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Courtesy of one of AMCs Directors, Perth-based Lawrie Gillett, who cannot recommend Eden Pakis work highly enough

Eden Paki is the Drill & Blast Supt at Newcrest Mining Limiteds Cadia Valley Operations near Orange in NSW where the current open pit mining rate is around 80 Mtpa. Eden already had substantial mining experience before moving to Cadia, including 7 years D&B work for Roche at KCGMs Superpit in Kalgoorlie followed by working with Macmahon on D&B at the Mt Todd Gold Mine in the Northern Territory. Despite his more than full time job at Cadia, Eden has also been acting as a sounding board for Newcrests Telfer Project Feas Study open pit mining team in the areas of assessing D&B requirements for the project and how best to

satisfy those requirements. In the process of helping the Telfer team, Eden has offered guidelines based on his experience and these are summarised below. They include formulae which have been developed by others (apologies in advance to authors of the formulae for not being able to acknowledge them!!!) and these formulae have gained good acceptance amongst open pit mining D&B practitioners. Eden asks that the reader bear in mind that the guidelines were put together for practical, operations based in-house assistance to his colleagues and, as such, do not pretend to be an exhaustive or scientifically rigorous treatment of the subject.

Eden of course points out that there are always site specifics which must be taken into account in any mining determination, but AMC suggests that Edens guidelines provide an excellent start point. AMC has also found Edens guidelines to be consistent with its discussions with drill manufacturers and suppliers, blast hole drilling contractors and drill bit suppliers. We thank Eden for his cooperation in agreeing to provide his guidelines to the broader mining community through Digging Deeper.
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There are a number of combinations that can be used for Burden to Spacing ratios etc, especially when blasting in unfamiliar territory. When I encounter this, it is usually prudent to go back to basics and apply a few well accepted principles or rules of thumb. You will generally find that most rules of thumb, require either the hole diameter or burden to calculate what other parameters will fit into the puzzle. The following are fairly common rules of thumb used throughout the industry when designing blast patterns. Burden = 25 to 35 hole diameters. Spacing = 1.2 to 1.5 burdens (for large diameters e.g. Greater than 140mm) or around 1.5 to 1.8 for smaller diameters. Stemming = 0.7 to 1.3 burdens. Keep in mind that if you select a larger bench height, the stemming column could have an impact on the diggers productivity, especially if you are looking at digging in flitches. For instance, if you were to dig a 12m bench in three (3) flitches, then the loading tool would be digging through the stemming column. This is the area where you are more likely to encounter oversize, therefore productivity would be much lower than the other two (2) flitches. Bench Height 4= 0 to 50 hole diameters. Obviously this can usually change in accordance with the bench height requirements of the loading tools. Subdrill = 8 hole diameters. This can be increased for the face rows to around 10 to 12 hole diameters. Powder Factors Governed by budget, mine to mill processes and, to a lesser extent, ground hardness. Hole Diameters Essentially governed by the required average material size. There are many different perceptions on what determines the hole diameter, but I personally select a hole diameter based on the size of the loading equipment, and any other material constraints placed upon me by the milling process (finer material means higher throughput). You must find the middle ground between the two at which point the higher cost of increased powder factors, or drill & blast costs outweigh the savings received from the milling process. Blast Size I always tend to look at going for the largest achievable blast possible. This means a reduction in infill drilling, reduction in initiation costs, reduction in blasting frequency, which means a reduction in blast affected production delays. Altogether, a reduction in cost. When talking blast size, I refer to the overall volume of the blast. Vibration and timing (scheduling) and physical restrictions such as the time taken to load, tie-in and fire the blast play a more limiting factor on the size blasts that I elect to use. Blast Width I find this to be more important than overall blast size. I have a tendency to look at maximising the blast width, while minimising the blast depth. Of course this is constrained by the bench and mine plan, but where the real estate is available to do so, I would elect to go with 68 row shots that go on for as far as possible. When looking at minimising the blast depth, I refer to minimising to around 6 rows in depth not fewer. This provides excellent displacement (if that is the desired result), delivering excellent muckpile looseness. Fragmentation is also maintained which means that productivity is maximised. As a base, I tend to favour the material size required to allow for productive mining by the selective loading tools given that the hole diameter determines the burden and spacing. Until you can substantiate the mine to mill process at the mine, then ultimately this should not determine the drilling and blasting practices (dont pour money into the process until you can quantify and accurately measure it). Ground hardness can also affect the hole diameter selection process, but this can be addressed through powder factors. Critical diameter for explosives can also affect the hole diameter but as long as you are looking at larger than 76mm blast holes, then this shouldnt be an issue.

