Tag Archives: Explosives

MAXAM’s automation and digitalisation efforts continue with X-Energy

Blasting solutions provider, MAXAM is continuing its automation and digitalisation drive with the development of its X-Energy innovations, all of which are aimed at ensuring the proper use of its explosives’ energy to optimise downstream outputs, according to MAXAM Technical Senior Advisor, Vicente Huélamo.

As part of this, MAXAM has developed a “powerful and structured” digital platform called MAXAM Blast Center for storing, managing and sharing blast-related data. The platform is a user friendly, customised web-based system that can be accessed remotely.

Users can track information and generate reports detailing blasting activities in real time, since the platform enables the full integration of MAXAM digital tools to design, plan and conduct efficient drilling and blasting operations, the company said. The MAXAM Blast Center can include downstream data from the mine to track and optimise drilling and blasting, with the process commencing with blast design information generated in RIOBLAST, MAXAM’s blast design software, and transferred to the Blast Center platform.

RIOBLAST takes into account rock characteristics and blasting requirements to define the blast loading plans, timing configuration and the bulk explosive density profile for each specific rock layer along the borehole.

The complete blast design is then transferred to the Blast Center from where it can be assigned to the specific Mobile Sensitising Unit (MSU) and the X-Logger. On the bench, the blaster can gather actual data with the X-Logger, such as stemming length and hole conditions, while the MSU loads the boreholes according to the blast loading plan, MAXAM explained. The actual loading data is transferred back to the Blast Center where the information can be shared and processed.

“Innovative solutions using data science, business intelligence, equipment utilisation and blast optimisation can be developed as a consequence of the digitalisation of blasting processes,” MAXAM says. “The application of artificial intelligence and machine learning are key to generating value at each stage of the mine production cycle.”

The new generation of MAXAM’s fully digitalised MSUs, X-TRUCK, represents state-of-the-art technology for the manufacturing and loading of bulk blasting products, according to the company.

X-Truck offers a means of communication between the MAXAM Blast Center and the MSU control system, the company said. Loading plans can be sent directly to the loading units via a high-speed Wi-Fi network, allowing each MSU manufacture the specified quantity of product and load it directly into each borehole.

“The sensitising and loading of explosives is an operation that requires the highest quality standards to achieve the desired results,” the company explained. “MAXAM Blast Center ensures that the entire process, from blast design, data exchange, to final product application and blasting outcomes, is consistently performed safely, correctly and efficiently to always produce the optimum blasting outcomes.”

X-Logger, meanwhile, is an application for portable devices designed to collect and digitise actual data on the bench, such as borehole parameters after drilling, the amount of product loaded in each borehole, stemming control and other attributes. The device is fully integrated into the MAXAM Blast Center in a way that the data retrieved from the field is automatically updated in the platform using the internet connection. In the absence of such a connection, the data is synchronised when the connection is re-established.

MAXAM concluded: “The integration of geology, blasting design and drilling information into an innovative explosive application technology contributes to the mine optimisation program. These optimisation capabilities involve the ability to continuously model and measure all related phenomena and operational performance and consolidate them into a continuous improvement program of all the mine operations.”

BME breaks another electronic detonator blast record in South Africa

Another South African record for the largest electronic detonator blast has been broken by the blasting and explosives company BME.

The blast was conducted by BME, an Omnia Group company, at the end of 2020 at a manganese mine in South Africa’s Northern Cape province. Using its AXXIS™ electronic initiation system, BME was able to plan and execute a blast of 4,647 detonators. Just a few months earlier, the company had broken a previous record at the same mine by initiating 3,780 detonators in a single blast.

“The latest achievement involved a remarkable 535 t of emulsion explosive in over 2,300 blast holes requiring a total of more than 37,000 m of drilling,” Kobus Boonzaaier, BME Area Manager in the Northern Cape, said. “The resulting blast was able to move almost 2.3 Mt of rock within a matter of seconds.”

