Tag Archives: WebGen

Orica’s wireless blasting tech overcomes magnetite challenges at LKAB Kiruna

A four-year collaboration between Orica and LKAB has resulted in the first production blasts using wireless initiation technology at the Kiruna iron ore mine in northern Sweden.

These blasts – charged in the middle of May and blasted in early June – are going some way to support LKAB’s safety, productivity and long-term automation objectives, according to Abhisek Roy, EMEA Head of Marketing for Orica.

It has involved an extensive amount of work to get to this blasting milestone, according to Ingemar Haslinger, Technical Services Lead Europe at Orica.

He explained: “It all started in 2018 when LKAB showed interest in our new WebGen™ wireless technology. They could see the benefits in both safety and productivity with the new way of producing the ore.”

This saw Orica go to site at the Kiruna mine in March 2018 to begin with a signal survey, testing if the company could obtain a good signal between the antenna and the in-hole receivers.

WebGen provides for groups of in-hole primers to be wirelessly initiated by a firing command that communicates through rock, water and air. This removes constraints often imposed by the requirement of a physical connection to each primer in a blast. The wireless blasting system not only improves safety – by removing people from harm’s way – but improves productivity – by removing the constraints imposed by wired connections.

It is, therefore, considered, a critical pre-cursor to automating the charging process.

To this point, WebGen has fired over 100,000 units in over 3,000 blasts globally across customer sites, Orica says.

At Kiruna, however, the process from testing to technology on-boarding was less than straightforward.

“In the area of the mine where the signal survey was completed in 2018, it was discovered that the signal could not penetrate the magnetite ore at all,” Haslinger said. “This was the first time we had encountered this and was a setback for Orica and LKAB.”

At that time, Orica did not have the localised field equipment or advanced diagnostic tools to diagnose the antenna issue, making it difficult to ascertain the root cause.

“We had to go back to our global WebGen specialists and try to understand why this was happening, which we were successfully able to do,” Haslinger said.

After dedicated work from the global team, Orica went back to Kiruna in September 2020, looking to replicate the signal survey from 2018 and use its advanced diagnostic tools to measure the antenna performance and output.

“We also had the opportunity to test the signal behaviour in the holes, as well as measure the rock properties around the antenna and the in-hole receivers,” Haslinger added.

The survey proved successful, explaining why the signal could not go through the orebody. This allowed the global WebGen team to start developing solutions to overcome the signal problem, which it was able to do in short order.

In December 2020, the Orica team was back at the underground iron ore mine to test the new solution.

“The first trials with the new solution showed positive results and the global team continued to develop that further,” Haslinger said. “In May 2021, we tried the solution in many different conditions and applications to be sure that it would work in the mine. These trials gave us a lot more knowledge about the environment and how the new solution worked.

“In 2022, we were ready to test the system in active mine operations and it has been an extensive amount of work to get us to that point.”

Development of the WebGen wireless underground blasting technology is ongoing at the Kiruna mine

Michal Gryienko, Engineer at LKAB in Kiruna, said the first two production rings were charged using WebGen in the middle of May before blasting occurred in early June. This is one of the benefits of the system, with the wireless primers able to sit dormant in the blasting profile for around 30 days prior to blast initiation.

“The results look good so far,” Gryienko said. “In total, we will blast five production rings, and the final three are planned to be blasted in September.”

Among the benefits Gryienko highlighted were the reduction in risk associated with hole priming and the possibility of detonating more blast holes due to the ability overcome damaged or unstable blasting applications.

Orica’s Roy said the collaboration between the two companies has been “fantastic”.

“Despite the challenges around transmission of signal across the magnetite orebody that is a prerequisite for a successful wireless initiation, both companies have worked as partners for the last four years, finding practical and creative solutions,” he said.

“This hopefully is the start of a long-term sustainable wireless blasting solution that supports LKAB’s safety and productivity objectives and long-term automation goals.”

Orica’s WebGen wireless initiation system helps unlock reserves at BMTJV Renison tin mine

The Bluestone Mines Tasmania Joint venture (BMTJV) says it has become the first company in the Tasmania mining sector to demonstrate Orica’s fully wireless initiating system, WebGen™.

Since early 2021, BMTJV, the owner of the Renison tin mine, has been in consultation with Orica to implement the WebGen wireless blasting technology.

The first WebGen blast was successfully loaded in the Central Federal Basset (CFB_1458_5990_F4) section of the mine on June 13, 2022, with the first wireless blast in Tasmania successfully fired at BMTJV over the mine’s leaky feeder system on June 19.

