WorldWide Drilling Resource

11 MAY 2021 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® Blasting Through 2020 ~ A Look Back at Significant Innovations Compiled by Carol C. Schimpf, Editorial Assistant WorldWide Drilling Resource ® The year 2020 may have been a dud for many, but the drill and blast folks did not sit by idly waiting it out. Several significant innovations burst through the dark haze of the pandemic and presented improved safety and efficiency for blasting. These technologies can remove the need for mine workers to be close to the hazardous conditions created by drill and blast activities, and autonomous drill and blast systems do not need breaks, shift changes, or other human workforce necessities. Add in the enhancements these systems offer for precision and consistency, and it’s no wonder many projects have been launched to drive innovation in this area. Leti, a research institute of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), and Davey Bickford Enaex, part of Chile-based global explosives and blasting solutions major Enaex, announced they have a new, wireless system offering increased safety, flexibility, and productivity gains to the blasting market. The new system consists of electronic detonators with bidirectional radio modules placed on the mining pit’s surface. The wireless network communicates with a digital blasting system located a few miles away from the blasting zone and is controlled by a wireless communica- tion protocol specifically developed and optimized to ensure safe, reliable, and synchronized operation of hundreds of detonating elements in open-pit mines. The key innovation is the wireless activation of the detonators, which can be powered up, programmed, and reconfigured by means of an easy-to-use remote programming unit operating through a safe and dedicated optical link. In Australia, Newcrest Mining’s Cadia Valley underground mine in New South Wales successfully tested new technology from MacLean Engineering and Orica in a 30-day evaluation. The site used remote drilling, loading, and wireless blasting to remove workers from major hazards. As part of the trial, Newcrest tested MacLean’s new secondary break drill and blast sys- tem, Automated Explosive Charger, as well as Orica’s Wireless Blasting System (WebGen 100). Secondary break activities are used when oversized rocks require explosives, with workers accessing the area to wire up each conventional explosive used. MacLean’s system removes workers from these secondary break activities. Using a prototype “bolt-on” piece of equip- ment which attaches to existing secondary break drill rigs, the Auto Explosive Loader can drill a hole into a rock and push the wireless explosive inside the hole without the operator leaving the cab of the drill rig. After the operator removes the drill rig and leaves the area, the explosive can be remotely detonated using a wireless device by Orica. Orica also teamed up with Epiroc to develop a prototype of the world’s first semiautomated explosives delivery system, Avatel™. The system provides complete and repeatable control over blast energy from design through to execution. Avatel is a twin boom, semiautonomous and fully mechanized development charging solution allowing a single operator to complete the entire charging cycle from the safety of Epiroc’s enclosed Roll-Over Protectio n Structure and Falling Object Protectiv e Structure certified cabin. Automated or digitized drill and blas t operations have the potential to improv e productivity and increase profit margins at mine operations while enhancing work- er safety. As 2021 charges ahead, thes e innovations promise to ensure the right explosives will be safely delivered into the right holes, given the right timing to achieve optimal efficiencies, and yiel d the desired outcomes. Editor’s Note: In between our prin t issues, the WWDR Team prepares an elec - tronic newsletter called E-News Flash . This newsletter is filled with articles not includ - ed in our print issue. Based on readership , this was the most popular article of th e month. Get in on the action and subscribe today at: EXB