Although rising mineral production costs have led to declining competitiveness for the South African mining industry, which has negatively affected the sale of explosives materials manufacturer MAXAM regional director Brett Wheatcroft says this has created opportunities for the introduction of comprehensive smart blasting solutions.
For example, MAXAM’s rock-on-the-ground service can improve rock fragmentation and leads to significant savings in energy consumption downstream in the mine.
Through this service, MAXAM helps customers optimise their drilling and blasting operations, bringing transparency, cost control and improved rock output. Mines and quarries delegate blast planning, blast design, drilling, loading and blasting to MAXAM, which, in turn, delivers the rock blasted to the required size. This control over the size of the fragmented rock generates important savings downstream in the operations, he explains.
“This is appealing in an industry that is struggling with rising costs . . . we found that clients who are receptive to newer technologies are affecting significant revenue, owing to the drive for improved efficiency, safety and social responsibility.”
Another technological advancement solution is using drones in combination with software-based predictive modelling, with MAXAM’s X-Copter enabling mines to conduct high-precision profiling of a blasting area.
“This information, together with data accumulated from hundreds of thousands of blasts performed by MAXAM globally, can be used to create three-dimensional models used in our blasting design software, called Rioblast. With more accurate data, we can improve our models, blast design and predictions, and ultimately obtain better results,” Wheatcroft explains.
In addition, an important trend in explosives is the polymerisation of explosives, such as bulk water-gel technology, which prevents explosives migration in boreholes.
MAXAM’s Rioflex bulk water gel is a high-energy, robust and flexible-density explosive.
Wheatcroft mentions that, by flexible density, it means that Rioflex can be applied in a flexible range of densities, from 0.6 g/cm3 to 1.38 g/cm3. When applied at higher densities, the additional available energy offers the opportunity for expanded drill patterns or improved fragmentation, leading to lower the total cost of ownership, including drill and blast, loading, hauling, crushing and milling.
“Where a lower energy profile is required, Rioflex can be applied at densities below 0.8g/cc to reduce over break and wall damage.”
Moreover, the renewed focus on energy efficiency is pushing suppliers to adopt ecofriendly methods of manufacturing such as product suspensions that do not require the melting of raw materials.
“Mines often have inefficiencies to be unlocked, and markets struggling with increasing costs are usually the first to discover it,” highlights Wheatcroft.
Blasting offers huge opportunities for improving efficiency and safety of mines, he adds. “Therefore, the company believes that this is where the potential for growth lies: miners partnering with companies, such as MAXAM, have the right set of technologies and the proper technical application expertise to develop tailor-made solutions that save money and improve safety,” he concludes.