Tag Archives: Blasting

Glencore’s Lomas Bayas mine to start automation journey with production drill rigs

Glencore’s Compañía Minera Lomas Bayas (CMLB) copper mine in northern Chile is looking to maintain its safety and sustainability standards, as well as increase its productivity and profitability, with a new project to automate two of its Caterpillar drill rigs using FLANDERS technology.

Glencore Lomas Bayas is a low-cost, open-pit copper mine in the Atacama Desert, 120 km northeast of the port of Antofagasta. The low-grade copper ore mined at this facility is processed by heap leaching and converted to copper cathode after processing through the SX-EW plant. The Lomas Bayas operation produces approximately 75,000 t/y of copper cathode.

The first phase in the Glencore digital mining journey at Lomas Bayas will be completed using FLANDERS’ ARDVARC technology and involves automating two Caterpillar drill rigs and providing a dedicated wireless network. The results obtained in the initial phase will provide essential information to continue the journey to full automation of mining equipment across the operation, Glencore and FLANDERS say.

The project is significant as Lomas Bayas will be the first operation to adopt intelligent drill technology globally in Glencore mining operations. Conversion of the Cat drills and wireless network installation is expected to be completed in June 2023.

The ARDVARC Autonomous system has been used for over 15 years, enables advanced functionality through interoperability with fleet management systems and other data acquisition platforms, and is agnostic to original equipment manufacturers, FLANDERS says.

Lomas Bayas’ General Manager, Pablo Carvallo, said: “Incorporating technology into equipment is our response to constant changes that mining operations face; as in the case of Lomas Bayas, where everyday challenges must be dealt with in an even safer and more productive way. We want digital mining efforts to expand over time and educate industry of our learnings and support technology development in our region.”

Lomas Bayas’ Mine Manager, Felipe Bunout, said: “This initiative is in line with our core objectives; to provide a safer environment for our workers and increase productivity in our processes. This technology will allow us to increase the equipment utilisation and the precision of the drilling pattern and improve the quality of the blasting process and the whole process downstream. This initial phase is the first step for Lomas Bayas into mine equipment automation, and we have high hopes that the results will enable us to continue walking down this path.”

This is the first of many Glencore Copper group technological initiatives seeking to modernise, transform and align the business to stakeholder’s requirements and priorities, according to Glencore’s Operational Excellence & Technology Global General Manager, Cristian Carrasco.

Glencore’s Technology Study Manager, Enrique Caballero, added: “We decided to commence the automation program at Lomas Bayas as the operation has shown high adaptability and organisational maturity. Their executive team has a well-built long-term view. The operation vision is strongly aligned with digital mines and technology as a path forward, in which safety, sustainability and their workforce life qualities are part of the pillars.”

FLANDERS Regional Director, Martin Schafer, said: “We are very pleased to be working with Glencore at its Lomas Bayas operation. Given its low grade, CMBL is a compelling business case. To the well-known value, FLANDERS’ ADS solution generates for a mining operation in general, and the drilling process, the relatively short overall implementation time adds a financial dimension that happened to be critical to obtaining the required return on investment. The technology also brings environmental gains.

“ARDVARC autonomous drills have shown a 7.3% reduction in fuel compared to manned drills, which is a reduction of about 1,200 litres of fuel per year, equivalent to 2,966 t less CO2 in the atmosphere.”

FLANDERS’ autonomous control system, ARDVARC, and Command Centre technology is industry-leading, helping mining companies improve drill performance and keep people safe, the company says.

Typically, the ARDVARC system produces increases in productivity by up to 30%, providing greater drill accuracy and the ability for one person to operate up to eight drills. Including technology in the ARDVARC Command Centre (ACC) builds on remote working capabilities to unlock additional value, such as enhancing decision making by integrating functions across the value chain.

Although not a new concept, products like the ACC present an opportunity for Glencore’s Lomas Bayas mine to re-imagine and reform the mine operations, as remote working becomes imperative to ensuring value and sustainability.

