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Safer blasts shield communities

An image of mine blast

DETONATE IN 3, 2, 1 Master Blasters blast volumes range from 10 000 m3 of rock to 300 000 m3 of rock a month

21st October 2022

By: Leah Shelene Asaram

Features Reporter

     

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Explosives and blasting contractor Master Blasters uses only the safest primary and secondary explosives – resulting in the least damage to the environment and impact on surrounding communities – for blasts.

Explosives can produce toxic gases after detonation; therefore, the company uses explosives that have an oxygen balance of close to zero, with no harmful carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide released from the blasts as gaseous products of combustion, Master Blasters CEO Dean Pather explains.

He notes that newer mines and quarries often face resistance from communities as they fear the negative effects of blasting.

“We extensively consult, inform and educate neighbouring communities on blasting and explosives, and how our blasting techniques do not generate harmful effects to fenceline communities or the environment.”

Configuration management techniques and quality-management principles, as well as a comprehensive and evolving safety, health and environmental management system, are fundamental to the company’s procedures, which result in the best possible drill-and-blast service to clients.

Pather adds that all stakeholder concerns are addressed and factored into blast designs from the onset.

Moreover, in accordance with the company’s business model of training locals and forming joint ventures with local companies, where possible, communities form part of the drill-and- blast function and financially benefit from the mine or quarry’s operations.

“Our experience has proven that a well-informed and involved community is a huge asset to our blasting projects.”

Pather says environmental consciousness is a key consideration of the company when selecting explosives and, as such, the emulsion of choice is formulated using recycled oil or alternative fuel.

The emulsion performs favourably when compared with commonly used ammonium nitrate fuel oil, as it produces a higher velocity of detonation and is water resistant, resulting in a product that is highly effective and efficient in opencast mines.

Further, as the emulsion is coupled with an electronic initiation system, the Master Blasters solution provides greater flexibility in terms of blast timing designs, he adds.

The initiation system’s software allows for blast planning, design and analysis – from the initial blasthole layout to the blasthole detonation sequence. The electronic detonators also allow for controlled vibration, airblast and muckpile shape, in addition to finer rock fragmentation and smooth highwalls being produced.

Pather says the software also provides crucial post-blast data that enables the company to constantly improve blasting standards.

A culmination of poor selection of explosives, inferior blast design and poorly controlled blasts will result in poor-quality blasting that will, in turn, generate toxic fumes, excessive dust, noise and flyrock.

“We combat these issues by ensuring that our clients’ requirements and the sites’ geotechnical data are factored into our drill-and-blast design, which is executed using strict quality-management principles.

“Master Blasters designs bigger blasts, as they are less disruptive to neighbouring communities than smaller, more frequent ones,” he adds.

Blastholes are drilled precisely to the correct burden, spacing, depth and location, and the most suitable explosives –which are loaded to the optimal charge length for the desired powder factor and effect – are chosen for the project.

Every blasthole is tamped with the correct quantity and quality of stemming material.

“Base emulsion is a Class 5.1 oxidising agent, which becomes an explosive only after being sensitised with the gassing agent at the blast site. “This drastically improves the safety of our transport personnel and blasting crews,” says Pather.

Further, he notes that an efficient drilling process, well-maintained drilling equipment that minimises downtime, using fit-for-purpose explosives and perfect blast execution enable Master Blasters to consistently meet its client’s and all relevant stakeholders’ needs.

This also enables the company to not only maintain low costs but also provide highly competitive rates for clients.

Along with constant personnel training, clients and relevant stakeholders have the assurance and confidence that using explosives in mining, quarrying and civil projects can be conducted safely, effectively and efficiently, Pather concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor

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