To alter the cheaper-cost mindset miners sometimes adopt in trying economic times, explosives technical services company RA McClure president Robert McClure recommends focusing on long-term downstream gains and valuable technological investments.
“It’s often difficult for companies to realise that they need to make a greater investment upfront in technology to achieve better downstream value, especially with blasting, considering that it can impact on other operational efficiencies, such as excavation, haulage and crushing.”
McClure will for the eighth time speak at explosives supplier BME’s twenty-fifth yearly Drilling and Blasting Conference on November 2 at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research International Convention Centre, in Pretoria.
He will discuss three-dimensional (3D) surveying for underground blasting operations, focusing on the underground application of photogrammic surveying technology in a challenging environment.
McClure will present the value this technology brings, how it is employed in the field and how it addresses safety and optimisation challenges. A workshop will also be available to provide a more detailed look at the technology and how it can be used in specific applications in metal and nonmetal underground applications.
The mining industry, he says, has for a long time been challenged by a lack of underground-related tools that optimise blast design and provide accurate, detailed information to drillers, blasters and engineers. This information is necessary to enable changes in the field and, ultimately, allow blast results to be quantified and analysed in-depth.
For openpit, quarry and construction operations, all these aspects can be addressed by using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as drones.
“UAVs allow us to fly over the location of the next blast, design blasts and, following the blast, conduct a pre- and post-blast analysis to see what kind of efficiencies have been gained as far as changes in explosives or delay sequences are concerned,” explains McClure.
As the mining industry has started to embrace these technologies, McClure says the software capabilities have grown significantly, with RA McClure offering 3GSM BlastMetriX and ShapeMetriX 3D software packages, providing a custom package and training to meet customer requirements.
McClure notes that this technology is also empowering for mines and blasting contractors, since the technology can be put in place at the operation. Technicians can fly UAVs in the field and conduct surveys themselves, without relying on outsourced services to improve the effectiveness of blast design and quantify and analyse blast results.
Further, he points out that the mining industry has also recognised the value of electronic initiation systems. By doing so, it has solved a major optimisation challenge – the inaccuracy of conventional pyrotechnical systems. These inaccuracies and their negative effects have now been overcome with high accuracy timing provided by electronic initiation systems.
“With this accurate timing, coupled with advanced blast design and analysis software, we now have the tools to improve the blast design, bringing blast performance to an entirely new level. Not only does this technology help address safety and environmental issues but it also offers optimisation and performance benefits.”
McClure says, in uncertain economic times, mines should pay closer attention to how they operate and at what cost.
“Blasting is your primary crusher. Chemical energy is more cost effective than mechanical energy. Make the investment in drilling and blasting technology to achieve the most economical operating cost downstream,” he urges.
Studying for Safety
Each year, RA McClure alternates between presenting a Surface Blasting course and a Blasting Explosives Safety Training (BEST) course.
On September 1, RA McClure presented its Surface Blasting course in South Dakota, in the US, with attendees ranging from explosive and blasting regulatory agencies – at both a state and federal level – to quarry and openpit operations’ staff.
McClure says the courses are limited to 25 attendees to ensure individual attention. This year, the attendees included people from Nigeria, the Caribbean and North America.
The Surface Blasting course has previously been presented in South Africa as a custom course, which is tailored to a mine’s specific needs and presented on site.
The course includes information on rele- vant technologies used by the industry, including vibration and air overpressure control and how it should be managed near urban areas.
McClure notes that the courses are suitable for individuals involved in blasting operations such as drillers, blasters, managers and operators, as well as those overseeing personnel that have to select companies to undertake blasting projects.
The BEST course is specifically designed for the safe handling, transport and use of explosives, and safety practices in blasting.
“A hot topic of discussion in the industry are the fumes involved in explosives use, with most people unaware of incidents taking place worldwide. This course is designed to outline and discuss the consequences of these incidents, while also providing information on how to avoid the mishandling of explosives,” highlights McClure.
The next BEST course will take place in September 2018 in South Dakota.