Some 107 WebGen primers were loaded into BP4 (Block Panel 4) and “slept” for 14 days while BP3 was charged and fired, the company explained. Due to the geometry of the blast – and it being a high seismicity area – for B4 to be mined conventionally, a further 60 m of development would have been required to recover this ore.

The Orica WebGen system includes an i-kon™ plugin detonator, a Pentex™ W booster and a DRX™, which is a digital receiver comprising a multi-directional antenna and a battery that serves as the in-hole power source.

The Encoder Controller individually programs each wireless primer with its own unique encrypted codes. This encoder contributes to the inherent safety of the system, and programs each wireless primer with two codes, BMTJV explained. The first code is a unique group identity number for exclusive use at each mine and assigned to specified groups of primers which will sleep, wake and fire together. The second code is a ‘delay time’ specific to the wireless primer and blast design.

Mark Recklies, Chief Operating Officer – BMJTV, said: “WebGen has now been used to support continual safety improvements and deliver savings across the working mine.”

Orica’s hardware and software platforms converging for Mining 4.0

Orica’s corporate vision of “mobilising Earth’s resources in a sustainable way” is being further realised through a host of developments from its Digital Solutions and Blasting Technologies divisions, IM reports.

Those involved in charging operations could soon benefit from the launch of Orica and Epiroc’s Avatel™ solution, which, in combination with the WebGen™ wireless initiation platform, offers the ability to remotely blast a development face.

At the same time, the company is busy with the sustainable production of emulsion, the integration of geological orebody information to optimise energy use for blasting, and the expansion of downstream mineral processing tools.

Avatel

Avatel is a combination of state-of-the-art hardware and software solutions designed to mechanise the blasting process.

It includes Orica’s HandiLoader™ emulsion process body, Epiroc’s M2C carrier integrating an RCS 5 control system with Orica’s LOADPlus™ control system, a WebGen 200 wireless initiation system and an automated WebGen magazine. Epiroc has also incorporated onboard dewatering and lifter debris clearing capability, while Orica’s SHOTPlus™ intelligent blast design software is leveraged to deliver superior blasting outcomes, Orica says.

Orica and Epiroc’s advanced technologies integrated into the Avatel system

These components help eliminate the need for personnel exposure at the development face throughout the charging stage of the mining cycle, keeping personnel out of the line of fire, by substituting inherently high hazard manual tasks with a mechanised development charging solution.

A prototype Avatel unit is set to commence operations at Agnico Eagle Mining’s Kittilä gold mine in Finland in the next few months. This follows “alpha trialling” of the complete prototype unit at Epiroc’s Nacka test mine in Stockholm, Sweden.

Adam Mooney, Vice President of Blasting Technology for Orica, said: “Our goal for Kittilä is to expose Avatel to a real mining environment, putting the unit through its paces in an active mine where safety, productivity and reliability are core requirements for success.

“We will gain a practical understanding of how Avatel will fit in with and benefit the entire mining cycle, while also taking the opportunity to measure the blasting improvements possible through the combined use of electronic initiation timing and the precise blast energy control available with Avatel.”

A separate unit, meanwhile, will head to Newcrest Mining’s Cadia copper-gold mine in New South Wales, Australia, later this year, for the first commercial deployment. This is currently undergoing pre-delivery commissioning at Epiroc’s customer centre in Burnie, Tasmania.

Cyclo

Not too far away in Papua New Guinea, Orica has successfully commissioned a Cyclo™ emulsion technology unit, which has been running at a customer site for around two months, according to Mooney. The unit in question has treated in excess of 100,000 litres of used oil, he said.

Cyclo combines the company’s emulsion technology with used oil processing technology to transform mine-site used oil for application in explosives. To provide the tight quality control and regular testing required to manufacture emulsions with such inputs, Orica has partnered with CreatEnergy to develop a standalone, on-site solution to treat used oil.

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 disruptions brought about by COVID-19.

The first automated containerised used oil recycling system was commissioned in Ghana late in 2021, with the Papua New Guinea unit being the latest deployment.

Cyclo – containerised, automated used oil recycling service at a customer site in Ghana, Africa

A Senegal Cyclo debut is on track for July given the unit is already in country and connected into the emulsion plant on site, Mooney explained.

The company also plans to bring to market a Cyclo unit suitable for Arctic conditions by the end of this year, with the solution already under construction.

Data to insights to intelligence

Aside from hardware and sustainable emulsion solutions, Orica has recently signed an agreement with Microsoft Azure predicated on creating data-rich and artificial intelligence-infused tools that enable productivity, safety and sustainability benefits on site, with Raj Mathiravedu, Vice President of Digital Solutions, saying such a tie-up enables the company to think of the blasting value chain in a much more holistic manner.

