Tag Archives: FragTrack

Orica leverages MWD data, AI to create new blast loading design benchmark

Orica is looking to set a new benchmark for blast loading designs in Latin America after deploying its Design for Outcome solution in the region.

The company, focused on integrating its digital blasting tools to improve outcomes, is leveraging its BlastIQ digital blast optimisation platform within this new solution, Angus Melbourne, Chief Commercial and Technology Officer of Orica, told delegates at Massmin 2020 last week.

In a presentation titled, ‘Blasting’s Critical Role in Extracting Ore’, Melbourne mentioned Design for Outcome as an example of where the company was delivering integrated digital solutions in Latin America.

“Design for Outcome is an automated continual optimisation solution that sets a new benchmark for blast loading designs,” he said. “It utilises data science to process both upstream and downstream data to automate blast designs. This produces tailored and optimised blast designs by reducing blast variability and explosive consumption while increasing productivity.”

Using machine-learning algorithms, Design for Outcome processes measured-while-drilling data to classify ground hardness throughout each blast hole and then match explosives energy to hardness domains to automatically generate tailored blast loading designs, Melbourne explained.

Through artificial intelligence, these algorithms are trained with the data received from the fleet control systems (FMS) and previous blast results. This enables final automation of the blasting design process and its execution in the field with Orica’s smart control systems and programming interfaces, loading the blast accurately according to the generated design. These elements combine to ensure the desired outcomes are achieved, Melbourne said.

“Digitally-enabled blasting solutions such as Design for Outcome are allowing us to work with customers in different ways, to think and act differently and expand our role in the mining value chain,” he said.

Such a solution is part of the company’s plans to automate its segment of the mining process. This goal was strengthened last month with the launch of the Orica and Epiroc jointly developed Avatel™ semi-automated explosives delivery system.

A key enabling technology of Avatel, which is built on the foundation of Epiroc’s Boomer M2 carrier, and Orica’s automation vision is WebGen™, the company’s fully wireless initiation system. When combined with Orica’s LOADPlus™ smart control system, specifically designed on-board storage, assembly, digital encoding capability and Subtek™ Control bulk emulsion, Avatel provides customers with complete and repeatable control over blast energy from design through to execution, Orica says.

While referencing the second key pillar in Orica’s digital strategy, Melbourne highlighted the use of the company’s Bulkmaster™ 7 smart, connected explosives delivery system in Latin America during the virtual event.

The new delivery systems not only improve productivity but begin to digitise critical workflows between design and execution in drill and blast operations, according to Melbourne.

The Antamina copper mine in Peru, a joint venture between BHP, Glencore, Teck and Mitsubishi, will soon be leveraging such a system, with Melbourne confirming seven Bulkmaster 7 units had been shipped to the mine and were undergoing commissioning.

Orica’s third digitalisation pillar is the measurement of downstream impacts of the drill and blast process, which is where FRAGTrack™, the company’s automated rock fragmentation measurement device comes into play.

This device captures, analyses and reports real-time data for optimising blast operations, improving downstream productivity and tracking overall operational performance in mining and quarrying, Melbourne explained.

This system is active across several key customer sites in Latin America, with Teck’s Carmen de Andacollo operation in Chile being one of the first to adopt the technology in the world, according to Melbourne. He said the copper operation is using the insights to deliver efficiencies across the value chain through digitally enabled optimised blasting.

Orica to take CRC ORE’s IES cloud-based simulation technology global

Orica has been selected as the commercialisation partner for the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction’s (CRC ORE) Integrated Extraction Simulator, a cloud-based software platform designed to reduce the use of energy and water in mining through the application of simulation, optimisation and machine learning.

The award followed a competitive selection process, with the global mining explosives and services giant set to take the reins of the platform’s growth strategy from July 2021, with plans for global expansion of the technology.

Orica’s interest was initially driven by IES’s introduction of blast simulation into the mineral processing value chain, CRC ORE said. While mine operators can use controlled blasting techniques as an effective augmentation of the rock breakage process, Orica also saw the wider application of IES as an obvious fit with its expanding digital solutions offer across the whole mining value chain.