Blast Depth Blast depth can get you into trouble, both through productivity issues and through the cost required to minimise the effects on productivity. I have trialed various blast depths over time, trying various techniques such as increased powder factors in the back rows, or altered burdens and spacings, adding delays to give a second front etc, however have had mixed success in my efforts. Essentially, the largest impact of blast depth is muckpile looseness. Higher powder factors can be introduced to ensure that fragmentation is maintained in the back rows of the blast, however it is very difficult to provide a free face that allows sufficient displacement to give productive dig rates. Blast patterns that are greater than 8 rows, are generally tighter to dig on the back few rows. The lack of a free face in front, means that the material is choked therefore becomes tighter to dig. Additional heave is also a result which, although providing some relief, is generally confined to the upper reaches of the muckpile, and not the lower and middle sections where the shovel/excavator bucket spends most of its time. The higher face created from the choked rows also creates a hazard due to the higher face height. Larger rocks, generally encountered in the stemming collar are now higher in the digging face, meaning that cooler packs on face shovels become prone to accident damage. Choke Firing Related to the above, choke firing has its positives and its negatives. Choke firing allows for minimal disruptions to the scheduling process, as a digging unit does not need to free face a blast and walk away. Instead, the digging unit can continue digging through the area with the choke shot being fired prior to the material in front running out. The negative of choke firing is muckpile displacement (which is actually a positive for grade control) and looseness or lack of. Higher powder factors are generally used also, to ensure that fragmentation is maintained, as due to the confinement of the blast, the energy tends to vent up and outwards. This can mean poor fragmentation, especially at the toe. Maximising free faces is always the best option (productivity wise) however, choke firing can be a necessary evil especially in a gold mining environment.

Explosives Density As a general rule, the harder the rock, the higher the explosives density. You require more shock energy in harder ground. For rock with a density of around 2.6 to 2.8, I would look at using an explosive with a density of 1.2 to 1.3. Further, as I am going to a high density explosive, I would look to maximising the usage of heavy ANFO based explosives as opposed to pumped product, as the heave properties of the augered product allows for better muckpile looseness. Number of blasts per blast day Determined by labour. I would recommend blasting no more than once per day, with no more that two (2) to three (3) shots at a time. Any more and you start to have problems relating to preparing the blast on the day (tie-ing in the shot), clearing the pit for blasting, firing the shots and clearing the blasts after firing. These can be very time consuming and could result in a delay for blasting taking up to an hour. I would not recommend planning to tie in the blast the day before, purely for safety reasons (also increases the risk of misfire through human interaction or natural events such as wind and storm). Number of blasts per week Once again I would look to minimise this. I try to schedule blasting to a maximum of 3 times per week. Any more and you start feeling the effects of delays to production caused by blasting, plus the strain starts to tell on the blast crew through the frequency of tasks such as tie-ing in a shot. This means that mistakes tend to creep in, plus complacency becomes apparent. It is preferable to dedicate whole days to purely charging and stemming operations, which also gives the blast crew adequate relief between each shot. Misfires

become a rare event, as opposed to a hazard that is dealt with on a regular basis. Stemming Size If you are looking at increasing the blast hole diameter, I would recommend the use of crushed rock for stemming. A rule of thumb is that stemming size should be between 10% and 15% of the hole diameter. Drill cuttings used in holes greater than 127mm tend to eject, giving minimal confinement. The better confinement offered by the crushed rock also gives you the opportunity to reduce the stemming column, thus improving the overall fragmentation.

compressive strength of the rock being drilled. A basic formula to determine the pulldown requirements of drilling with rotary is as follows: P = (D x C) / 5 Where P = Required Pulldown, D = Hole Diameter in inches and C = The rock uniaxial compressive strength in PSI. For example, if you were drilling a 251mm hole in rock with a UCS of 260 MPa, the following would apply: 251mm = 97/8; 260 MPa = 37,710 PSI P = (97/8 x 37,710) / 5

