Bang for your buck

MINE managers need to be more strategic when looking at drill and blast services, according to Orica’s blast based services manager Angelo Labriola.

Mine managers should be more strategic when looking at drill and blast services, according to Orica’s blast based marketing manager Angelo Labriola.

With the integration of drilling contractors in the blasting operation, mines could make significant gains in mineral recovery and increasing productivity.

That is if the right choices are made.

“The drill and blast relationship with the production chain has meant that rapid technological and equipment innovation has occurred,” Labriola told Australian Mining.

“Mining houses need to be open and transparent in identifying key performance indicators to harness the full range of drill and blast services available,” he said.

“To do this mine managers must identify key performance indicators and the gaps in the mines core skills, and integrate strategic suppliers into the value chain to get those desired outcomes.”

Sandvik rotary drills product line manager Neil Emery adds that mine managers should look at the total package that contractors can provide.

“If the overall package of the drill and blast operation is to be enhanced and optimised, drilling the blast hole needs to be considered as the first step,” Emery said.

“Accuracy of drill-hole positioning and depth is significant element in the drill and blast equation,” he said.

The diversity of contract services being integrated into the blasting operation are a sign that contractors are no longer engaged to simply put holes in the ground.

“Mine managers need to consider the capacity of the contractors to equip mines with technology that is going to enhance both the production cycle and integrate with the requirements of a consistent drill and blast operation,” Emery said.

The cost and time required in development to extract an orebody can change significantly when techniques, technology and innovation are applied.

Blast innovation

Real innovation has occurred in blast design software, measurement systems and detailed modelling capabilities.

“The last 20 years has seen an ongoing evolution of products and innovative technology, with the integration of capturing data equipment, measurement and blast modelling acting as a key driver,” Labriola said.

Accurate blasting systems have had a substantial downstream effect on design and can enhance mineral recovery.

“Digital detonators are programmable to any delay time within a given range of 0-15 seconds in one millisecond increments, and are now extremely accurate,” he said.

“The bulk explosives product range has developed into niche applications such as environmental control, hot-hole and reactive ground environments as well as sensitive wall control type blasting applications.

“For example, environmental control can be achieved by dividing a blast into components that deliver control of both ground vibration and overpressure.

“This is important as mining operations encroach upon communities, and more stringent limits applied.”

Orica’s ‘Stratablast’ system, used in coal, is an example of streamlined blasting performance.

“Instead of drilling and blasting overburden, removing it and then drilling and blasting coal and inter-burden below that, we can drill the entire sequence of overburden, coal and inter-burden all in one pass and then blast them all in one shot,” Labriola said.

This can be done without losing recovery of the coal, and all within a single pass,” he said.

“The ability to design patterns on computers and deliver that design through to the cabin of the drill that is placed exactly over where that hole is meant to be has shown that technology has come a long way.”

The integration of drilling contractors in blasting operations is playing a key role in the optimisation of minerals recovery that is now available.

Drill Innovation

Over the last 10 years the development of blast-hole pattern systems has progressed to the point where the pattern can be completely laid out and pre-programmed into the cabin of the drill.

“Operators only have to position the drill on the first hole using the coordinates that are on the positioning systen, and from there the drill will automatically advance to the next hole,” Emery told Australian Mining.

“New technology can also ensure the drill maintains the required depth of the hole following changes in contour on the bench or the seam.”

Gone are the days when operators had to spot a position marked out by surveyors using flouro spray, Emery added.

“Operators can position drills very accurately using positioning systems. In fact, down to the nearest millimetre,” he said.

“Strata recognition is also available while the drill is in operation providing feedback to the operator and the production management system that has been chosen.”

Removing personnel from drill rigs is occurring as a result of autonomous drilling development.

“The main benefits of autonomous drilling are consistency of hole depth and rotation, and accuracy,” Emery said.

“While a good operator can achieve higher production rates than an automated machine, this usually comes at a higher maintenance cost.”

Sandvik is operating a trial system on a machine in the Hunter Valley using remote monitoring.

“All the machines vital statistics and information systems are monitored and accessible anywhere around the world,” he said.

“Mine managers will be able to maintain consistent production rates through avoiding unplanned downtime.

“We had one instance where our technical support manager was logged on to the internet system in Europe and noticed some transient pressure spikes in the hydraulic system.

“The spikes were traced back to a filter that needed replacing and we were able to change it before system failed, therefore avoiding unplanned downtime.”

Angelo Labriola

Blast Based Services manager, Orica Mining Services Australia/Asia

0421 098 233

Neil Emery

Product Line Manager Rotary Drills

Sandvik Mining and Construction

0409 602 571

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.