Schafer added: “When fully automated, the drills that we will be converting in Chile will also be safer for workers, who will operate the drills well away from the drill and blast areas. The mission-critical dedicated network and the 24/7 support provided in the scope round-up an extremely reliable solution.”

Lomas Bayas, last year, announced it would become the first user in Chile of Komatsu’s 930E-5 304 t class haul trucks, matching with its existing Komatsu P&H 4100XPC shovels.

Orica’s 4D bulk explosives tech gains traction in Australia

Having launched its 4D™ bulk explosives technology at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, in September, Orica is now demonstrating the innovation to coal customers on Australia’s East Coast.

The 4D bulk system enables the real-time tailoring of explosives energy to geology across a blast, delivering improvements in fragmentation, on-bench productivity and an overall reduction in drill and blast costs, according to Orica. It is designed to enable customers to, the company says, seamlessly match a greater range of explosives energy across a mine’s geology and target specific blast outcomes in real time.

Back in September, the company said the first release of 4D would begin with Australia from the end of 2021, and it appears Orica has stuck with that schedule.

“We are happy to share that, in Australia, we are currently demonstrating 4D to customers in the East Coast’s coal mines, each with a unique focus to their needs,” the company told IM. “For example, with one customer, we are demonstrating how 4D technology can reduce their overall drill and blast cost through lower explosives consumption, as well as better manage vibration in specific areas of their operation.”

With another customer, Orica is applying the 4D technology to its Fortis™ Clear range of bulk explosive products – formulated for use in applications where the generation of post-blast fume could be experienced – to demonstrate the reduction of fume risk in soft and wet ground, it added.

The technology is also being developed across Orica’s Fortan™ and Aquacharge™ bulk systems but will eventually be applied across Orica’s full suite of bulk systems.

4D is being delivered to these customers through Mobile Manufacturing Units (MMU™) equipped with LOADPlus™, Orica’s proprietary in-cab smart explosives delivery control system that, it says, enables accurate and efficient delivery of formulated explosives products to plan.

By combining emulsion blended with ammonium nitrate porous prills, 4D supports both pumped and augered loading methods across dry, wet and dewatered hole conditions. An outcome of this capability is greater on-bench productivity by Orica’s fleet of 4D-enabled, without the need to change raw materials in the MMU, Orica says.

Delivering up to 23% more relative bulk strength for hard-rock applications and up to 43% reduction in soft-rock applications, 4D will enable a broader range of applications, according to Orica.

Orica said in its half-year results to the end of March 31, 2022 that it was expecting to roll out the 4D technology to more sites in the second half of its financial year.

BME to showcase AXXIS Titanium electronic initiation system at Mining Indaba

Omnia Group company, BME is set to showcase its breakthrough electronic initiation system, AXXIS Titanium, at next week’s Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa.

Globally launched in November last year, AXXIS Titanium is one of the world’s most advanced electronic blast detonation systems, the company says.

BME Marketing Manager, Michelle Fedder, says the wide international audience at the Indaba will be inspired by the advanced features of this electronic detonator system.

“Buoyed by strong commodity demand, mines in Africa nonetheless face a range of compliance demands in terms of sustainability – and are constantly in search of efficiency solutions,” she said. “AXXIS Titanium, in concert with BME’s ongoing innovations across its offerings, is helping mines drive down their energy costs and carbon footprint.”

She said AXXIS Titanium boasts improved safety levels enhancing communication with the detonator during manufacturing to avoid defects. Performance is raised through the increased blast duration per detonator, more units per blasting box and precise firing accuracy.

Safety remains BME’s priority, with the incorporation of a Swiss-designed application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) chip in BME detonators, delivering several added benefits. The ASIC gives the system more internal safety gates against stray current and lightning, enhancing safety levels and allowing for inherently safe logging and testing, according to the company.

