Electronic blasting’s safety, enviro and efficiency benefits

6th June 2014

By: Zandile Mavuso

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Features


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Explosives manufacturer AEL Mining Services says that, with mining being a risky operation, developing ways to make the process safer and more efficient has been the main driver in the evolution from the bronze-age setting to modern-day blasting using electronics.

This has yielded major benefits for the min-ing industry, such as mitigation of damage to the environment. AEL group consulting mining engineer Simon Tose points out that blasting through the use of electronics also improves safety and enhances efficiency of the blast, thereby also improving the output and yield of the mining operations.
”The main reason for the shift from the old dynamite cartridges to on-site chemical energy coupled with electronic blasting is that it offers more control over the blast and the environment, making the process significantly safer, more efficient and improving production. Methods applied through the ages include fire setting, where one relied on heating the rock, throwing water on it to rapidly cool and then breaking it down; and dynamite and safety fuse, which lacked any real control over the blast,” he notes.

He adds that these haphazard methods of blasting presented risks to the safety of miners, with no control over the air blast, ground vibration, noise or fragmentation of the rock, and were also very damaging to the environment.

As a result, electronic blasting is used in both surface and underground mining and provides far more control over the environment. This control is made possible through these methods as one is able to manipulate the timing of the blast by blasting through one hole at a time, giving control over the air blast, ground vibration, noise and, most importantly, how the rock breaks.

“By taking chemicals to the mine and formulating explosives in the blast hole, we also eliminate some of the hassles of transporting hazardous explosives to the mine. With chemicals, transportation is very similar to the methods applied when transporting oil and gas. They are less volatile than the old dynamites, which were particularly hazardous during transportation,” explains Tose.

Further, he points out, another important consideration is that with the elec-tronic system and manipulation of timing, one is able to blast without undue noise, one hole at a time, decreasing rock vibration, which could be detrimental and hazardous, especially when blasting in a city or suburban area.

Tose highlights that AEL is committed to raising blasting safety levels higher than present safety levels. As a result, it is working on the complete elimination of lead in the environment as nitrates have a negative effect on the ground and, through the reduction of these elements, AEL will be able to reduce the impact of those chemicals on the ground.

“We are also looking at making the electronic system wireless in the future, which would eliminate the use of all wires and allow even more control in the environment where the blast is taking place,” he concludes.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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