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Electronic blasting and blast management

Technical Service – Field Support, Orica Germany GmbH
R &D Electronic Blasting Systems, Orica Germany GmbH

ABSTRACT: Since blasting was introduced in mining as part of the production process, blasting technology
and blast management have been interconnected. Over the past decades Orica Explosives has gained experi-
ence with electronic blasting systems in mining, quarrying and construction. In the beginning the primary fo-
cus of electronic blasting was to increase the timing accuracy. Over time the technology gradually developed
and opened up new possibilities such as flexibility in blast design and full function verification. Furthermore,
modern electronic blasting systems are designed to allow easy two-way transfer of information between the
office based blast management software suite and field equipment. Blast management systems comprise a
suite of expert systems for planning, documentation, analysis, measurement and prediction of blasts. The blast
design software SHOTPlus®-i is an integral part of Orica´s blast management suite, which allows to transfer
blast design information to the hardware of the electronic blasting system. This paper briefly describes the
history of blast management. In the following a modern blast management suite is presented, which provides
a link between the electronic blasting system and the blast design software. Finally an outlook gives an im-
pression of tomorrows integrated blast management systems.

1 BLAST MANAGEMENT IN CHANGE OF planning and engineering have been important form
TIME the very beginning of civil blasting. Blasting tech-
nology as part of the production process and the
In the 12th century the use and manufacture of black evaluation of blast performance has therefore been a
powder was developed in China. But it took more key interest of mine operators to improve cost effi-
then 200 years, before black powder was introduced ciency of the operations.
in blasting for civil purposes in Europe by Bertold The first blast management tools were developed
Schwartz. to evaluate the basic geometric parameters of
The first civil blast in an underground ore opera- benches or stopes before and after blasting.
tion - documented by Casper Weindel - took place in Drilling and blasting parameters were controlled
the German “Harz” mountains in 1627 (Petzold et al. by the use of “plumb and scale”, a method which is
2000a). still commonly found in surface production blasts
nowadays. The capability to measure geometric pa-
rameters was the basis for an improved engineering
and blast management. The first measuring tech-
nologies made use of gravity, position of sun and
stars and the magnetic field of the earth.

Figure 1. First documented blast in underground mining.

Since mining activities always have been - and

still are - a time and cost intensive business, accurate
programs can be considered as the standard tools in
a blast management suite.
Furthermore such a suite may comprise different
programs for surveying, cost calculations, equipment
planning, vibration modelling or for distinct model-
ling of muckpile displacements, etc.. The different
software tools typically require dedicated databases,
even though the input parameters are in many cases
essentially the same. The missing common platform
for the software tools makes the mine planning
process very complicated, duplicating work at many
stages of the product cycle. In top only highly
skilled specialists can apply the software tools.
Figure 4 shows the standard programs (Power-
Sieve®, Sabrex, SHOTPlus®-i) of Orica’s blast man-
agement suite and the interconnection to the elec-
Figure 2. Early days of blast management . tronic initiation system i-konTM .

The next generation of optical tools was devel- Electronic blast design

oped to enable engineers to measure distances (e.g.

burden and spacing). These new tools allowed to
transfer a reference scale to any place in the blast
Electronic initiation
site. The next important step was the development of
precision tools for measuring distances and angles
and the ability to calculate other distances and an-
gles on basis of the measurement results.
Fragmentation analysis

Figure 4. Orica’s standard blast management suite for an elec-

tronic blasting system.

After blasting the fragmentation analysis results

can be used for a calibration of the prediction model.
Input parameters are type of explosives, initiation
system, the rock mechanical characteristics of the
ground, hole length and diameter, burden and spac-
Figure 3. Optical tool for trigonometrical measurements. ing, the delay timing, etc.. Over the time and with
continuous calibration of the prediction model the
Today sophisticated measuring tools – based on quality of the prediction - like fragmentation, heave,
different measuring principles (magnetic-field, opti- shape of wall - becomes more realistic. The results
cal scale, gravity, laser profiling, etc.) – and dedi- of the prediction model can then be used for optimis-
cated software programs are available for planning ing the blast design of the electronic blasting system.
and control in mining industry. The input parameters of Orica’s standard tools share
the same data bases, so that the time and work re-
quired for carrying out an analysis is minimised. The
2 ELECTRONIC BLASTING AND BLAST blast design software SHOTPlus®-i provides the link
MANAGEMENT to the digital blasting system i-kon™.
SHOTPlus®-i has been specifically designed for
The standard software tools in a blast management use with the hardware components of the electronic
suite are programs for fragmentation analysis, for blasting system. These are: the digital detonator, the
blast performance prediction and for initiation de- Logger for logging, testing and programming the
sign. The later can also be part of the prediction detonators and the Blaster for firing the detonators
software. A variety of such programs all with differ- (Petzold et al. 2000b).
ent capabilities are available in the market. These
Figure 7 shows an example of a blast design on basis
of an import of mine data.

