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Geological Controls on Drilling and Blasting Operations - Trevor Little

Geological Controls on Drilling and Blasting Operations - Trevor Little

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Geological Controls on Drilling and Blasting Operations - Trevor Little
Geological Controls on Drilling and Blasting Operations - Trevor Little

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EXPLO CONFERENCE / MELBOURNE, VIC, 8 󰀭 9 NOVEMBER 2011
 63
INTRODUCTION
This paper addresses the conference theme ‘controlled
productivity’. In particular it deals with the inuences, controls
and constraints that geology imposes on many aspects of
drilling and blasting design, operations and results. Figure 1 illustrates this t to the conference theme.
There are many man-imposed controls on blasting prod-
uctivity, such as: legislative (safety, dangerous goods, security, environmental), community (safety, social, heritage, and emissions), explosive user requirements (safety, sus- tainability, procedures, rosters, economic leverage), and technology (hardware, software and knowledge). This creates
a lot of ‘noise’ and it is possible for some operators to lose sight of the controls imposed by nature.This paper provides an integrated and conceptual approach to the understanding and importance of blasting geology and attempts to show that almost every aspect of blasting
is inuenced by aspects of the rock mass geology. Central
to this approach is the notion of ‘starting at both ends’ which
is depicted in Figure 2.
Beginning with the end in mind
This notion of ‘beginning with the end in mind’ is expressed  by Little (1999a) as the blasting objective. Formulating this objective is the critical step to leverage  blasting operations. In other words, the objective is to make
small improvements to the blasting operation to obtain a large economic gain.
1.
MAusIMM, Principal Consultant, TNLC Blasting Geomechanics, Suite A, 20 Cinnabar Place, Carine WA 6020. Email: trevor.little@tnlc.com.au
Geological Controls on Drilling and Blasting Operations
 T N Little
1
ABSTRACT
This review paper presents an integrated and practical insight to blasting geology and its
importance. This approach involves developing blasting objective up front and implementing geology specic blast designs. The author refers to this approach as ‘starting at both ends’. There are many human-imposed controls on blasting operations, such as: safety, security, legislative, company standards, heritage, and environmental constraints. Thus it is possible for
some operators to lose sight of the controls imposed by nature. This paper demonstrates how site
geology controls or inuences many aspects of the rock breaking processes and how a focus on
this aspect has potential to add considerable value to mining operations. It is obvious that mining
companies concentrate their efforts on economic/ore geology (good rock geology). However it is the author’s experience that they also concentrate on engineering geology (bad rock geology) only  when forced to do so by the ground conditions, but seem to run out of puff before they apply  blasting geology (big rock geology). This paper contains ve main sections. In the rst section, the impact of geological controls on blasthole drilling is briey discussed in terms of drill selection, penetration rates, bit wear,  blasthole stability, blasthole deviation, and health precautions. In the second section the geological controls on aspects of geometric design are reviewed. These include: hazardous minerals, valuable minerals, selection of the blasting techniques, geological structures, blasting direction, and
 blasting geometry. Section three overlaps with the geometric design section and deals with aspects
related to explosives. Topics addressed include selecting the explosive type based on geology, distribution of explosive charge in space and time, explosive performance, and the rock response to explosive loading. In the fourth section, examples are given of the operational complexity needed to implement a blast to cater for difcult bench geologies, environment constraints, past mining (voids) and need for a high degree of quality control. Section ve demonstrates geological controls on blast results. Blasting results include the muck pile characteristics, downstream handling and processing, damage to the remaining rock, and blasting emissions.
FIG 1
- Alignment o this paper with the conerence theme.
 
EXPLO CONFERENCE / MELBOURNE, VIC, 8 󰀭 9 NOVEMBER 2011
T N LITTLE
64
‘Beginning with the end in mind’ involves the following stages:
developing a mine and mill process model;
identifying site specic economic leverage points;
determining which points are sensitive to blasting;
formulating blasting objectives;
prioritising any conicting blasting objective, setting operational targets, establishing a continuous improvement
loop; and
determining procedures for implementation.
Little (1999a) also provided examples of blasting objectives for civil, surface mine and underground mine
 blasting applications.
Starting at the beginning
The drill and blast function at a mine is to supply suitably
fragmented geological material using commercial explosives.
‘Starting at the beginning’ involves developing a sound understanding of the geology model and the geological materials and structures that will be encountered during  blasting operations. Thus this model is intimately related
to the physical properties of the rock mass and the mineral composition, which are dependent on their origin and
mode of formation. The geological model is used as the  basis for development of the engineering geology model for
drillability, blastability and blast damage. It should be noted that geologists can have a major role here to ensure that the
geological model is not misinterpreted and to assist with
renements required to develop the engineering geology
 blasting models.
Starting at both ends
The idea of ‘Starting at both ends’ was introduced by Little
(1999a), to combine the previous two concepts simultaneously.
It involves having a clear and upfront understanding of the
 blasting objectives and geological environment. In other  words, drill and blast operators, in conjunction with mining geologists and geotechnical engineers, should be ‘starting
at both ends’. This will enable blasting operations to progress
 with condence and also have the exibility to add renements in an efcient manner. It should be noted that unlike some other elds of engineering, blasting has a relatively short feedback cycle that is measured in weeks, which can be both
a blessing and a curse.
GEOLOGICAL CONTROLS ON BLASTHOLE DRILLING
In this section the geological controls/constraints on
 blasthole drilling are briey discussed. Geology controls the rate of penetration, the amount of bit wear, the stability of the drill hole, and in the case of longer and inclined holes,
the hole deviation. The mineralogy can also dictate operating
practices and requirements for specic personal protection equipment and/or decontamination procedures.
 Drilling and blasting are intimately linked operations.  If drilling is not carried out properly, blasts are unable to provide muck piles having the characteristics required for subsequent operations. Optimum drilling is a pre-requisite of optimum blasting
(Hagan, 1983).
Blasthole drilling performance is assessed by whether the
hole is drilled within specications. For example hole diameter, depth, stability, position, and deviation. Also whether relevant rock mass information is obtained. The economics of drilling can be severely compromised if the drillability (see Figure 3), turns out lower than expected. This may be due to difculty
FIG 2
- Starting at both ends (ater Little, 1999a).
IGNEOUS ROCKSSEDIMENTS
UNCONSOLIDATED SEDIMENTARY ROCKS
FRESH MASSIVECONTAINS QUARTZLITTLE OR NO QUARTZ
LOW 
 