Boonzaaier highlighted that the advantage of these large blasts is that they allow mines to blast less often; this means less disruption and a more streamlined operation. The size of the blast was not the only factor to consider, however, as a quality blast must also optimise key outcomes like fragmentation, BME said.

“We were pleased to once again achieve good fragmentation with this blast, ensuring that the resulting particle size would facilitate efficient loading, hauling and comminution by the mine,” Boonzaaier said.

The mine has made use of a full blasting service from BME for the past five years, with BME providing its expertise through a team of over 20 blasters, operators and assistants.

BME’s emulsion explosives – combined with AXXIS electronic initiation system, electronic detonators, blast planning software and other accessories – have been helping break records at South African mines for over a decade. It has conducted even larger blasts in Australia and Zambia in recent years – in the coal and copper sectors, respectively.

Orica to deliver tech and blasting services to Glencore’s Australia copper, zinc ops

Orica says it has been awarded a five-year explosives technology and services contract for Glencore’s Australia copper and zinc operations, effective January 2021.

Glencore, one of the world’s largest globally diversified natural resource companies, produces and markets a diverse range of metals and minerals, with its Australia copper and zinc operations including McArthur River Mine (Northern Territory), Lady Loretta Mine (Queensland), Mount Isa Mines (Queensland), Ernest Henry Mine (Queensland) and CSA Mine (New South Wales). Orica has an existing supply agreement with Glencore’s nickel and cobalt operations at Murrin Murrin, in Western Australia.

As part of the contract, Orica will deliver the full suite of explosives technology and blasting services across the Glencore copper and zinc operations in Australia, including supply of the fully wireless initiating system, WebGen™, BlastIQ™ digital blast optimisation suite of products and smart explosives delivery system, Bulkmaster™ 7.

This partnership further strengthens and expands Orica’s longstanding relationship with Glencore, the manufacturer of commercial explosives and innovative blasting systems said.

Orica Chief Executive, Alberto Calderon, said: “Glencore is a key global diversified customer, and we are delighted to be partnering with them across their Australian copper and zinc operations, integrating our most advanced technologies and solutions to solve their more complex operational needs.

“Glencore’s Ernest Henry mine in northwest Queensland was the first site in the world to trial and adopt our wireless explosives technology, WebGen. This deal shows Glencore’s confidence in our technology roadmap as well as aligning with their strategic vision for technology to deliver added value to their operations.”

Orica will work closely with Glencore to ensure uninterrupted supply to each operation, during the rapid mobilisation and transition period, it said.

NSW to help coal miners experiment with new explosives at underground test facility

Australia’s only independent underground mine explosives testing facility has opened on the New South Wales Central Coast, paving the way for improvements in mine safety and innovation in the mining industry.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro (pictured), launched the first round of explosive testing at the new facility at Freeman’s Waterhole, which will operate under the management of the Mine Safety Technology Centre within the NSW Resources Regulator.

Barilaro said the facility is made from high-grade steel and concrete with modifications to reduce sound impacts and provides an appropriate location to test the safety of explosives made within the state, for use in underground coal mining operations.

“This will be the only independent explosives testing facility of its kind in Australia, making New South Wales the nation’s leader in mine safety development,” he said.

“Currently, there are few explosives that can be used in underground coal mines and these kinds of explosives have a very short shelf life, they don’t travel well and need to be developed and tested locally.

“Under the control of the NSW Resources Regulator’s Mine Safety Technology Centre, this facility will be used to determine if locally made explosives are viable and meet vital safety requirements to protect the wellbeing of workers.”

Barilaro said when used safely, explosives can significantly improve the productivity of underground mines by reducing the number of time-consuming and labour-intensive longwall moves required to extract coal, increasing the overall volume of coal recovered.

“The industry benefits significantly from the use of explosives in underground mines and the facility launched today will allow greater testing, experimentation and innovation from local businesses that specialise in producing explosives for mines,” Barilaro said.

“The facility is also discreet; it has been built on the site of a quarry to reduce impact on the surrounding environment and computer modelling has been used to determine the most effective ways to reduce noise.”

