Monday, 16 September 2019
How Does Digital Blasting Improve the Bottom Line?
Austmine Limited
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How Does Digital Blasting Improve the Bottom Line?

Martin Vasilescu, Country Manager Explosives, Davey Bickford Enaex

Best practices for mining operations, whether open-pit or underground, are always in the process of being re-defined. We see that today more than ever, with unprecedented technical and social challenges facing the industry, and a barrage of new technology rising up to meet those challenges.

For example, the ability to use sensor-based sorting to automatically differentiate between ore and minerals holds enormous promise from a productivity standpoint. So does the ability to learn property densities through a process of X-Ray diffraction. But some of these technologies are too embryonic, too expensive, or too unproven in the field to be adopted by small or medium-sized mining operations.

For example, Rio Tinto is among the earliest players to roll out autonomous haul vehicles (including trucks and trains) on a large scale. Other companies who can afford the investment are following suit, and the economic benefits are starting to become clearer. Rio Tinto has estimated that its driverless vehicles, which make up more than a quarter of the fleet at certain Australian mining sites, have resulted in a cost savings of 15% over manually operated vehicles.

IoT solutions for real-time equipment monitoring, and drone technology for real-time site mapping, are two more examples of meaningful innovation that could contribute to a stronger bottom line. But again – how strong is the evidence today? To what extent are the benefits proven, and what’s the barrier to entry?

Uncertainty is, of course, not always a reason to shy away from making a bold move. But for many mining houses, it’s preferable (and far more feasible) when some aspect of the operation can be improved in a clear and documented way, leading to multiple downstream benefits, and without a high barrier to entry.

Digital blasting fits this profile. That’s why so many different mining operations – large and small, open cut and underground – have embraced it. So how exactly does digital blasting contribute to a stronger bottom line?

1. Bigger blasts and reduced downtime

A lot of people argue that blasting is the most important moment of the mining process, and they’re probably right. It’s a highly-strategic and complex operation that requires a substantial amount of downtime. When blasts are relatively small, more blasting and more downtime are required. One of the major benefits of digital blasting is that blasts can be bigger and more surgical, which directly reduces costly downtime.

2. Improved fragmentation

The quality of fragmentation achieved by the blast is critical to what comes next: excavation. Experienced operators know that poor fragmentation leads to a slower and more expensive excavation process. It also creates more waste and can reduce the stability of the wall. The superior fragmentation achieved through digital blasting relieves those pressures before they occur.

3. Reduced vibrations and fewer blast days

Being a more responsible member of the community has always been a mandate for mining companies, but these days, social license is more of a factor than ever.  When done right, digital blast engineering produces significantly lower vibrations than traditional blasting methods.

A concrete path to a better bottom line

Even with the move toward automation and site-wide IoT monitoring, digital blasting will stand as one of the most important quantum leaps in the whole history of mining. The results of a quality blasting operation link up to all of the key downstream processes, from excavation to circuit-crusher throughput. The ease of pressure can be felt throughout the production chain, and it can be seen on paper when the day is done.

But isn’t just the hardware that gets results – it’s the engineering and expertise behind it. Davey Bickford-Enaex is committed to innovating next-generation blasting systems, demonstrating excellence in their application, and delivering results that improve safety and the bottom line of every mining site. There is a lot of room for innovation in the world of mining today, but it doesn’t get any more concrete than this.

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