“Orica Digital Solutions’ purpose is to develop and deliver a suite of integrated workflow tools to enable the corporate vision of mobilising Earth’s resources in a sustainable way,” he said. “A key attribute to delivering this workflow is the journey that we need to incorporate from data to insights to intelligence.”

Mathiravedu says the company is looking to go beyond the traditional solutions pairing software and IoT devices for a discrete product to – with the help of Microsoft Azure capabilities – building “answer products” focused on improving workflows.

“These workflows can benefit from understanding how geology within the orebody intelligence space can help us determine the optimised energy required for blasting in a real-time production workflow,” he said. “We have started this journey and are already delivering value to our customers by integrating workflows from orebody to processing.”

One example of this is the company’s FRAGTrack™ suite of solutions, devised to provide blast fragmentation data with auto-analysis capability.

Delivered as part of the company’s BlastIQ Digital Optimisation Platform, FRAGTrack is able to capture real-time fragmentation measurement data for optimising drill and blast operations, improving downstream productivity and tracking of operational performance.

Originally developed for measurements on both face shovels and conveyors, the solution was expanded earlier this year with the launch of FRAGTrack Crusher for automated pre-crusher fragmentation measurements.

FRAGTrack Crusher installation at Stevenson Aggregates

There are several vendors offering fragmentation measurement tools throughout the industry, but Mathiravedu says Orica’s solution can carry out such analysis consistently and accurately – day or night – in extremely dusty and dynamic environments like mining.

“The FRAGTrack image processing technology can handle extremely dusty and lighting-affected conditions beyond any solutions in the industry,” Mathiravedu said. “It is also able to learn and adapt to specific operational environments like the dumping habits of different truck operators using artificial intelligence technology. Together with the integration with fleet management systems, it can provide a fully autonomous and integrated measurement solution.”

On conveyors, the FRAGTrack solution can reliably measure fines with increased accuracy compared with conventional systems that leverage curve-fit algorithms, according to Mathiravedu, with the advanced image and 3D processing techniques providing the ability to measure fragments down to 5 mm in size.

The combination of FRAGTrack Conveyor and Orica’s ORETrack™ solution can provide not only particle size distribution information, but also critical information on ore grade and hardness for the milling operations in real time.

“The FRAGTrack platform architecture has been designed to be scalable to incorporate different sensor inputs along with its high-performance GPU compute capabilities,” Mathiravedu said, explaining that there could be further analysis solutions down the line.

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.

Orica initiates WebGen 200 wireless blasting trial in Canada

As Orica progress towards the full commercial release of its WebGen™ 200 wireless blasting initiation platform, another milestone has been recently achieved at Moose Creek Quarry in Canada.

The team loaded and fired the first production blast for WebGen 200 on a customer site, successfully blasting 130 units.

This successful blast is a major milestone in the readiness of WebGen 200 for commercialisation, according to Orica, representing the culmination of years of research and development across technology, marketing, commercial, supply and manufacturing teams.

It comes two months after the company unveiled the product at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas, USA.

Global Head – New Technology Commercialisation, Nigel Pereira, said: “I want to thank all those involved in the successful trial and the team responsible for the development of our second-generation patented wireless initiating system, WebGen 200.

“This moves us one step closer to commercial release, and with over 70,000 WebGen 100 units fired across 2,500 blasts, both Orica and the industry are eager to see the program progress.”

Engineered to deliver market-leading safety and reliability, WebGen 200 has been built with enhanced capabilities, security and versatility, delivering safety and productivity gains for today’s applications and ensuring it meets the extreme mining conditions faced by surface and underground customers pushing the boundaries of mining’s next frontier, Orica said.

WebGen 200 will be available in four product variants and include a wider range of booster weights, opening up new segments, applications and opportunities in both surface and underground mining. The complete product range now includes the WebGen 200 Surface, WebGen 200 Surface Pro, WebGen 200 Underground Pro, and WebGen 200 Dev.

Orica to unveil WebGen 200 wireless blasting initiating system at MINExpo 2021

Orica says it will unveil its latest through-the-earth, fully wireless initiating system, WebGen™ 200 at MINExpo 2021 in Las Vegas next week.

A development based on more than 2,300 successful WebGen 100 blasts around the world, specifically in underground mines, Orica’s WebGen 200 technology has been designed with customers’ needs and feedback built-in as they look to further improve safety and productivity across their operations, the company says.

WebGen technology provides for groups of in-hole primers to be wirelessly initiated by a firing command that communicates through hundreds of metres of rock, water and air. This completely removes constraints often imposed by the requirement of a physical connection to each primer in a blast and importantly allows the removal of people from harm’s way, it says.

