At MINExpo 2021, IM Editorial Director Paul Moore had the chance to catch up face to face with Hexagon’s James Dampney and Jeff Loeb, VP and Portfolio Manager respectively of its new MineMeasure solution, part of its Power of One holistic life-of-mine smart ecosystem, which streamlines a range of drill & blast technologies in one seamless workflow.
The core of Hexagon’s new HxGN MineMeasure portfolio is bringing together the best of what Hexagon already has in-house and leveraging that in one, all-encompassing offering for the benefit of the customer. For the first time, mines will be able to calculate and analyse the efficiency of each drill and blast step via a tailored feedback loop to ensure continuous improvement through accuracy and precision. MineMeasure ensures a well-designed blast pattern is effectively executed using high-precision drills and infield QAQC technology; while proven fragmentation analysis and blast monitoring minimises loss and dilution while delivering data for the next blast pattern design.
Hexagon’s James Dampney and Jeff Loeb, VP and Portfolio Manager of its new MineMeasure solution presenting at MINExpo 2021
Dampney told IM: “Hexagon already has a range of drill and blast technologies across hundreds of mining customers around the world. We’ve got mine planning capability, blast execution management in the field, fragmentation measurement – these technologies are in use right now at mining operations around the globe. The big challenge for the industry is managing drill and blast as a seamless workflow. It’s that step-by-step streamlining that we are bringing to market. When you speak to a drill and blast engineer, they crave one solution to use across the process to avoid taking data from different packages and relying on manual and inaccurate spreadsheets. Customers can use MineMeasure to bring together planning, blasting and measured outcomes, taking all of that information and data and using it to improve their results iteratively.”
The move brings together solutions brought into Hexagon by acquisitions, including Leica Geosystems (2005), Devex (2013), Mintec (2014), IDS GeoRadar (2016), Split Engineering (2019) and Blast Movement Technologies (2020). Today, and under the Hexagon name, these technologies come together in a streamlined offering to customers. MineMeasure is also a key part of Hexagon’s new Power of One, also launched at MINExpo – a holistic, life-of-mine smart solution connecting sensors and software, in-field apps and cloudware to empower digital transformation.
For customers, the Power of One also offers a scalable, platform-agnostic answer to challenges previously addressed by point solutions and multiple vendors: drill and blast, collision avoidance, operator alertness, fleet management, operator assist, machine control, asset health and more. For the industry, it points the way to a safer, more productive and sustainable future.
“The Power of One marks the next step in Hexagon’s convergence journey and the fulfillment of a commitment to connect all parts of a mine,” said Nick Hare, Hexagon’s Mining division President at its launch. “By harnessing data from multiple sensors in a simple and consolidated software architecture, we empower mines to become situationally aware, self-learning and autonomously connected in the field and in the cloud. For the end user, it means an effortless experience with a seamless UI/UX and consistent functionality. Reduced cost of ownership, reduced deployment and training time, reduced supply chain complexity and increased operator adoption – these are just some of the many benefits. This is a landmark enabler for next-generation autonomy, offering mines a uniquely intelligent approach based on open architecture.”
Returning to the conversation on MineMeasure – who is best suited to benefit from Hexagon’s MineMeasure solution? Dampney told IM: “Our starting position is to partner with open pit mining operations, noting its applications to any commodities whether metals, coal, or industrial minerals. The platform is drill OEM-agnostic but also explosives provider-agnostic and independent of any other suppliers entrenched in drill and blast operations. In terms of its functionality, MineMeasure starts with drill & blast design – which is part of Hexagon’s mine planning capability – then pushes those plans through to high-precision drilling and implementing the pattern directly from the planning data. Next comes the blast execution – blast design is now seamlessly executed in the field.”
Loeb adds: “That includes everything from where the precise hole locations are to be drilled to the target depths for each. MineMeasure will show where the drills are in real-time using Hexagon’s OP Pro, a thorough QAQC on the go using infield applications – and answers questions such as: if the holes were actually drilled to the correct depth? Is the hole in the correct location? Is there water in the hole? And so on. For the blast itself, the end user will be able to design the charge for tie-in for that specific geology or other various constraints and define the safety exclusion zone. Customers will also benefit from a seamless interface for measuring the blast outcomes. Blast movement monitoring allows users to measure and account for ore movement during the blast to maximise ore yield. Next, MineMeasure enables material fragmentation measurement using HxGN Split cameras while digging. This technology can be integrated with Hexagon’s HP Shovel allowing for a live view within the platform giving the drill & blast engineer immediate access to the outcome of their design. Through IDS GeoRadar technology, customers will also have the ability to measure the blast vibration and wall stability. Finally, the material fragmentation can also be tracked downstream at the primary crusher using HxGN Split TruckCam, and post crusher there is particle size analysis on a conveyor to keep track of the material size going to the mill.”
On rollout in the field so far, Dampney says: “We are collaborating with long-term partner customers on the implementation of MineMeasure as an end-to-end solution. We work closely with our customers’ teams to support the transition towards a unified system. It is important to note that we are also actively seeking new partners in the industry to help us introduce MineMeasure to the market.”
Dampney acknowledges that not every customer will need everything – some may not need to measure vibration for example, or may have some legacy system for part of the process that they still have an active licence for – but Hexagon solutions can integrate with other technologies if need be. “That said, we are confident that our partners will look to utilise its full capabilities once they experience the simplicity of having one partner. That’s the Power of One. There are countless benefits and the uniqueness of collecting data from every blast and actually learning from it so to make continual improvements with future blasts is only one of those benefits.”
In terms of actual MineMeasure system elements, Loeb offered insights on the use of Hexagon software and hardware working together to improve outcomes in the field and in the mine office. “When mapping the entire D&B process, Hexagon brings together the sensors, software and hardware necessary to give the right information to the right people at the right time. Whether guiding drills with high precision sensors, measuring the blast with BMMs or the fragmentation post-blast with cameras, the information that matters the most is readily available at every step of the process.”
Loeb added on the market for the solution: “Every customer is different in terms of how advanced they are in the drill and blast process. Some Tier 1 miners are still struggling to build end-to-end drill and blast analytics and real-time management solutions in-house. When I stay ‘struggling,’ it’s because developing these solutions is not their core business. It’s a very capital-intensive endeavor and let’s not forget the constant technological updates necessary to keep up with the industry. At the other end of the scale, some mines may not even be measuring fragmentation at all, choosing to judge blast success roughly by sight. The beauty of MineMeasure is that if offers clear benefits to all customers, irrespective of their process maturity, including scalability and streamlining of processes that impact productivity that stem notably from not having to manage multiple vendors or disparate data sets.”
And can MineMeasure also take onboard legacy data from other systems to help future planning and modelling? Dampney responded: “Ultimately that will be part of the MineMeasure journey as well, particularly where that data can be used to help optimise the system and create greater system intelligence.”