Blasting technology and services company Bulk Mining Explosives (BME) has launched the next generation of its XPLOLOG blasting control real-time data solution to help mines achieve optimal blasting results to support mining efficiency.
“It is important to have quick access to data on drill holes, explosives and other blast-related indices to ensure quality blasting on a regular and consistent basis. If blast engineers and management can see the progress of blast preparation in real time, they can respond quicker to deviations that might compromise the control and fragmentation of each blast,” says BME Software Development product manager Christiaan Liebenberg.
“The digital revolution is giving mines valuable stepping stones towards progressively smarter mining. As blasting is an early-stage activity in the mining cycle, it can impact significantly on the efficiency of subsequent stages. Mines are looking to fast-evolving blasting technology to do this,” he says.
The new generation of XPLOLOG, part of BME's Blast Alliance suite of digital blasting tools, builds on its cloud-based, data-storage principle, giving users quick and detailed insight into all critical aspects of blast block preparation.
Ranging from hole depths and priming to charging and stemming, this data can be logged into an Android tablet and synchronised to a cloud database, he adds.
Users log a range of data from the blast block using an Android device provided by BME. Starting with the drilled depth of the hole, the application (app) is populated with data on priming, charging and stemming.
There are various scenarios that the app accommodates to trigger the relevant action, for example, where water is identified in a hole, a sleeve may need to be inserted. Unplanned holes may also need to be drilled where rock hardness or a collapsed hole prevents continued operations on the original planned hole.
“As data is being input, XPLOLOG is doing the necessary calculations in the background. If a hole has been overdrilled, for example, the app will calculate the new volume of explosive required to be pumped by the mobile manufacturing unit,” Liebenberg says.
If the device is within range of a WiFi signal or if it has a subscriber identity module card to link to a cellular signal, the data can be uploaded to the cloud instantly. This feeds into a redesigned and enhanced XPLOLOG dashboard, which other users can access on their mobile devices or computers, and get up-to-date progress on work being conducted on the blast block.
“Users can explore specific data on every hole, such as comparing the design depth and charge versus the actual depth and charge. The reporting function has also been upgraded considerably, giving users customised reports that save them time and are readily shared with others,” Liebenberg adds.
Default templates are also available and users can configure their own reports and save their preferences for future use. This makes for higher productivity for blast engineers and management, and delivers professionally designed reports ready for presentation.
Another new feature is a cross-sectional view of every hole, providing insight into the progress on a hole, including the amount of charge and the stemming length.
The user management functionality has been revisited, consequently enabling mines to manage their users. This is more efficient, as mine administrators can quickly add or change user details, he notes.
Further, the dashboard’s summary view provides users with a high-level perspective of all key features of the block, including outlining all the holes that have been drilled and their tolerances, as well as highlighting which holes have been charged and stemmed. Views can be easily customised by every user, and the system will remember their preferences.
“XPLOLOG can also import blast design files from third-party blast design software. Application programming interfaces also enable mines to pull down data from XPLOLOG into their own information technology infrastructure and databases,” he highlights.
XPLOLOG is being put to work at a large opencast mine in the Northern Cape, and this iteration has been designed by customers. The ground-up redesign was done in collaboration with a technology partner that conducted face-to-face feedback sessions with existing users. This systematic approach has allowed for customer priorities to be built into the design.
“We were able to fine-tune our improvements by understanding what users want when navigating the app or inputting data. Specialised design validation techniques using cameras were also applied to assess the user experience at different stages in our development process,” Liebenberg says.