The table below is an example of the above rules of thumb applied to an example set of project parameters. You will note that my Burden to Spacing ratio is on the low side I have actually found that equilateral patterns give a great result (Burden = 0.867 of Spacing) however, they do cost a little more in the long run. Please also note that I have elected some fairly simple pattern sizes. Where possible, I would suggest that you err away from using dimensions such as 4.1 or 5.9. What tends to happen is that operations will look for a simpler dimension working in half metre increments rather than 0.1 decimals. Pulldown is another factor that you must consider when selecting a hole diameter. This is especially important when drilling rotary (note that an 8 hammer is the largest commercial hammer on the market today other larger hammers are generally made for specialist purposes other than production blasthole drilling). The pulldown requirement is usually governed by the hole diameter, and the P = 74,530 lbs Using this number to assist you in drill selection should go a long way to ensure that you have the right drill combination to suit the application. Imperative in this is selecting a drill that will achieve your desired targets comfortably, unlike the mistake made at one project where the drill selection was aimed around maximising the output of the drill through minimising the cost of the initial purchase. Drill manufacturers will state that their units are capable of drill hole diameters ranging from 165mm to 270mm however, they are not recommended to be run under load for extended periods of time. In order to achieve the 270mm, the engine, pumps and rotary head will be under maximum load. The unit is capable of achieving this, however you will find that over time, in order to sustain this diameter, you are in fact drastically reducing the life of the drill and its components. Further, you may find that a drills performance is reduced when operating for long periods at the upper ranges of the drills capabilities. I cannot provide operating data to evidence this view, however it is a qualitative observation made from experience. The last thing to consider when looking at hole diameters, is the size of the drill pipe associated with that hole diameter. Drill pipe affects your uphole velocity (also bailing or annular velocity) which, in turn affects the performance of the drilling consumables and the wear characteristics of your drill string. A higher uphole velocity, created by a smaller annulus will drastically increase the wear on your hammers, subs and drill rods, however a lower uphole velocity may mean that youre not sufficiently lifting the drill cuttings out of the blast hole.

Parameter Pattern Burden x Spacing Explosive Density (g/cc) Hole Diameter (mm) Burden (m) Spacing (m) Burden/Spacing Ratio Bench Height (m) Subdrill Length (m) Stemming Length (m) Stemming/Diameter Ratio Powder Factor (kg/bcm) Explosive Mass (kg per hole)

187 mm Diameter 5.5 x 6.5 1.2 187 5.4 6.5 1.20 12.0 1.5 4.5 24.1 0.70 297 6 x 7.5 1.1 187 6.0 7.5 1.25 12.0 1.5 4.5 24.1 0.50 272

251 mm Diameter 7.5 x 9 1.2 251 7.5 9.0 1.20 12.0 2.0 4.5 17.9 0.70 564 9 x 10.5 1.2 251 9.0 10.5 1.17 12.0 2.0 4.5 17.9 0.50 564

short. The cause is claimed to be outside I have worked on 7000 to 8000 feet per minute for fresh rock, going for the upper limits if that material is also wet and down around 5000 feet per minute for softer materials. A formula for calculating uphole is as follows: This phenomenon, in my opinion, compromises V = (Q x 183.33) / (D2 - d2) Where V = bailing velocity, Q = compressor output in CFM, D = Hole Diameter in inches and d in drill pipe diameter in inches. For example, if you are selecting a drill with a compressor output of 1150cfm, drilling a 251mm hole with 8 1/2 drill pipe, the bailing velocity would be: 251mm = 97/8 V = (1150 x 183.33) / (97/82 - 81/22) V = 8,345 ft/min You can go to a smaller hole diameter to achieve the same result, however you must ensure that you have sufficient air capacity on the drill to achieve an optimal bailing velocity, e.g. 1,450cfm. Last but not least, when considering varying hole diameters, consideration must be taken as to the difference between the hole diameter and drill pipe combinations available. The 81/2 drill pipe used in the example above for the 251mm hole, is too large to drill a 187mm hole. Therefore, in order to use this configuration you would need to change your drill string every time you wish to change hole diameters. This requires labour, cranes and, most important of all, time. The optimal drill pipe size required to drill a 187mm hole, will be too small to effectively run the 251mm rotary bits at the end of the day this is due to bailing velocity plus flex on the rods. Most mines today operate on an organisation chart that is pared to the bone. It shows just enough people, if they were all available, to run the mine safely and efficiently. But most mines dont have those people available. It has become common for a mine having a technical and management complement of, say, 15 to run chronically three or four positions Peter McCarthy managements control, because there is a general shortage of experienced professionals and they are highly mobile. New vacancies arise as quickly as positions are filled.