“By harnessing the virtually limitless scalability available through cloud computing services, mining companies can now use IES to configure multiple design options for a mineral processing plant,” CRC ORE said. “IES then tasks each design and simulates its performance for every day of operation over the life of a mine. This high-resolution simulation of each design leaves no stone unturned in the pursuit of optimal mineral processing.”

Orica intends to expand this capability into a global solution for mining companies, enabling them to design their mineral processing using IES, and then leverage IES’s capability every day to drive continual operational improvements.

CRC ORE Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ben Adair, said having a company the calibre of Orica as commercialisation partner is testament to the enormous opportunity and benefits that the simulator provides to the mining industry.

“We have worked with our Participants over many years to refine our simulation platform,” Dr Adair said. “As a foundation Participant in CRC ORE, Orica shares our commitment to optimising resource extraction and our passion for the continued development of the simulator.

“The scale offered by Orica’s global reach, in addition to its sustained investment in research and development and unwavering focus on innovation, makes it the ideal custodian of IES.”

Orica has been evolving towards its vision of an integrated ore extraction mining services company, with this vision including investing in digital solutions where continuous innovation and open integration with other industry systems across the mining value chain are key to the delivery of whole of mine optimisation for customers, CRC ORE said.

Orica Chief Commercial and Technology Officer, Angus Melbourne, said Orica is primed to take the simulator global and continually evolve the technology to meet the ever changing needs of the industry.

“This is a great example of industry collaboration developing solutions to industry level problems, and we are extremely proud to be part of it,” he said. “It is a fantastic opportunity to continue Orica’s 11-year relationship with CRC ORE and further expand our digital solutions offering by combining our blasting domain expertise with this leading simulation technology to customers and beyond worldwide.”

Orica Vice President Digital Solutions, Rajkumar Mathiravedu, said: “From a technology perspective, we see enormous synergies with our existing blasting and measurement solutions, including BlastIQ, FRAGTrack and ORETrack. We are also excited to integrate our automated, data science enabled blast design technology and solutions with IES, offering end-to-end digitised workflow solutions from orebody knowledge through to mineral processing in an open, secure, and connected platform.”

CRC ORE’s team of developers and consultant engineers will integrate into Orica from July 2021 and will continue to be led by CRC ORE’s current General Manager for the simulator, Nick Beaton.

Beaton said: “IES is now at the right point in its development to become commercially sustainable while continuing to develop new capabilities. It will be thrilling to continue this with Orica.

“We have demonstrated that the simulator can improve the value of major mine sites by some 5-6; this is significant for the mines using the simulator and for the whole industry.

“Optimisation of processing operations by use of IES will also enable step-change reductions in power and water consumption, while greatly improving recoveries of marginal ores, all contributing to the future sustainability of mining operations.”

The transition of the IES business to Orica will take place in the middle of 2021 when CRC ORE’s term comes to an end. In the meantime, CRC ORE and Orica, together with industry partners, will continue developing innovations to drive continual improvements throughout the mining industry. Continuing this innovation, Orica looks forward to IES participation in the next iteration of the Amira P9 project.

Orica and FRAGTrack recognised for innovative streak in AFR list

Orica’s fragmentation measurement technology, FRAGTrack™, has again gained recognition in the innovation community after being named in the Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies List 2020.

FRAGTrack and Orica’s entrenched culture of innovation were behind the company’s second place ranking in the list under the Agriculture, Mining & Utilities Service sector.

The annual list, published by The Australian Financial Review (AFR) and Boss Magazine, is based on a rigorous assessment process, led by a panel of industry experts and innovation consultancy Inventium. From a pool of over 600 nominated organisations across Australia and New Zealand, Orica’s FRAGTrack was recognised as a pioneering technology in the Agriculture, Mining & Utilities Service industry, delivering significant value for customers, Orica said.

FRAGTrack, Orica’s automated fragmentation measurement device, accurately and reliably measures rock size and fragmentation following the blasting stage in mining and quarrying. While traditional methods are prone to operator bias and cannot generally operate in harsher mining environments, FRAGTrack captures, analyses and reports real-time data digitally, according to the company. Designed in collaboration with Design Anthology, Newie Ventures and Your Engineer Mechanical Engineering, the technology can be installed and upgraded remotely – creating safer, more accurate mining outcomes.