Test rounds at the facility will be scheduled to meet the needs of industry, at up to two to three times per year, restricted to work hours on weekdays, the government said.

Orica’s WebGen cuts cycle time, reduces dilution at Nexa Resources lead-zinc mine

Orica’s fully wireless initiation system, WebGen™, has another achievement under its belt, this time helping Nexa Resources’ Vazante underground mine reduce ore dilution from 27% to 20%, resulting in a net benefit of $1.59 million.

The single blast event achieved a smaller hydraulic radius by keeping the pillar during the stope extraction which, in turn, resulted in a reduced cycle time to 20 days, down 70% from an expected 90 days, by maintaining two mucking access points to the main stope. This was only possible due to the wireless capability of WebGen, Orica said.

“The unique blasting approach dramatically improved safety by pre-loading the pillar with WebGen, minimising the exposure of personnel and removing the need to re-enter the area,” the company said.

WebGen allows for groups of in-hole primers to be wirelessly initiated by a firing command that communicates through hundreds of metres of rock, air, and water. This eliminates the need for down-wires and surface connecting wires, enabling new mining methods and blasting techniques that are safe and reliable, according to Orica.

In addition to Vazante, WebGen has improved performance and safety at several other mining operations, including Newmont’s Musselwhite operation (Canada) and First Quantum Minerals’ Kevitsa mine (Finland).

Nexa Vazante Chief Mining Engineer, Mateus Ribeiro, said: “Thanks to this technology and partnership, we recovered an island rib pillar, which is a pillar kept in the open stope for dilution control. After all the ore from the block was extracted and the pillar had completed its requirement, the pre-loaded holes were successfully initiated remotely.

“We went through a series of improvements in the evolution of blasting technology with Orica, from the first detonators until nowadays using 100% wireless detonators. The blast happened two levels below us, so we are 400 m away, above the shot. All encoded signals were sent through the rock with the safety protocols to fire the blast being followed.”

Vazante is a zinc-lead mine owned by Nexa Resources, located in northwest Minas Gerais, Brazil. Using vertical retreat mining (VRM) and long hole open stope as the main methods for ore extraction, the mine has traditionally deployed wired initiators in the recovery of ore, typically yielding around 60% ore recovery in the pillars. The application of wired initiators also required increased resources and time in the mine, according to Orica.

In 2019, Orica proposed the implementation of WebGen wireless initiating technology at Vazante to support the team in mitigating the operational and safety challenges of the mine. Enabled by the wireless technology, ore within the pillars can be recovered through pre-loading without the need to return to the open stope. With the introduction of WebGen, the mine was able to gain time in the sequencing of the blast and extract ore previously inaccessible while improving its operating productivity, according to Orica.

Orica’s Latin America Wireless and Electronic Blasting Systems Specialist, Wesley Andrade, said: “The Nexa Vazante crew and our team conducted extensive site signal surveying and applied best practices to ensure the drill pattern in the pillar was accurately loaded with WebGen 100 units, encoded and positioned as planned.

“This achievement in recovering a pillar through wireless initiation while protecting people from hazards is made possible only by the strong partnership between Nexa Vazante and Orica. We are thrilled to have Nexa Vazante successfully implement wireless blasting with our WebGen initiating system.”

The pillar pre-loaded with the wireless initiators was safely fired after 33 days of sleep time, with several ore blasts taking place alongside the pre-loaded pillar. A second application is currently being studied to allow pre-loading of an entire stope, which will reduce operational risk, the number of cycles and increase ore production and therefore profitability for Nexa Vazante, Orica says.

The new generation of wireless initiation system, WebGen 200, is set for commercial release in early 2021. A newer, improved version, WebGen 200 harnesses digital technology to allow advanced reprogramming and digital inventory management, offering mine operations an integrated user interface with improved quality assurance, according to Orica.