Redundancy is essential in engineering and systems design. It is why a jumbo jet can lose an entire electrical circuit and continue flying. It is why your car brakes are still effective after losing a brake circuit. When we prepare a feasibility study for a new mine we specify a range of management, technical and operating positions in an organisation chart. Traditionally, the redundancy allowance (sickness, leave and absenteeism) was around 12% of the complement. This didnt really allow for replacement of specialists, who were required to arrange their work so that they could take annual leave. We assumed that if unusual circumstances led to higher absences, additional appointments would be made to provide the necessary redundancy.

the safe and effective working of the mine. Production variability rises due to a lack of planning and process control, leading to a loss of profitability and to accidents. Both of these outcomes should be unacceptable to management and to boards of directors. The solution is simple. Build some redundancy into the management chart. If the bare bones management chart requires 15 technical people, make it your aim to employ 20. With the chronic shortage still applying, you may sustain 15. The same principle applies for operators. And guess what? Safety and profitability will improve, despite the higher employee cost. I have been an expert witness in more than thirty underground mine accident cases and I believe that the cultural causes of accidents are hard to quantify. However, it is easy to prove, using employee records, that a mine was understaffed. I think that the causal link between under-staffing and safety could be demonstrated. Some operations are adequately staffed and can demonstrate this. If your operation is not, then I think that you are exposed. As a director or manager you might turn your thoughts to redundancy. Merry Christmas.


mineABILITY will present a Mining and Tunnelling under Extreme Conditions short course in Melbourne 1415 April, 2003. The course adopts an integrated approach to solving problems encountered when mining and tunnelling under extreme conditions. The five presenters have a wide range of overseas and local experience and will highlight the interrelationships between the rock mass character, groundwater conditions, effective ground stresses and feasible construction methods. Case histories will be analysed that illustrate the need for timely implementation of the most appropriate ground remediation. The course leaders are Dr Nick Barton from Norway, who developed the widely used Qsystem for classifying rock masses and for dimensioning rock tunnel and cavern support, and Dr Eda Quadros from Brazil, who has over 25 years research experience in fluid flow through jointed rock. Dr Barton has consulted on numerous tunnel and cavern projects, reservoir subsidence, rock stress measurement, nuclear waste disposal and embankment dam projects in a total of 26 countries over the last 30 years. He has received several international awards for his development work in rock tunnelling and jointed rock behaviour. For further details, contact David Pollard (phone 08 8362 5545, email or Marnie Pascoe (phone 03 9670 8455, email

By Ingvar Kirchner & John Tyrrell One aspect of resource modelling that is commonly misunderstood, or underestimated, in terms of its significance, is the issue of compositing of raw sample intervals in drillhole data. Compositing is done specifically, to provide common sample support for geostatistical evaluations and grade interpolations. Some of the issues that AMC routinely considers when determining an appropriate composite size are:
s s s

Consider the geological aspects

Narrow reef/lode type structures are often too narrow to require or retain any estimated grade variation across the width of the zone. Therefore, composites should span the entire width of the zone with a single interval. It may be suitable to use service variable methods for interpolation in order to address the issue of variable sample support. Where broader or mixed zones are being modelled, the block dimensions become more of a factor. It is rarely appropriate for the composites to be larger than the relevant block dimensions, given the requirement for similar support between block and composites. However, composites can be smaller than the block dimensions. In this case, the support issues can be addressed through appropriate discretisation parameters an array of points within each block are used to generate individual estimates which are then averaged to provide the block estimate. Compositing, through combination of data, inherently smooths the data and alters its statistical characteristics. Sometimes compositing is used to intentionally reduce the variance of the data to reasonable levels, and hence improve the quality of the variogram. The degree of smoothing imposed by the compositing process needs to be monitored. Before and after compositing histograms of the grade data will help to visualise the changes to the grade distributions. This is especially critical where the zone/domain being modelled is marginal to lower cut-offs likely to be applied later on for reporting. Standard compositing routines tend to allow specification of a minimum composite size to retain, with some software defaulting to a value that is half of the chosen composite length. Where downhole compositing is used with It is apparent that different zones/domains may require different compositing methods. Similarly, composite runs controlled by zone/domain boundaries, it is possible that critical data may be lost at those boundaries. Narrow vein, lode, or reef type zones may also inadvertently lose data where the short length composite intervals fall below the minimum composite length threshold due to the narrow width of the zone. There are residual retention type compositing processes that can be used to overcome these issues without resorting to very small minimum composite lengths, which can produce a negatively skewed distribution of sample lengths and corresponding sample support problems. A major issue is the effect of compositing on selectively sampled or selectively assayed data. Where data is incomplete and biased towards higher grades (a common feature of the selective sampling process), compositing has a nasty habit of inflating those high grades and then causing hot spots in the model, particularly where those high grades are not bound by adjacent low grades in the same hole. Dealing with selective sampling/assaying issues is always hard, but sometimes unavoidable. In this case, the best strategy is probably to avoid using composite intervals that are significantly larger than the common sample intervals, thereby attempting to minimise the inflation of those grades over multiple/larger composite intervals.
Comparison of Raw versus 2m Composites Log Histogram 14/11/2002