“Engineered to deliver market-leading safety and reliability, WebGen 200 has been built with enhanced capabilities, security and versatility, ensuring it meets the extreme mining conditions faced by surface and underground customers pushing the boundaries of mining’s next frontier,” Orica says.

MINExpo 2021 will take place on September 13-15 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Orica Chief Technology Officer, Angus Melbourne said: “We know that as our customers go deeper and move into more complex mining, they are requiring more advanced technology to help them mine differently and continue to extract their orebodies safely and efficiently. That’s where WebGen 200 and our broader technology roadmap comes in.”

WebGen 200 harnesses digital technology to allow advanced features including digital inventory management, delay adjustments before blasting, an improved user interface and increased quality assurance, according to the company. Reliability is further improved with the WebGen 200 primers available to endure even greater dynamic pressure.

Orica Vice President – Blasting Technology, Adam Mooney, said: “We’ve co-developed our second-generation wireless initiation technology, WebGen 200, with customers from across all segments and regions around the world.

“We developed WebGen primarily to reduce or remove employees’ exposure to hazardous environments and improve overall operational safety. But we are also seeing the technology delivering unparalleled improvements in productivity and improved recovery for our customers – it is enabling a step-change in blasting and mining like no other.

“We are excited about what the future holds for the industry with WebGen 200 and know the enhancements made to this second-generation product will improve the customer experience, broaden its application and deliver significant value for customers while enabling the first stages of blast automation.”

The hardware, software and the WebGen 200 units come together as a system that, Orica says, is easily integrated into any operation. It will be available in four product variants and include a wider range of booster weights, opening up new segments, applications and opportunities in both surface and underground mining.

The complete product range now includes the WebGen 200 Surface, WebGen 200 Surface Pro, WebGen 200 Underground Pro, and WebGen 200 Dev. All four variants will be on show in Las Vegas.

The new WebGen 200 suite of fully wireless initiating systems

WebGen 200 Surface and WebGen 200 Surface Pro are specifically designed for surface mining applications, with the Pro version designed for extreme blasting conditions, including revolutionary blasting techniques like Multi-Stratum Blasting, Mining Schedule Flexibility and Lightning Risk Reduction. The WebGen 200 Underground Pro is suited to production blasting, while the WebGen 200 Underground Dev has been designed for mechanical assembly and will enable the automation of underground development charging with Avatel™.

Orica and Epiroc have been developed Avatel, billed as a first-of-its-kind, industry-driven semi-automated explosives delivery system, with a prototype machine currently undergoing trials ahead of being commercially ready by the end of 2021.

The charging solution, enabled by Orica’s WebGen wireless initiating system technology, addresses the final step in the underground development cycle yet to benefit substantially from mechanisation and automation.

It is expected to bring a step-change in safety by eliminating the need for wired connections and subsequent exposure to crews at the face, according to Orica. Instead, the entire charging cycle can be completed by a single operator from within the safety of an enclosed cabin, several metres from the face.

The WebGen 200 development program is progressing to plan with comprehensive verification and validation product testing completed, according to Orica. Field trials are planned and will be completed across multiple mining segments and regions in Australia, Canada, Latin America and Europe, ahead of being commercially available from December 2021.

Newmont’s Canada mines hit wireless initiation milestone with Oricas WebGen

Newmont has continued to leverage the benefits of fully wireless initiation in its blasting process, having initiated its 500th blast using Orica’s WebGen™ system at its Canada mines.

The milestone was achieved at three of its underground mines in Canada, which are blasting with WebGen. Each site uses different mining methods, and all have achieved improved performance and safety in their overall mining processes with the implementation of innovative WebGen-enabled mining techniques, Orica says.

“The key to Newmont’s success was its ability to think differently and to take advantage of pre-charging with ‘no strings attached’,” the company added. “Eliminating the physical connections to each blasthole and the need for re-entry allowed the blasting sequence to be arranged for optimised outcomes.”

The blasting process changes help mines deliver significantly improved ore recovery and has simultaneously reduced interactions, cycle times and rework, according to Orica. WebGen wireless blasting technology is an innovation that enables process change unlike any other, by pre-charging blasts and firing blasts after access to the area is lost, it claimed.

Newmont’s WebGen journey started at the Musselwhite mine in late 2016 following Orica’s launch of the first-generation wireless initiation system, WebGen 100. The Orica technical team identified an opportunity to use the new technology and approached the Musselwhite team with a new concept, the “Temporary Rib Pillar (TRP) Avoca Mining” method.