LOW LO
 
LOW  MEDIUM HIGH 
GEOLOGICAL ORIGINGEOLOGICAL AGESTRUCTURE & WEATHERING
FRESH FRACTUREDWEATHERED/ DECOMPOSEDHIGH QUARTZLOW QUARTZ
MEDIUM HIGH HIGH 
 
HIGH HIG
 
HIGH LO
 
LOW LOW MEDIUM 
HARD SILICIOUS ROCKS
OLDER ROCKS (CARBONIFEROUS & OLDER) QUATERNARY SEDIMENTSYOUNGER ROCKS (PERMIAN & YOUNGER
MEDIUM FINE SANDS & CLAYS
MESOZOIC & TERTIARY SEDIMENTS
CONSOLIDATED SEDIMENTARY ROCKS
GRAVELS & BOULDERS
DRILLABILITY
METAMORPHIC ROCKS
FOLIATED
LOW MEDIUM 
Modified from  ADIA 2006
FIG 3
- First pass guide to drillability.
 
EXPLO CONFERENCE / MELBOURNE, VIC, 8 󰀭 9 NOVEMBER 2011
GEOLOGICAL CONTROLS ON DRILLING AND BLASTING OPERATIONS
65
to maintain hole stability, lower penetration rates and/or excessive bit wear.In order to keep this paper to manageable size, only a brief
summary of the ‘geological controls on blasthole drilling’ will
 be given here:
 
The selection of the drill rig and the bit design is done on the basis of the geology. 
 Amount of drilling required to fragment a volume of rock
is controlled by the geology. 
Penetration rate is controlled by the mineral composition
and micro-fabric, eg porosity and quartz. It is also controlled by elastic/plastic behaviour, the mechanical rock properties, the rock mass conditions, and discontinuity networks present.
 
Bit life depends on the percentage of minerals with a
hardness (abrasiveness) greater than that of steel.
Hole stability is controlled by the rock strength and sensitivity of the wall rock to the atmosphere, water and/
or stress relief. 
Deviation is affected by geological structures especially
for long, inclined and small diameter blastholes.
 
Presence of hazardous mineral can inuence the drilling practice and health and safety provisions required.
GEOLOGICAL CONTROLS ON BLAST GEOMETRY
In this section the controls that geology places on the geometric design parameters are reviewed. This concept is not new and is probably better considered as ‘blast design
modied to t the geology’. Figure 4 shows that the rock type, discontinuities and weathering/alteration patterns inuence  burden and spacing dimensions. Discontinuities can be taken in account when selecting the blasting direction. Also shown is that the orebody characteristics inuence the blast method.
Controls due to hazardous minerals
The relationships between certain mineral assemblages and
 blasting safety hazards was the subject of a paper by Little and Blair (2011). The high inherent safety risk consequences identied included: premature explosion, geothermal outbursts, asbestosis and mesothelioma, uncontrolled yrock, opening safety (falling from a height), reballs, secondary dust explosions, and misre safety. Figure 5 illustrates the hazard and the unwanted consequences for eight hazardous ground conditions. These all add operational complexity.
Controls due to valuable minerals
The impact of valuable mineral distribution (grade) on blast design geometry will be discussed here. In ore blocks the  blasting objective nearly always relates to grade control and in particular minimising ore/waste mixing which results in
dilution if sent to the processing plant and ore loss if sent
to the waste dump. Figure 6 shows the economic leverage for ore mining to be a high degree of selectivity. For waste
or overburden mining the economic leverage relates to high production rates.
Geology and selection of the blasting techniques
The selection of the appropriate blasting technique is to
a large degree controlled by the geology of the deposit.
Table 1 shows nine different geological environments based on deposit geometry (simple, moderately complex, complex) and variability (coefcient of variation – COV). Examples of
deposit for each geological environment are also given. The
appropriate blasting methods are also identied using the following denitions:
 
selective blast – only single material type being blasted, for example: waste, ore, overburden, coal;
 
 bulk blast – more than one material type being blasted, for example: ore and waste (grade control blasting); overburden and coal (through seam blasting);
 
 bench blast – blast using a subvertical free face;
 
paddock blast – blast ring to a horizontal free face; and
 
 buffer blast blast ring to a buffer rock pile (not differentiated in the tabulation).
Controls due to rock strength properties
In the rst example, rock strength and porosity properties are used to control spacing and burden design. The example relates to Mt Whaleback Iron Ore Mine, in Western Australia and is based on the work on Bellairs (1986). Table 2 provides
suggested design changes based on ore type and characteristics.
FIG 4
- Blast design modified to fit the geology.

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