast information that’s used to recover all a mine’s resources. It ensures that post-blast, the mine retains a full vision of where its ore body moved to.
Hexagon’s Split Engineering systems are flexible and can monitor in different areas and process along with the operation automatically, such as in shovels, excavators, loaders, haul trucks, crushers, conveyor belts, mill feed and screen decks. The entire process can be connected from pit to plant for a unified approach to fragmentation management.
Monitoring trends in size at each point in the comminution circuit enables operational adjustments in real time. Alarms can be created for oversize events, reducing the downtime from inefficiencies caused by blockages and broken screen decks.
Precision drilling underground
In January 2022, Hexagon acquired Minnovare, a leading provider of drilling technology that improves the speed, cost and accuracy of underground drilling.
Minnovare specialises in eliminating the manual, labour-intensive, and unproductive processes in underground mining that lead to blast-hole deviation, dilution, and downtime. Its advanced hardware and data-capture software combine to deliver drill-data faster and more accurately than ever before—improving the efficiency, productivity and overall profitability of underground drilling operations. Its solutions combine sensors, software and data analytics to address deficiencies in existing drilling processes across the resource definition, development and production phases.
The acquisition will enhance MineMeasure and accelerate Hexagon’s underground development roadmap.
A uniquely holistic approach
The ability to tailor fragmentation outcomes and to minimise ore loss and dilutions through blast movement monitoring are proving to be highly sought after. This uniquely holistic view of the operation combines key knowledge banks, such as geology behaviour, effects on powder factor, blast design, planning and fleet management.
MineMeasure’s comprehensive D&B approach delivers the power to improve the most vital part of the mine, where everything starts with the drill and blast, without losing purchasing power over the bulk commodity blasting material.
All from a single technology vendor. That’s the Power of One.
This feature appeared in the June issue of Australian Mining.