The latest award follows FRAGTrack receiving a Good Design Award accolade in the Engineering Design category in recognition for outstanding design and innovation earlier this year.

When judging the innovation, the AFR industry panel considered three key elements – how valuable the problem is that the innovation is solving, the quality and uniqueness of the solution, and the level of impact that the innovation has had. However, the organisation must also be able to demonstrate a truly innovative culture and a sustainable and repeatable approach to innovation across the business.

Orica’s Chief Commercial and Technology Officer, Angus Melbourne, said: “Innovation underpins everything we do at Orica, and it’s our pioneering spirit, amazing people and commitment to working collaboratively with our customers that allows us to continue to deliver products and technologies that are shaping the future of mining.

“Customer collaboration is key to our innovation process. By understanding our customer’s challenges and sharing their goals and aspirations, we can deliver better outcomes on site today, and use these insights to create new technologies that will deliver value tomorrow.

“FRAGTrack is an excellent example of this innovative spirit on show. This technology has evolved through collaborative innovation between our experts, customers, technology partners and the industry.”

He concluded: “At Orica, we’re proud to be leading the change in digital, automated blasting. The convergence of these technologies is allowing us to think differently, mine differently, operate more precisely and most importantly, remove people from harm’s way. FRAGTrack exemplifies all of this, while ultimately delivering significant value for the industry.”

Orica’s FRAGTrack recognised for outstanding design and innovation at Good Design Awards

FRAGTrack™, Orica’s innovative fragmentation measurement technology, has received a prestigious Good Design Award accolade in the Engineering Design category in recognition for outstanding design and innovation.

The award was recieved by Orica and design partners, Design Anthology, Newie Ventures and Your Engineer Mechanical Design, who supported the development of the technology. FRAGTrack captures real-time fragmentation measurement data for optimising drill and blast operations and improves downstream efficiencies in the mining process, Orica says.

The annual Good Design Awards is Australia’s oldest and most prestigious international awards for design and innovation with a history dating back to 1958.

“The awards celebrate the best new products and services on the Australian market, excellence in architectural design, engineering, fashion, digital and communication design, design strategy, social impact design and young designers,” the company said.

The Good Design Awards Jury praised FRAGTrack, commenting: “An innovative design that has the potential to improve commercial and safety outcomes in the mining and extractive industries that use drill and blast techniques. An excellent piece of engineering design using scanning and multi-camera technologies with extensive software engineering in a highly innovative application.

“The robustness of the design and its adaptability are also commended. This is a clever solution to the tedious problem of quantifying fragmentation after blasting. It ruggedises cameras and processors to survive in harsh mining and environmental conditions. Overall, a solid piece of industrial and engineering design that deserves to be recognised and celebrated.”

In accepting the award, Orica’s Vice President of Digital Solutions, Rajkumar Mathiravedu, acknowledged: “We’ve been able to develop this unique digital solution by combining more than 20 years of customer input, internal expertise and collaborations with market-leading specialists Design Anthology, Newie Ventures and Your Engineer Mechanical Design to make it a reality. This award is recognition of the extraordinary people and partners behind this innovative and value delivering technology.

“Throughout the development process we’ve taken the time to listen to the needs of our customers, and then work with them to evolve the design and engineering to suit harsh mining conditions, delivering real impact and outcomes for them – it’s what makes this such a unique and impactful innovation, especially as our customers strive for greater competitive advantage in these challenging times.”

More than 55 Good Design Awards Jurors evaluated each entry according to a strict set of design criteria which covers ‘good design’, ‘design innovation’ and ‘design impact’, Orica says. Projects recognised with a Good Design Award must demonstrate excellence in good design and convince the Jury they are worthy of recognition at this level.

Dr Brandon Gien, CEO of Good Design Australia, said: “Receiving a Good Design Award is a significant achievement given the very high calibre and record number of entries received in 2020.”

Following last month’s ‘Australia’s Most Innovative Manufacturing Company’ and ‘Best Industrial IIoT Application’ awards, this latest recognition further cements FRAGTrack as a pioneer product in mining innovation, Orica said. “It is one of the key value-adding technologies that is reinforcing Orica’s differentiated position in the marketplace,” it added.

