In a world first, Orica Mining Services has unveiled a commercial Wireless Initiating System that has the potential to revolutionise modern mining methods.
In an Australian Mining exclusive, Orica Mining Services Chief Executive Officer John Beevers and General Manager of Technology and Marketing Jez Smith talk about the development of this system.
“We believe this technology has the potential to enable blasting techniques that have not previously been thought possible,” Mr Beevers said.
The in-hole Wireless Initiating System is an assembly based on the i-kon electronic detonator technology.
It removes the need for any wire or signal tubing to be connected to the detonator in the hole or between detonators on the surface, allowing one way communication through rock and most importantly can be operated a significant distance from the blast box.
The first commercially available technology of its kind, the system has been successfully trialled and patent applications filed widely with respect to the device itself but also its deployment in particular mining applications.
Smith likened the technology to the introduction of mobile phones in every day life.
“When mobile phones were first introduced there were naturally some early adopters, but before long, there was mass uptake and mobile communications are now common place in society.
“The point to note though is that the technology provided a step-change in the way people operate, and we believe the same will apply for the mining market with the introduction of the Wireless Initiating System,” he added.
Chief executive John Beevers spoke at length of the value the system could generate due to its precise remote firing capability.
“It has distinct and direct potential to offer a step change in mine development methods.
“The new methods would have a direct relationship with both profitability and safety improvements.” Beevers said.
“For example, in underground mining it could increase productivity by reducing cycle times in many stoping applications through modification of stope and pillar design, allowing better positioning of broken ore for more efficient extraction.
“The technology could also reduce the number of development levels and additional ground support” he added.
In the case of open cut coal, “the technology could change the economic strip ratio for dragline-operated coal mines by delivering increases in cast achieved by placing and timing charges in deeper holes than currently practical with wired detonators,” he said
The pair also spoke of the potential gains in mining efficiency in open pit hard rock mining through pre-loading benches that can be fired later, reducing unproductive drill tramming time.
The initiation technology also improves safety, and with the correct application of the system, there will be no need for underground personnel to enter near brow areas to prepare blasts for initiation.
The technology is applicable for a range of industries but is expected to be of greatest value to the coal and metal open cut markets, underground operations and oil and gas or seismic markets.
It is expected to be available in 2011 as a component of Orica’s Blast Based Services.
The full interview with both John Beevers and Jez Smith will be available in the upcoming August edition of Australian Mining.
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