The Cost Savings Metrics of Electronic Blasting
Charles Darwin once said it’s “not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”
One glance at the modern world is enough to see how right he was — but the rules of biology and the rules of industry are not exactly the same. In biology, you can be intelligent but unresponsive to change. In commercial mining, there really is no difference between the two. If you’re not looking to the latest technology and applications to make your job site more productive, it’s impossible to say that your approach is very smart.
And what changes require a response from operators? Environmental conditions, technology, competition, laws, brand perception, and even changes in personnel — the list is long, and there’s no set blueprint. Response to change is demanded in unique ways at every work site.
The effects achieved during the blast phase, for example, require adjustments to various downstream processes in order to optimise workflow and yield — especially if the drill and blast team is not using superior technology and expertise to execute the blast. Results are unpredictable, often falling short of expectations. Now you’re in a position where response to change is vital.
Here comes another important point: The difference between responding and reacting.
A reactive approach would be using outdated tools and methods, and assuming that downstream operations will have to be adapted depending on how the chips fall. A responsive approach would be learning from past mistakes, leveraging the best electronic detonation technology, and tapping the expertise of people who know how to get the most out of those advanced systems. The result will be improved walls, decreased dilution, and higher levels of productivity. Operators who approach their own operations with this kind of responsiveness end up with elevated safety standards, fewer blast days, increased productivity, and reduced overall blasting spends. It’s all part of the overall benefit of responsiveness.
But if Darwin were consulted on whether or not to use electronic blast initiation systems, he would need more than a few fleeting assurances. That’s true for any good scientist. Likewise, commercial operators should value facts over theories. They should seek reliable data and cost analysis when it comes to new applications.
However — because mining technology has evolved quickly, and continues to do so, it’s not always easy to find dependable cost analysis data on electronic blast initiation. Leaders in the industry will publish their own, and make a case for their relevance. But to operators, the only relevant facts are the ones that dependably point the way to sound decisions and greater success.
Firing large multiple blasts in the one firing window (Multi-blast), for example, must be extrapolated in clearer terms if operators are expected to invest time and money. From our own experience, we’ve found it useful to find connections between size of blast, blast days, hours, and shifts. Larger blasts fired with fewer blast days result in fewer blast hours and increasing shift efficiency— and thus overall gains for operators.
In a large mine, reducing the number of blast days by half, for example, could add up to an extra week’s digging time. Likewise, the use of electronic blast systems allows operations to continue loading rather than stopping for ‘tie-up’ day as the detonators are programmed ahead of time as you load. This allows operations to increase the size of the blast and have a ‘fresher’ blast crew at the end of shift. The efficiencies gained may also allow operators to trim the number of Mobile Processing Units (MPU) and associated services. This alone will produce savings, as services can be account for 15-30% of total drill and blast costs.
Expanding your patterns with electronics is another exciting chunk of data that hasn’t been exploited the way it could be. With a 10% expansion over a standard pattern as a minimum and up to 20% in some scenarios, significant savings to drill and blasts costs are achievable.
Our conclusion is that operators should be vigilant in seeking hard data to validate their strategic decisions at their own site over a significant period to truly realise value. The benefits of electronic detonation are real, and facts do exist to back it up. Knowing and understanding the facts is what makes you not merely reactive, but truly responsive. That’s the key to adapting in the high-pressure environment of 21st century mining.
This article originally appeared on www.daveybickford.com