“With our sustainability-aligned offerings, we are feeling very enthusiastic about the mining industry and its prospects – especially as it forges the commodity path to a lower-carbon future,” Fedder said.

International Mining is a media sponsor of the Investing in African Mining Indaba, which is running from May 9-12.

Orica sticks with growth predictions as it completes Minova sale

Orica has completed the sale of its Minova business to the Aurelius Group for A$180 million ($131 million), with A$149 million of cash received at completion factoring in debt and “debt-like items”, as well as confirmed expectations that its first half performance is likely to representing year-on-year growth.

The company announced the planned sale of its rock reinforcement business back in December 2021, with the deal completed on February 28.

Orica additionally said that its first-half 2022 financial year performance, as previously announced at the 2021 full year results in November 2021, was expected to be stronger than the prior corresponding period (pcp). This, it said, reflects the positive momentum leading into the year associated with improved global commodity markets, which will result in volume growth in line with global GDP growth.

“Pricing discipline in contract negotiations is expected to broadly mitigate rising input costs and pass-through lags,” it explained. “Security of supply for Orica’s customers remains a priority in a tightening global ammonium nitrate market due to geopolitical issues and supply chain disruptions, which will result in increased trade working capital.”

All continuous manufacturing plants have been operating to required available capacity as determined by market demand, Orica said, and two planned turnarounds had been completed in the half year to date, namely the Carseland site-wide turnaround, which commenced in September 2021, was completed in October 2021; and the Yarwun turnarounds for two nitric acid plants, one ammonium nitrate plant and the emulsion manufacturing plant were all successfully completed in November 2021.

Orica Managing Director and CEO, Sanjeev Gandhi, said: “We’ve been able to maintain the positive momentum from the second half last year and remain on track to deliver a stronger first half than the prior corresponding period.

“With our refreshed strategy firmly in place, we are focussed on progressing on our four key business verticals and are well placed to leverage our strengths and seize opportunities in a tightening global market, while continuing to streamline the business.”

Austin Powder looks to improve the blast initiation process with E*STAR RFID tagging

Austin Powder, an industrial explosives and engineered blasting solutions provider, has announced the release of its new E*STAR Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging technology to improve flexibility and time savings.

RFID technology makes it possible to identify the detonator without physical contact between the logger and the detonator, according to Austin Powder.

The company said: “Austin Powder is committed to continuously improving all its products and is proud to introduce RFID as the latest edition to the E*STAR Electronic Initiation System. Benefits of RFID detonator tagging include flexibility and time savings. In one operation, the use of RFID resulted in a 50% time savings over traditional direct connect programming.

“E*STAR RFID allows blasters greater flexibility on when to log holes, assign detonator timing and test detonators or branch circuit verification. Blasters can also choose to assign timing to the detonators after holes are loaded and tested for continuity.”

The RFID feature is a much quicker process than direct contact logging or any other detonator programming method, according to Austin. All required detonator information is right where it is needed, but, with RFID tagging, the logger display will still show all the necessary details about the detonator, and one logger can tag up to 1,600 detonators.

Unlike standard barcode labels, harsh field conditions do not impact the effectiveness of the RFID labels, Austin claims. Cold temperatures, snow, muddy or emulsion-covered labels, or even heavy rain will not comprise the data embedded in the RFID label, making it the most reliable product on the market, it added.

Campbell Robertson, Global Manager Electronic Initiation, said: “Our latest addition of RFID as a logging option offers select customers the ability to rapidly extract our E*STAR electronic detonator’s critical information used to assign a delay, right from the RFID tag. The RFID tag works in any conditions, whether in direct sunlight or the low light underground, wet or muddy, even emulsion covered conditions. What’s more, the RFID tag and the data stored within it cannot be degraded by solvents.”

