Unless mines pursue safer options, explosives suppliers will continue to supply more dangerous traditional products, stresses initiation system provider Master Blaster CEO Mark Davis.
South Africa is one of the biggest blasters in the world, with 100-million holes a year detonated by its mining industry. Davis questions why the mines would not consider using the safest explosives and technologies available on the market.
For example, 1 kg of explosives produces around 1 000 ℓ of harmful gas, which has to be expelled from the mine. “The electricity use of a mine amounts to about 15% of its operational cost and explosives and detonators to about 5% to 6%. “However, using less electricity to pump out noxious gases can reduce overall spend.”
To engage with pan-African mining stakeholders, Master Blaster, based in Selebi-Phikwe, in Botswana, attended the Africa Mining Summit, from October 11 and 12, in Gaborone, also in Botswana.
At the event, Master Blaster presented its Maxclip Initiation System, which, when used in conjunction with nondetonating propellant-based explosives, eliminates the requirement for traditional explosives in line with mines’ ideals of achieving zero harm at their operations.
Davis avers that conventional explosives and detonating systems all carry the same intrinsic dangers – security, transportation, storage risks and fatalities – if not handled properly on site.
“Logistics and the sheer size of the mining industry make it unlikely that nondetonating explosives such as propellant powders will completely replace conventional explosives, but security, safety, health, environmental and community benefits are powerful arguments for replacing traditional systems with alternative nondetonating products and technologies.”
The advantages of the Maxclip solution – contributing to the prevention of fly rock, ground vibration, noise, dust and secondary blasting – are numerous, priorities in any mining operation across Africa, Davis states. However, he highlights that the greatest benefit of the solution is the reduced risk of fall of ground, which is often the cause of death and injury of mineworkers.
Additionally, by using the Maxclip solution with a propellant-based nondetonating cartridge, narrow reef mines can reduce the crush zone around holes and increase efficiencies by recovering more minerals and simultaneously protect hanging and side walls.
This combination also enables continuous mining, owing to a lack of noxious gases generated, compared with traditional explosives and detonators. “Continuous mining is seen as the holy grail of any mining industry, given the potential for increased production and better efficiencies.”
Davis mentions that, although safer explosive and accessory options are available, mines continue to use the same dangerous ammonium-nitrate-based explosives and outdated detonator timing systems, through blind loyalty to traditional suppliers.
Ammonium nitrate has inherent health risks, causing acute respiratory problems when breathed in by mineworkers, and also ends up being discharged into drains, contaminating groundwater, which is used by mineworkers and surrounding community members for cleaning and bathing purposes.
“Mine management is under continuous pressure to achieve production targets and still generally believes that they can only be met using traditional explosive products and blasting technologies,” he laments.