BME keeps supply up amid lockdown as it prepares for COVID-19-related business changes

COVID-19 lockdown restrictions around Southern Africa have thrown the spotlight on mines’ supply security, with key inputs like explosives and blasting services among these.

According to Albie Visser, General Manager at blasting specialist BME, mines have relied heavily on the flexibility and ingenuity of service providers to keep the supply chain functioning.

“The first weeks of the lockdown were challenging, especially regarding the logistics of moving our emulsion product across national borders from South Africa into other southern African countries,” Visser said. “Different countries – and even different border posts – applied different rules, making it difficult to know what the exact compliance requirements were.”

Albie Visser, General Manager at BME

He noted the pandemic had caught most authorities unaware, leading to regulations being hurriedly developed and enforced.

“In some cases, the regulatory requirements were not practical,” he said. “At one border, for instance, drivers were required to have a COVID-19 test not older than three days – but in South Africa it took nine days to get results from a test through normal channels.”

This meant that innovative thinking was called for, and BME worked closely with its own suppliers and the mines themselves. While some deliveries were initially delayed by border issues, the company’s responsiveness and agility kept up its deliveries to site, it said.

National lockdowns in the region affected the mining sectors differently from country to country.

“South Africa’s lockdown saw demand for emulsion drop sharply at first, but this has almost returned to normal as mines ramped up to full production where possible,” he said. “While mining in Botswana has slowed, Namibia’s mining industry has been more resilient and our supplies to Zambia are almost unaffected.”

Site precautions

In South Africa, BME is working on many mine sites, with an average of three teams per site. By conducting risk assessments and adapting its existing safety systems, BME quickly developed its own COVID-19 protocols in line with national safety regulations – even before some of the mines finalised their own systems.

Among the measures BME has applied is to divide staff into small groups to keep closer control of movements and restrict infections. For example, each group will stay together for transport purposes, and will use only one specified bus.

“Each bus, which has a thermometer for daily testing, will collect staff from their homes,” Visser said. “We know exactly who they live with, for purposes of future contact tracing.”

It does mean more buses arriving at the work site, but any infection picked up can then be controlled and traced within that group. There is also another screening test at the mine site when staff arrive, and the necessary social distancing is observed.

“To date our measures have been very effective, with no COVID-19 infections at any of our operations,” he said.

Overcoming barriers

Outside of South Africa, there have been some notable achievements in the face of COVID-19 related lockdowns.

Joe Keenan, Managing Director of BME, relayed a few of these.

Joe Keenan, Managing Director of BME

“Among the logistical achievements, for instance, was the timeous shipping of resources to customers in Australia and West Africa – which was done in anticipation of the lockdown,” he said.

BME was also able to continue satisfying the requirements of one of Zambia’s largest copper producers, despite the difficulties of negotiating border regulations.

At the same time as this, the company is continuing to roll out large projects for major customers, while keeping most of its staff working remotely. This includes the recruitment of about 170 people for one key project, and the continuation of on-site testing.

Automation, remote optionality

From the manufacturing perspective, BME’s facilities are also well positioned to keep feeding the supply chain even under lockdown conditions, according to Ralf Hennecke, BME’s General Manager: Technology and Marketing.

“Most of our production plant processes are highly automated, so we can readily apply the necessary social distancing and minimise staff without affecting production,” Hennecke said. “This applies to our explosives facilities as well as our factories for non-electric and electronic detonators.”

Ralf Hennecke BME General Manager: Technology and Marketing

BME has put in considerable investment in the automation of its manufacturing plant at Delmas in Mpumalanga, South Africa, for instance. While the driver for this process was primarily the quality of its emulsion product, the effect has been to enhance security of supply while applying strict social distancing protocols, it said.

Keenan said: “At our facility in Losberg, Gauteng, where we manufacture our AXXIS™ equipment and non-electric detonation systems, there is also a high level of automation. We can therefore accommodate the COVID-19 regulations without affecting the value chain.”

Even the company’s remote bulk emulsion plants – often located on customer’s mine sites – can be operated with minimal staff.