The common raw sample lengths. Data quantity issues. Average zone/lode estimated true widths and degree of internal definition required from the estimates.

s s

Block size and bench heights (support issues). Data variability and the potential amount of pre-estimation smoothing of the data. Loss of data at zone/domain margins. Selectively sampled/assayed intervals.

s s

Generate a histogram of the raw sample lengths in each zone/domain

Quite often the bulk of the sampling will occur at some common interval (eg 0.5/1.0/2.0 metre intervals etc). It would be unwise to use a composite interval that splits up (or is smaller than) the larger common raw sample intervals termed decompositing. Decompositing of larger intervals tends to cause a downward bias in the data variance and causes some bias in the rest of the statistical results. The initial effects can be seen in variography (lower variance values, increased ranges) and lower coefficient of variations, and this can lead to other downstream problems. If the composite size is too large, the amount of data available for the statistical analysis, variography and grade interpolation will be significantly reduced with a corresponding drop in the quality of the results.


AMCs website ( now has a comprehensive consultant search facility which provides a detailed and accurate listing of AMCs consultants, who can be selected on the basis of profession, expertise, commodity experience and country experience (hyperlinks to email addresses are provided). This new search facility complements the full range of resumes available on the website. Go to Staff on the sidebar and click on Consultant Search

different elements may require different compositing methods within the same model. When choosing composite intervals and method, a very considered, careful approach is required. For further information, contact John or Ingvar on or respectively

In todays world the concept of 24/7 is well established. Airlines talk about seat utilisation factors, supermarkets are open 24 hours, and the local milk bar has been replaced with a 7-Eleven, which never closes. Why?

When we benchmark a mine one of the areas we look at is production variability. We look at two features, variability relative to budget, and the variation on a month to month basis relative to the peak monthly tonnage. Figure 1 is the distribution of monthly tonnage relative to peak monthly tonnage for the 25 underground mines on our database. The data set ranges from Beaconsfield at 100 ktpa, to Olympic Dam at 9 Mtpa. The average is 83%. That is, on average, underground mines use 83% of their demonstrated capacity. Alternatively, in Australian underground mines, there is on average an opportunity to reduce capacity costs by 15%. Our experience in benchmarking is that demonstrated capacity is normally a lot less than theoretical capacity. The budget story is not much better. On average, at the 3 standard deviation level, mines deliver 20% of what they planned to do. This is illustrated in Figure 2. There are many causes for the level of variability. However, they all boil down to a need to better forecast actual production, and making sure that alternative sources of ore are available to cover for unexpected problems.

What does this mean to the consultant? Two things. Firstly, when designing a mine and making equipment selection, be aware of capacity constraints. Try to avoid over sizing. Make sure in schedules that multiple ore sources are available. We normally find for the average mine (1.0 to 1.5 Mtpa), a minimum of 3 to 4 stopes are needed to be available to bog at any one time. Less than that, equipment tends to have lower utilisation. The second is that when a client asks how they can improve their performance, have a look at their variability. It might not solve everything, but it sure is a good start. If you want to know a bit more about capacity costs and variability, look up Johns paper entitled Why Cost Cutting Fails to Deliver under Mine Planning in AMCs Reference Library at Or for more information, contact John de Vries, Principal Mining Engineer with AMC, at

Its all about utilisation, the ability to use available capacity fully. For airlines it means selling cheap seats on the midnight flight, for supermarkets it means dodging the shelf packers late at night, and the 7-Eleven is well known for the midnight munchies. So what does capacity utilisation mean for mines? In Optimisation we spend a lot of time talking about capacity costs. Capacity costs are those costs that you incur when adding a unit of capacity. Buy an additional loader and you have to pay for manning, supervision, maintenance, insurance, leases and ventilation. All these things must be paid for, in full, before you can use the loader. These upfront costs are the capacity costs for the loader. That is they are the costs you have to pay, to create the option of using the loader. They are not as most people think, fixed costs. If instead of adding a machine you take away a machine, capacity costs become potential savings. Fixed costs dont go away.

Figure 1: Production Relative to Peak Monthly Production 25 Underground Mines 20002002

Figure 2: Ratio of Actual to Planned Tonnage 25 Underground Mines 20002002

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