3GSM tackles drill comms, pattern analysis in latest BlastMetriX UAV blasting software update

3GSM GmbH, a developer of software to optimise blasting and reduce inherent environmental issues, has announced several updates to its flagship BlastMetriX UAV software that, the company says, improves communication with smart drills, offers face profiling enhancements and delivers more sophisticated drill pattern analysis.

Robert McClure, President of Robert A McClure (RAM) Inc of Powell, Ohio, an international blast and engineering consulting firm that provides service, support and training for BlastMetriX UAV, said: “3GSM works closely with its blasting customers to adapt to new challenges faced in the field and improve blast optimisation. Customers with an active update licence automatically receive these new features inside the BlastMetriX software, or they can be ordered separately.”

The enhanced drill pattern analysis tool provides heat mapping of drilled borehole deviations for simple visualisation of differences between “as planned” and “as drilled” patterns, while semi-automatic mapping of linear rock mass features is imported into the blast plan. By providing enhanced burden and spacing information, the software allows users to adjust explosive amounts in each borehole to account for irregularities, according to the company. “This is a great tool for a company’s key performance indicator program,” McClure said. “The software captures information from each blast and allows users to go back and review historical data to correct issues in the field.”

Updates to the IREDES (International Rock Excavation Data Exchange Standard) interface improves two-way data communication between BlastMetriX UAV and smart drills. It now allows for import of measure for drilling data like drill penetration rate and air pressure to map the subsurface geology of the borehole. At a quick glance, the software shows the geology and burdens from borehole top to bottom out to the free face. The program is compatible with all major drilling equipment manufacturers, according to the company.

Incorporating the ShapeMetriX system for generating and assessing 3D images, new geological mapping integration allows users to better visualise dips, strikes, seams and voids throughout the drilling pattern. The software can characterise irregularities in the face, which are projected back through the borehole. This allows for more precise loading of the borehole and improves blast safety.

In another update, the underground volumetric measurements tool inside ShapeMetriX now provides the determination of precise volumes in a “generalised” manner, based off captured subsequent tunnel faces and perimeters.

With the aid of aerial targets or standard BlastMetriX targets as reference points, the software imports images from a calibrated DSLR camera or unmanned aerial vehicles to quickly, safely and accurately capture 3D face profiles for enhanced visualisation of the blast area. Multiple data-rich overlapping images generate hundreds of thousands of data points for accurately characterising typography of the surveyed area and creating a 3D face profile.

BlastMetriX UAV gives technicians the confidence the blast will perform as designed to mitigate fly-rock issues, high air overpressures, excessive vibration, poor fragmentation, sub-par cast, loss of grade control and wall damage, the company says.

“Through blast design optimisation using BlastMetriX UAV, operations can realise significant benefits including improved fragmentation, higher crusher throughput and lower drilling man power requirements,” 3GSM said. “The scalable BlastMetriX UAV software allows companies to integrate as much or as little technology as required.”

BME’s achieves another record-breaking blast with AXXIS Titanium electronic detonators

Another record-breaking blast has been notched up by Omnia Group company BME using its latest generation AXXIS Titanium™ electronic detonation system.

The blast of 5,209 detonators was conducted recently at a chrome mine in South Africa’s North West province, according to Tinus Brits, BME’s Global Product Manager – AXXIS. Brits highlighted how the enhanced features of AXXIS Titanium allows mines to respond quickly and easily to raised production demands.

“While a record blast is always an achievement to be celebrated, this was a standard production blast requiring nothing different or extra from the mine,” he said. “The ease-of-use of AXXIS Titanium, the speed at which blasts can be prepared, and its rapid testing features make this possible.”

The dual-voltage basis of the new system means that detonators can be tested while they are logged in, with the logging and testing conducted as a single function. As a result, this record blast could be primed, charged, tied-up, logged, tested and programmed in just two days.

“With AXXIS Titanium, the logger does everything for you,” Brits said. Multiple loggers were used on the blast, with each operator logging a portion of the blast to speed up the process; the log files were then seamlessly combined.