Hennecke highlighted that BME’s technology, including planning and reporting platforms like BLASTMAP™ and XPLOLOG™, also assist mines to reduce opportunities for COVID-19 transmission.

“Our technological innovations allow data to be digitally captured, stored and transferred to the mine’s operational and administrative systems,” he said. “This can be done safely with only a few human touchpoints, and also in real time for greater efficiency.”

The future

While the current efforts are to keep mining operations running normally, the future will see considerable changes in how suppliers like BME support customers, according to Keenan.

“The leveraging of technological innovation to keep mine sites safe and efficient becomes an even more vital imperative for technology providers,” he said.

Operationally, there will be ongoing focus on social distancing and digital processes to reduce proximity between employees.

With strict requirements limiting face to face interaction, more communication with customers will also have to be conducted digitally.

These communication systems will also have to be adapted to streamline the sales process and keep contracts flowing, according to BME.

“Creative solutions will need to be found for how to manage tenders, for example, especially where site visits are required,” Kennan said. “There are still various practical issues to be resolved so that normal procurement can continue.”

In terms of further expediting the shift to non-contact interaction with customers, BME’s new enterprise resource planning system enhances its shared services capacity, allowing less paperwork and more electronic documentation and processing.

BME ups blast design ante with new mobile app

BME has launched a new, free Blasting Guide application for Android mobile devices that, it says, enables users to rapidly calculate and check blast designs.

Currently available for download from the Google Play Store, the new BME Blasting Guide mobile app replaces traditional paper booklets carried and referenced by in-field users, BME says. It includes a blast design calculator, quick calculators and prediction calculators. Other app features include surface blast design rules of thumb, environmental guidelines, a table of common rock properties and a BME contact directory per country.

“The new app is an integral part of BME’s pioneering approach to harnessing the power of digital technology in the blasting sector,” Christiaan Liebenberg, Software Product Manager at BME, said. “This platform gives our Blasting Guide a mobility and ease of use that makes a blasting engineer’s job easier and more productive.”

Liebenberg said that while the app is not a blast design tool, it is a powerful means of verifying blast design outputs and making important blast planning decisions.

BME Global Manager Blasting Science, D Scott Scovira, said the blast design calculator is a series of guiding formulas that allows a blaster or engineer to plan a blast from start to finish.

“The blast design calculator utilises user inputs including burden, spacing, stemming height, sub-drill, hole diameter, bench height and explosive type to determine explosive loads, powder factors and other outputs,” Scovira said. “It could be used, for example, to investigate potential blast patterns for a greenfield site, where numerous scenarios can be quickly generated and calculations checked.”

Scovira added that the rules of thumb table – which summarises surface blast design guidelines – can be referenced by users as they access the blast design calculators.

The quick calculator includes a BME in-house formula for the target powder factor, as well as calculations related to the volume of rock to be blasted – either volume per hole or volume per blast, BME said.

There are energy equations to compare different types of explosives based on their relative bulk strength, while hole-charging equations determine the mass of explosives going into a hole and address loading with gassed emulsion products, according to the company. This helps determine column lengths and stemming lengths – with gassed and ungassed explosives.

“The app’s prediction calculators include estimation of peak particle velocity and maximum charge weight per delay based on industry standard scaled distance equations and user defined ground transmission constants,” BME said.

One of the prediction calculators can provide the user with guidance in estimating the blast clearance radius. This is based on maximum projected rock throw, calculated from scaled depth of burial equations and parameters. The scaled depth of burial equations and parameters are propriety to world recognised blasting consultant R Frank Chiappetta of Blasting Analysis International Inc and used by BME with permission, the company clarified.

“In line with its strategic commitment to collaboration in the digital space, BME engaged VIGA Interactive to create a world-class user experience and design, as well as Sympl Technology Solutions for the development work,” Liebenberg said.

RUC Cementation ties in DaveyTronic detonators to underground mine network

RUC Cementation Mining Contractors says it has helped Davey Bickford Enaex achieve a new blasting first with its DaveyTronic underground electronic detonator blasting system.