Over the following months, workshops, detailed design reviews, risk assessments, crew meetings and signal surveys were completed and the first TRP stope was designed and ready to be blasted.

The initial stope was drilled and loaded in November and December 2016 and fired in January 2017.

Over the next year, the Musselwhite and Orica teams continued to use and refine the TRP method.

“As confidence in WebGen 100 increased, the teams explored other opportunities where wireless blast initiation could significantly improve safety and stope performance,” Orica said. “Several other wireless enabled mining methods were developed and evaluated through these collaborative efforts throughout 2017 and 2018.”

The results so far from the WebGen collaboration include a 20% reduction in mucking time, 14% improvement in production tonnes per day and 34% reduction in ore dilution.

Following the success of Musselwhite gold mine, the team from Éléonore Mine approached Orica in late 2018 to explore the possibilities of implementing the WebGen system on-site. The team conducted a two-day face-to-face workshop where the technical and operations teams from Éléonore and Orica met and conducted an in-depth review of Éléonore’s production mining operations.

The workshop ended with a commitment to complete a joint wireless blasting optimisation project, Orica said.

“A project charter was developed, which involved a detailed 10-stope evaluation across various geometries with the primary goal to improving stope recovery,” the company explained.

“Preparation started in early 2019 with detailed design sessions, signal surveys, risk assessments and crew information sessions.”

The first stope blast was loaded in February 2019 and fired in March. The project’s scope was completed by late summer and the project delivered and exceeded all the agreed performance metrics, according to Orica.

Sill pillars at Éléonore represent a challenge for both ground control and drill and blast teams.

“WebGen technology allowed us to safely and efficiently recover side-drilled stopes by greatly reducing worker exposure and stope cycle time,” Ugo Marceau, Drill & Blast Engineer at Newmont Éléonore, said.

Results from the WebGen introduction at Éléonore include an 86% increase in ore recovery, 72% reduction in stope time and 71% increase in drilling rates.

While the Éléonore project was underway, teams from Borden and Orica had already “white boarded” various wireless enhanced stoping scenarios to increase mining efficiency in Borden’s complex geometry.

“The main goals were eliminating as much lateral development and cemented rock fill as possible while maximising ore recovery,” Orica explained. “As with both Musselwhite and Éléonore, signal surveys, risk assessments and crew information sessions were completed to prepare the first stope.”

Borden’s first stope was loaded in early April and fired later that month. Once again, the outcomes from using WebGen exceeded those expected from a conventional approach, according to Orica.

Eric Fournier, Mine Engineering Supervisor at Newmont Borden, said: “Orica have been partners with us from the very beginning. The WebGen team is very professional, knowledgeable, and easy to work with. The technology is great but the people behind it make it happen. WebGen technology allows us to be a safer and a more efficient mine. It removes the need to send people around hazardous conditions that exist after a blast.”

Results from the Borden implementation include 98% actual ore recovery and 17% actual dilution.

Orica concluded: “Wireless-enhanced production mining has been expanded across these three Newmont mines. The WebGen system has proven itself as a reliable initiation system and enables drill and blast engineers to modify existing mining methods for substantial improvements in safety, productivity and cost reduction. This has been an exceptional journey together with Newmont and highlights the results that can be achieved through innovation and collaboration.”

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.

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.

BHP Mitsui Poitrel becomes wireless blasting leader

BHP Mitsui Coal’s Poitrel mine, in Queensland, Australia, now holds the title of world’s largest blast using wireless technology after successfully completing the third blast in a trial series to test Orica’s WebGen technology.

The latest blast on October 13 saw 1.3 million cu.m of overburden shifted in a strata blast fired with 1920 WebGen 100 units across 534 holes, BHP Mitsui said.

Jayson Smeeton, Poitrel Mine Production Manager, said there were significant safety and efficiency improvements to be made by using the WebGen technology Orica is trialing, which features wireless in-hole primers initiated by a firing command that communicates through rock, water and air.

“Wireless blasting means we are able to really reduce our people’s exposure to dust in the pit, and eliminates the potential for misfires because they do not need to physically tie each hole in to the blast pattern,’’ Jayson said.

“Eliminating the need to tie in each hole also makes the process for loading explosives far more efficient, and less susceptible to wet weather delays, as the pit does not need to be shut down because of the potential risk of accidental ignition during thunderstorms.”

The first trials conducted in May and June were small shots to test the technology. The latest blast involved a more complicated strata blast, with the top and bottom decks of the shot fired at different times to maximise fragmentation, and preserve the coal below, according to the miner.

Further production blasts, including through-seam blasts are planned for the next 12 months, BHP Mitsui said.