Blaster400 Blaster1600S

Detonator Logger Blaster

Figure 5. Hardware of the i-kon™ Digital Energy Control Sys-

Figure 7. Blast design on basis of mine data.
SHOTPlus®-i provides a simple and convenient
way to design a blast, to carry out some basic design Each blast hole in the design can be edited to
analysis and to create pre- and post-blast reports. show the specific design parameters.
The software is available in two different versions:
SHOTPlus®-i surface, for use in surface applications
and SHOTPlus®-i underground, for use in under-
ground applications.
The application interface in the surface version
consists of a top line main menu, a series of tool but-
tons on the left hand panel and a bottom status line.
The button tools are grouped according to their func-
· Viewing
· Drawing
· Measuring distances
· Blast design (explosives, primers, stemming,
Figure 8. Design parameters for a single blast hole.
hole length, diameter, angle, pattern, number-
ing or names, harness wire)
The main menu contains standard menu items
· i-kon detonator delay time design
found in most applications for managing files. Fur-
· logging sequence.
thermore the software contains a Quick menu for the
common actions, a View menu for managing the in-
formation currently displayed, a Calculations menu
for evaluating the blast design and a Tools menu for
selecting less common tasks.
The calculations menu allows simple initiation
calculations to be performed on the blast design. En-
tering a calculation mode will display the results
within the edit window:
· The visualise command shows a representation
of the firing sequence of the detonators at dif-
ferent display speeds (Figs. 6, 9).
· The first movement displays a representation of
the direction of first movement of material
based on the hole firing times.
· The burden relief gives the amount of time de-
lay per metre of burden across the blast.
Figure 6. SHOTPlus®-i Surface: application interface and visu-
alisation of blast sequence. · The angle of initiation shows the timing con-
The resulting blast design is shown in plan view, · The time envelope shows the hole deck firing
but does contain X,Y and Z coordinate information. times and allows to check the amount of explo-
The software also allows to import text file data in sives per delay time.
either the standard DXF (AutoCAD) format or from · The quantities calculation displays the number
a file formatted with columns of data. Apart from of detonators, the amount of harness wire, and
the pattern and hole information this includes also the amount of explosives consumed in the
the mine specific numbering/names of the holes. blast.
· Logger data enables the download of the design time for logging of the detonators is considerably
to the equipment and the post-blast upload to reduced, because the delay time must not be entered
the design file. manually at the hole. The logging process only
serves to register the unique names of the detonators,
The underground version allows planning and when SHOTPlus®-i is used. As a result the operation
viewing a blast design in three dimensions. The ap- speed is comparable to a tie up with non electric
plication interface with the available menus and detonators.
tools is essentially the same as in the surface ver-

Today’s blast management suites are typically miss-

ing a common platform that allows an easy transfer
of input and output parameters to other tools of the
suite of programs. As a result the work involved dur-
ing blast management is often more time consuming
then necessary and the planning process inefficient.
However, Orica has addressed these limitations and
is currently building an integrative blast manage-
ment suite, which increases the efficiency of the
blast management process.
If the overall planning process of a product life cycle
in a mine is considered, the same problems are en-
countered. Many different expert tools require dif-
ferent databases. In many cases this implies that the
Figure 9. SHOTPlus®-i underground: application interface and
visualisation of blast sequence.
work involved during the planning process is dupli-
cated and becomes more complicated then neces-
After a blast has been designed, the design infor- sary. An easy way for a transfer of analysis results
mation for the electronic blasting system, like the from one step in the planning process to the subse-
name of the row, hole numbers and detonator delay quent step is often not possible.
times in the holes is downloaded into the Logger. In the future all the information and the whole engi-
neering during the planning process will be covered
by an integrative mining software suite that shares
the same data platform. The output of the first expert
tool used in the mine planning process can then be
Pre-blast used as an input for the next tool in the planning
download process. All the different data bases (geological and
rock mechanical characteristics of mineral and
ground, explosives, mining equipment, cost calcula-
tions, ...) could be used from a common platform,
which supports the whole planning process. This
would significantly improve the overall efficiency of
the planning process.


Petzold, J. & Hammelmann, F. 2000a. Zündtechnik im Wandel

Figure 10. Download and upload of data to electronic blast der Zeit. Nobelhefte. Heft 2000: 1-17
equipment. Petzold, J. & Hammelmann, F. 2000b. The second generation
of electronic blasting systems. In Holmberg, R. (ed), Pro-
On the bench or underground the detonators must ceedings of the 1 st World Conference on Explosive & Blast-
be logged in the designed sequence with the Logger. ing Technique, Munich, Germany, Sept.6-8, 2000: 159-164.
Rotterdam: Balkema.
To allow for the required flexibility on the bench,
the Logger enables to add detonators or holes that
were not considered in the design, or to leave out de-
signed detonators or blast holes, in case detonators
are missing or holes are not drilled. The required