By consuming less energy, AXXIS Titanium allows up to 1,000 detonators to be initiated by each blasting box – reducing the amount of equipment that is needed on site.

“This helps improve the reliability of blasts, as there are fewer items of equipment to communicate with each other,” Brits said. “These high levels of reliability ensure a quality blast with no misfires, even in single-prime blasts – where there is just one detonator per hole – as was the case in this record blast.”

He also emphasised the intuitive fault-finding capacity of the AXXIS Titanium system, which identifies those detonators which have not been logged onto the harness wire. The operator is informed precisely where the relevant detonator is to be found, so it can be quickly logged.

“It also solves the problem of ‘intruders’ – those detonators that were accidentally missed during the logging process,” Brits said. “Again, the operator can speedily fix this issue wherever it occurs, ensuring that there are no misfires in the blast.”

The design of the AXXIS Titanium connector is another important factor, allowing blasters to log and test detonators without the need to open the connector. The gel in the connector that ensures a good seal, therefore, is not disturbed during testing and logging.

“It only gets opened up once you connect it to the surface wire, which is why the sealing of our connectors is so good – eradicating resistance or leakage on the block,” Brits said.

Epiroc, Orica secure Newcrest Cadia trial for commercial Avatel charging system

Newcrest Mining is set to trial Avatel, a fully mechanised development charging system developed by Epiroc and Orica, at the Cadia operation in New South Wales, Australia, later this year, according to Tony Sprague.

Sprague, Group Manager, Directional Studies and Innovation at Newcrest, said this will be the first commercial trial of the Orica and Epiroc co-developed system anywhere in the world.

Orica and Epiroc, back in 2019, announced joint work on a semi-automated explosives delivery system, enabling safer and more productive blasting operations in underground mines. The companies said the partnership would “bring together the deep expertise and experience of two global industry leaders” to address the growing demand from customers mining in increasingly more hazardous and challenging underground operations.

Avatel includes Orica’s HandiLoader™ emulsion process body, Epiroc’s M2C carrier and RCS 5 control system, working with Orica’s LOADPlus™ control system and WebGen™ 200 wireless initiation system and automated WebGen magazine. Epiroc has also incorporated an onboard dewatering and lifter debris clearing system, while Orica’s ShotPlus™ intelligent blast design software is also being leveraged. These components help eliminate the need for traditional tie-ins and other physical wired connections from the charging cycle.

Orica has stated previously: “This first-of-its-kind innovation enables a single operator to prepare and charge explosives from the safety of an enclosed cabin, several metres from the face and out of harm’s way. Combined with Orica’s LOADPlus smart control system and Subtek Control bulk emulsion, customers can enjoy complete and repeatable control over blast energy from design through to execution.”

Trials with a prototype machine have been taking place at Epiroc’s Kvantorp Underground Test Mine in Sweden under controlled underground conditions. IM understands there are also plans for a machine to head to Agnico Eagle’s Kittilä Mine in Finland to complete extended underground trials in the production environment.

Newcrest’s Cadia operation is set to be the first site to trial the complete commercial offering at Cadia, commencing in the second half of 2022, according to Sprague.

Incitec Pivot looks for EMEA explosives growth with Titanobel transaction

Incitec Pivot Limited, owner of Dyno Nobel, has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of the shares in Explinvest, the holding company of the Titanobel Group, an industrial explosives manufacturer and drilling, blasting and technical services provider based in France.

Incitec has agreed to pay €91 million ($103 million) for Titanobel in a transaction it says is highly complementary to Dyno Nobel’s existing operations, providing access to new markets where the company can leverage its premium technology offering through substitution and growth strategies.

Titanobel has a strong customer base in the mature and stable European market with exposure to the quarry and construction sector, the growing African hard-rock sector and the rapidly expanding mining of future-facing minerals in the EMEA region, Incitec Pivot said. The company is supported by a well-established manufacturing base in France, which will be key to the delivery of the Dyno Nobel strategy in the region.

