Electronic blasting aims at relieving pressure points within the mining value chain that prevents companies from doing more with less. Precisely, initiating systems assist with increasing blast sizes, improving mine safety during charging and blasting, as well as help improve explosive blast performance.
Fixated on cutting costs at all costs, organisations have adopted ‘cost’ as the sole determinant of their procurement decisions. Whether this approach is a success or not is subject to debate. However, when it comes to investment in blasting solutions, it is always advisable for organisations to take a long-term view. This is the standpoint of Nishen Hariparsad, Davey Bickford Enaex’s General Manager: Sub-Equatorial Africa, internationally recognised provider of electronic blasting solutions to mines and other sectors.
Traditional blasting methods: challenges offset perceived benefits
Truth be told, when faced with the options of electronic blasting and non-electronic (traditional) systems, the unit costs of using electronic blasting systems puts off mining companies. Besides, the overall benefits of the technology are poorly understood in the industry as well.
But, the reality is the perceived benefits of traditional blasting methods are offset by other characteristic challenges that always surface. What industry may miss out is that, on the face of it, traditional shock tube mechanisms may have a lower cost per unit but their impacts downstream of the mining operation are generally higher. “Due to the loss of benefit gained from improved fragmentation, control of throw and back break, for example, creates added strain on the downstream milling and crushing process, whilst added excavation and hauling costs follow poor throw and back breaks,” Hariparsad illustrates.
A holistic view of electronic blasting
It has been observed that in some cases, mines have moved over to electronic blasting systems, on the basis of ground control and safety. Nonetheless, in general, few have understood the potential the systems have in increasing productivity and reducing mining costs. Thus, Hariparsad believes it is time for mining companies to have a broad view of electronic blasting. “To have a better understanding of the potential of electronic detonators, it is important to look at the mining process holistically, not simply focus on the cost of breaking rock at the face,” he suggests, drawing attention to the numerous benefits electronic blasting offers.
So much more benefits
Electronic blasting aims at relieving pressure points within the mining value chain that prevents companies from doing more with less. Specifically, initiating systems assist with increasing blast sizes, improving mine safety during charging and blasting, as well as help improve explosive blast performance. Whilst shock tube technologies offer some of these benefits, the advancements in electronics provide so much more benefits that are carried through the mining value chain.
Hariparsad cites Davey Bickford Enaex’s DaveyTronic® Electronic Detonator as a model of the modern electronic blasting system. Quintessentially, DaveyTronic® Electronic Detonator provide just about every benefit of modern electronic blasting systems in terms of increase in production, cost savings, better accountability, energy efficiency
- Increase in production
The Daveytronic® electronic detonator and system has been proven to offer improved fragmentation. This single benefit alone allows for more material being moved through the primary crusher, which invariably improves mine production ergo moving more stone through the gate (quarries) or converting more ore. In addition, there is the operational benefit of better fragmentation, reduced downtime, and more efficient excavation.
- Cost savings
If one compares the revenue and margin that is made against the sale of extra tonnes or more ore conversion. Surely, this would exceed the cost of the electronic detonators used in the blast. Further cost savings can be gained in the following ways: less wear and tear on the crusher, less power draw, better crusher utilisation due to reduced breakdowns, reduced rock-breaker hours and so forth.
- Better accountability and reduced environmental footprint
For mining companies, the same would apply for Davey Bickford Enaex, accountability is now considered a valuable currency. It is now an integral part of a social licence. And so, from this standpoint, utilizing the DaveyTronic® detonator system allows for mining companies to be more accountable for their activities, for instance in their quest to minimise their environmental footprint. Besides, as a result of lower vibrations and fewer blasting days, electronic blasting systems like the DaveyTronic® SP, and UG further adds the social benefit of reduced disturbance to surrounding communities.
- Enabling energy efficiency
The industry is well aware of the mining reliance on electricity and many firms have already sought means to move to autonomous energy inputs to reduce dependency on diesel generators and offset the costs of producing ore. Thus, one fundamental benefit of using electronic blasting techniques is through Electronic blast initiation which is a way for mining companies to consume less energy. “Blasting is a fundamental process in the mining process, and a quality blast will generate predictable consistency, muck piles, and dilution. This makes everything easier, from digging to crushing. In contrast a poor blast, by comparison, generates pain points all throughout the production chain. This alone is a significant benefit that supports and feeds into mining companies quest for ‘green’ benefits whilst further firming up their commitment and accountability in utilising ‘green’ practices in the industry,” Hariparsad illustrates.
Above and beyond the above mentioned, some of the benefits in blasting theDaveyTronic® Electronic Detonator system bring include: Accuracy and Precision; Programmability; Independence; Communication and Safety.
From the foregoing, the onus is entirely in the hands of mine operators to make the right choice: On the one hand, clinging to traditional (non-electronic) blasting methods, with their characteristic limitations, on the other, the electronic blasting methods that offer numerous benefits. Whatever their decision is, the reality is that overlooking the technological advancements in electronic detonating systems like the DaveyTronic® electronic detonator technology places unnecessary costs and labour in the mining operation. Sometimes, if not often times, these added costs are either often overlooked or only realised belatedly in reduced profits. It is time for mines to make informed decisions.
Requisite aspects in blast design
Blast design is integral to the efficiency and effectiveness of initiating systems. Mining looks to efficiency as the gold standard, which involves seeking to decrease inputs, increase outputs, and raise the level on safety. As with any great task, in electronic blasting, the key is to break things down into manageable steps. And electronic blasting experts occupy a unique position in their ability to do this. This is primarily because electronic blasting doesn’t rely on experimental or theoretical measures, it uses proven technology and expertise to unlock reliable pathways to greater efficiency. Thus, without delving into the entire blast sequencing and initiation plan, it is important to consider one of the most important factors in blast design timing. The main factor is comparing the timing of conventional non-electric initiation systems with that of the accelerated initiation sequencing provided by electronic systems. These timing and blast designs can then be further optimised and refined since electronic systems like the DaveyTronic® SP system affords miners this capability through its accuracy and timing selection flexibility.
For more a comprehensive version of the article, with a case study DaveyTronic® electronic detonator systems and the how the fourth industrial revolution is reshaping how electronic blasting can be accessed through this link http://www.daveybickford.com/