Orica on the right Track with new digital blasting solutions

Orica’s suite of rock movement, blast fragmentation and digital blast optimisation solutions have been gaining traction of late, with miners across the globe employing or trialling the products as they look to improve mine site performance.

Ahead of the annual Explosives and Blasting feature (to be published in the International Mining July/August 2020 issue), IM spoke with Rajkumar Mathiravedu, Vice President of Digital Solutions at Orica, to get an update on progress with the company’s digital solutions.

Back in Orica’s 2019 full-year results, Orica mentioned it had secured its first customers in Latin America for its ORETrack™ solution, which provides RFID-based tracking of rock movement from blasting operations.

Mathiravedu said these first adopters were recognising the value delivered by the technology, with ORETrack working well in the initial applications.

“We are also continuing to co-develop and expand our ORETrack technology in collaboration with customers in Latin America, with additional customers adopting the ore tracking capability,” he said.

“Further trials are also planned for the near future, including locations in Australia and North America.”

The number of customers taking up Orica’s FRAGTrack™ solution, which provides blast fragmentation data with auto-analysis capability, meanwhile, has been growing in the face of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Orica carried out its first fully remote installation of FRAGTrack during lockdown in Australia, with a second in Finland and a third one completed in North America recently.

Mathiravedu said a key focus in developing the solution, which captures real-time fragmentation measurement data for downstream unit productivity improvement and tracking of operational performance, was ensuring it was “a plug and play solution” that could be installed and supported remotely.

“We developed rigorous training material and installation instructions and married these with real-time augmented reality capability to remotely guide and support our customers through the implementation,” he said.

“We have found this particularly advantageous during the COVID-19 restrictions, but also this allows our customers to manage the implementation timing to suit their operations.”

An example of this could be the desire for a customer to install FRAGTrack when the shovels are down for maintenance, without having to wait for an Orica specialist to come to the site and install the system.

Reflecting on the recent remote installation achievements, Mathiravedu said: “This proves we have a successful remote release model that customers are valuing during these unprecedented times.”

BlastIQ workflow integration

Fifteen months after the release of its next generation BlastIQ, Orica has now surpassed the 60-site implementation mark of its digital blast optimisation platform.

Mathiravedu said BlastIQ and the company’s ever-growing digital capabilities are designed to improve blast outcomes by integrating insights from digitally connected technologies at every stage of the drill and blast process to drive continuous improvements for its customers.

“Focusing on the needs of our surface mining customers, we have been able to deliver the benefits of cloud-based technology, providing convenience and flexibility for customers to access their blasting data online anywhere, anytime from any device,” he said.

“Customers are also benefitting significantly from digitising their blasting workflows, delivering efficiencies and improved quality control across their blasting operations, resulting in greater visibility of blast inputs and outputs in real time while benefiting from better blast outcomes.”

As an open, secure, and connected digital platform, BlastIQ’s blast-related data is being integrated directly into customers’ mining value chain and remote operation centres via secure cloud-based APIs, Mathiravedu said.

“This is enabling customers to drive better mine-level decisions based on data integrations between our platform and theirs, creating a stronger bond between planning, drilling, blasting, load and haul and processing operations at the site,” he said.

BlastIQ is an inter-operable platform and is being delivered as a Software as a Service product to customers, meaning they receive new functionality, value and features as soon as they are developed, according to Mathiravedu.

“Enhancements are scheduled and developed based on direct feedback and submissions from our customers all around the world to ensure the product evolves to meet the discrete needs of their operations,” he said.

Outside of BlastIQ specifically, Orica has started to deliver digital optimisation services to its customers, according to Mathiravedu.

“State-of-the-art” digital products and advanced data science and analytics, combined with blasting technical know-how and market-leading blasting technologies, enables customers to cover whole of value chain solutions, enabled by blasting, Mathiravedu said.

“Also, using a series of industry 4.0 smart Internet of Things sensors and Edge computing to replace inefficient manual processes, measurement data can be used in real time to improve future mining outcomes based on data science, analytics and machine-learning algorithms to drive continuous improvement of the entire mining value chain.”