The transaction remains subject to the satisfaction of key milestones and conditions, including the French employee works council consultation process, and Incitec Pivot receiving foreign direct investment regulatory approval from the French Ministry of Economy and Finance. It is expected to complete by June 2022.

Titanobel provides drilling, blasting and technical services in France and across Europe, as well as in parts of western and southern Africa, Asia and the Pacific region. It has two main business units, explosives as well as drilling and blasting services.

Following the acquisition, Incitec Pivot intends to leverage the existing manufacturing footprint, the skills and technical experience of Titanobel’s existing workforce, and to enhance its offering through the introduction of Incitec Pivots’ technologies.

“Over time, IPL’s value adding technologies will be expanded into other markets in the EMEA region from this newly enhanced base,” it said. “The EMEA market is significant in size, characterised by low ammonium nitrate requirements, stable or growing minerals markets, and large initiating systems usage with low penetration of electronic detonators.”

IPL’s Managing Director and CEO, Jeanne Johns, said: “Titanobel’s acquisition will fit well with our strategy of taking our core explosive business, for which we are recognised globally, to new markets. We are excited for the potential to service new clients and partners with our market-leading technology.”

Orica sets out to transform mine-site used oil explosive utilisation with Cyclo

Orica’s Cyclo™, a solution combining the company’s emulsifier technology with used oil processing technology to transform mine-site used oil for application in explosives, is off to a fast start with the first automated containerised system recently successfully commissioned in Ghana.

Cyclo is an example of Orica’s strategic focus on optimised resource use through circularity, it said in its recently released annual report.

While used oil/diesel blends have been utilised in process fuels for more than 15 years, the technique requires tight quality control and regular testing when used to manufacture emulsions, the company said. “As a result, it has only been feasible at sites with access to external laboratory services.”

To service a broader range of customers, Orica has partnered with CreatEnergy to develop a standalone, on-site solution to treat used oil to the quality required for emulsion manufacture.

Orica initially scheduled Cyclo for market introduction in late 2022, but it scaled and sped up development and production plans to support customers’ operations and curtail material supply disruptions brought about by COVID-19.

“Our first automated containerised used oil recycling system, Cyclo, was successfully commissioned recently in Ghana, Africa,” Adam Mooney, Vice President of Blasting Technology, said. “We are working to gradually commission further units across more customer sites in the coming months, including in Papua New Guinea and Senegal.”

Bulk emulsion manufactured with Cyclo™ processed used oil

Over 33,000 litres of used oil has been processed to date through the initial Cyclo service, according to Mooney, who explained: “This is a modest quantity as the Cyclo unit was only commissioned remotely in recent months due to COVID-19. In a year, this mine is forecast to reduce their diesel consumption by approximately 250,000 litres.”

Mooney told IM that its used oil recycling technology is designed to support customers’ remote operations where Orica’s site-based emulsion plants are available.

“The key difference in the Cyclo service with existing offers in the market is that the containerised processing system is fully integrated into our on-site emulsion plants, enabling the used oil from the mine to be directly recycled without leaving the site,” he said. “The processing unit guarantees used oil quality to the standard required for emulsion manufacture by removing potential contaminants and, when combined with proprietary Orica emulsifier technology, guarantees finished bulk product quality.”

These installations will, the company said, reduce the annual diesel consumption for explosives manufacture for customers, depending on bulk product consumption, by some 250,000-800,000 litres per year per site when operational, delivering an environmental and commercial benefit to customers. On top of the obvious diesel consumption benefits, the solution will reduce truck movements through local communities and the associated logistical challenges and risks, particularly for remote operations.

A version of the Cyclo system to suit Arctic conditions (eg in Russia and parts of Asia) is currently being designed and will be operational in 2022, Mooney added.