The contractor has implemented “Safety First Firing” with DaveyTronic to allow it to fire blasts over the established communication system at one of its contracted operations.

RUC said: “This will enable RUC to wire in development faces as they are charged, saving the run around at end of shift firing with wiring in conventional electric detonators and ensuring the integrity of the connection throughout the shift.”

RUC believes in the not too distant future it will be able to integrate the firing system, remote fan start-ups, and gas detection system to make the firing and re-entry of the mine as efficient as possible.

This is a first for Davey Bickford Enaex using the existing fibre-optic network to set-up a secure blasting system underground, RUC said.

RUC Project Manager, Dave Sheppard, said: “This is an exciting time with the implementation and operation of our digital projects. The remote gas detection system (Smart Gas monitoring solution) allows us to monitor air quality from surface and, in conjunction with surface-linked firing, allows us to save up to half an hour per shift with re-entries – effectively offering a 5% productivity improvement.”

Orica moves a step closer to Exsa explosives takeover

Orica says it has completed the acquisition of 83.5% of shares in Peru’s Exsa, moving the Australia-listed firm closer to becoming the number one industrial explosives player in the country, Alberto Calderon says.

First announced in February, the acquisition will create a step-change in Orica’s manufacturing footprint, driving competitive advantage and an enhanced position in the Latin America market, with significant synergies available by combining Orica and Exsa’s operations, the company says.

Calderon, Orica’s Managing Director and CEO, said the company was delighted to welcome Exsa into the Orica family.

“This is a transformational acquisition for our company. It establishes Orica as the number one player in Peru, Latin America’s highest growth market, and transforms our entire initiating system footprint.

“We now look forward bringing our two great businesses together and delivering the many meaningful and tangible synergies that will drive revenue and productivity across the region.”

Orica expects to complete the tender offer process for the remaining shares by the end of the calendar year.

Peru’s number one manufacturer and distributor of industrial explosives, Exsa provides technical assistance and support to the mining (particularly gold and copper) industries. It has a significant share in both Peru underground and open-pit markets, according to Orica, with an efficient supply chain, comprehensive sales distribution network and strategically located ammonium nitrate emulsion assets in north, central and south Peru.

Its initiation systems and packaged explosives capability is market-leading with a new, semi-automated and integrated initiation systems manufacturing facility in Lurin, Peru, according to the company.

ENAEX and Sasol sign explosives and rock fragmentation JV to service southern Africa

ENAEX, a subsidiary of the Sigdo Koppers Group, says it has reached an agreement with integrated energy and chemical company, Sasol, to become a strategic partner of its explosives and rock fragmentation division.

The agreement, signed this week after a negotiation process initiated last July, considers ENAEX to take part in the business as the controlling partner of this firm, it said. This would be formed by spinning off certain assets and associated activities within the current explosives value chain of the Base Chemicals business of Sasol South Africa.

The new joint venture company will include the associated business activities in both South Africa and the rest of the countries in Southern Africa, with the explosives division having over 1,000 employees, producing more than 350,000 t/y of explosives and generating around $250 million of revenue annually, ENAEX says.

Sasol was founded in 1950 and is today a participant in the explosives industry in South Africa, with a presence also in Namibia and Lesotho.

Juan Andrés Errázuriz, ENAEX CEO, said: “Having successfully completed the process to become a strategic partner of Sasol is a very relevant milestone for Enaex. By this, we have taken a big step in consolidating our company in international markets and expanding the value offer for our customers.”

Errázuriz said, because of its size, Africa was currently the third largest explosive market in the world, with significant growth potential.

“Towards its progress, we can contribute with the extensive knowledge, technology and innovation that we have been developing in the rock fragmentation industry for mining,” he said.

This joint venture is part of the strategic plan of ENAEX to continue strengthening its international presence in the most important mining regions of the world and is subject to any necessary approvals from public authorities, it said.