Orica’s WebGen and BlastIQ technologies gaining global references

During Orica’s investor day last week it became apparent that its innovations – namely wireless initiation technology and a digital drilling and blasting platform – are gaining traction across the globe.

Orica has made investments in technologies such as WebGen™ and and BlastIQ™ as part of a shift towards automated drilling and blasting, realising that the days of fully mechanised operations are still some way off.

Alberto Calderon, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, set the scene by saying that the world is expected to extract around 3.6 billion tonnes more material in 2023 compared with what was achieved in 2018.

In addition to increased demands being placed on companies involved in mining when it comes to environmental and social responsibility, ore deposits are becoming more difficult to access, he said.

“[They are] often found in remote, difficult to reach parts of our world, and sometimes in the harshest of settings,” he said.

Orica is well equipped to deal with this, having technical expertise, logistics, and experience to allow blasting to continue, he said. He cited Indonesia, and near volcanic earth where the ground is hot and reactive, as an example of the company’s ability to negotiate tricky conditions.

“We can deliver blasted rock to a defined size specification in polar conditions, within the environmentally-sensitive Arctic Circle, and we can ensure miners’ licence to operate is maintained by ensuring that blasting can go ahead as scheduled, without negatively impacting nearby sensitive receptors, like communities.”

The company provided an update on just how successful its WebGen wireless blasting technology has been since launch last year.

The company said there had been growing market interest for this wireless initiation technology, with more than 220 blasts fired globally. This included securing four commercial services contracts and demonstrations underway currently across 11 customers, with another 17 customers in planning. Overall, the company has targeted 20-28 trial sites across all regions by the end of its financial year.

So far, WebGen wireless blasts during these commercial and trial operations had seen a 34% increase in ore recovery, a 20% boost in increased productivity, improved safety and reduced costs, the company said.

In addition, the company has trials in place for expansion into surface applications (gold, coal, iron ore, copper) and Orica is making good progress made on its next generation WebGen200.

When it comes to BlastIQ, Orica said it had, so far, implemented the technologies on 35 sites, with 25 customers. It had three BlastIQ-enabled optimisation service projects to its name, it said.

In terms of customer value, adoption of these technologies had seen a 5% increase in productivity, a 10% reduction in drilling costs and improved safety and regulatory compliance, Orica said.

The company’s regional managers then broke down some of these numbers, as well as mentioned some developments that could lead to higher market uptake.

Darryl Cuzzubo, Group Executive and President for Asia Pacific & Asia, said the underground and open-pit site introduction of WebGen was taking place ahead of plan, with its largest commercial blast and first strata blast taking place in Australia. On top of this, the company had seen licences for the technology approved in Indonesia, with trials to begin in August/September.

Thomas Schutte, Group Executive and President of Europe Middle East and Africa, meanwhile said the company saw potential growth from technology implementation for WebGen, automation and BlastIQ within the mining sectors in Sweden, Finland, Spain and Turkey.

So far, the company had conducted two underground sites of WebGen in the Nordics, while it was planning a large open-pit trial in Europe in the first half of 2020. Africa trials were also on the horizon. In the meantime, the process to gain EU certification and country approvals was underway, he said.

For BlastIQ, Schutte said the company had completed successful trials and commercial sales in the CIS and Africa.

James Bonnor, Group Executive and President of North America, said five sites had, so far, converted to WebGen use across North America (one being Newmont Goldcorp’s Musselwhite mine), while BlastIQ had found its way into over 100 mining and quarry sites in the US, in particular.

Germán Morales, Group Executive and President, Latin America, had 18 site trials of WebGen technology (in progress/planned) to report on, with the company servicing both surface and underground mines.

In terms of BlastIQ takeup, there had been 12 site implementations, eight of these being successfully converted into contracts and four being trials. Overall, the company expected around 20 implementations for the 2019 financial year.

In addition to this, Morales was able to report back on the first worldwide commercial OreTrack™ implementation in Chile and FRAGTrack™ in Colombia. OreTrack provides RFID-based tracking of rock movement from the blast, while FRAGTrack provides blast fragmentation data with auto-analysis capability.