PRIMING OF EXPLOSIVES If an explosives column is not initiated properly, its optimum energy cannot be generated.

A change in the configuration or type of initiation, priming or boosting can lead to a significant increase in blasting efficiency. The terms “primer” and “booster” are often confused. The Mine Safety and Health Administration USA (MSHA) defines primer as a unit of cap-sensitive explosive used to initiate other explosives or blasting agents. A primer contains a detonator or other initiating device such as detonating cord. The primer cartridge should be assembled at the work-site. The transport of cap primers is a hazard and is against the regulation of most countries. Priming should be done correctly as in Figure 1. The primer cartridge must not be tamped nor dropped into the blasthole. When priming blasting agents, the primer should have a diameter which is close to the diameter of the blasthole.

A pentolite booster is made up of a mixture pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and TNT.600 m/s.Figure 1: Correctly assembled primer cartridge A booster is a cap-sensitive explosive but does not contain a detonator. The most common used boosters in Malaysia are the pentolite boosters. Its purpose is to maintain or intensify the explosive reaction at a specific point in the explosive charge along a blasthole. 2 . It is a specially manufactured explosive that can produce a high velocity of detonation (VOD) such as cast boosters that have VOD of 7.

This distance is called the run-up distance. the full steady-state VOD is generally attained some distance away from that point. The run-up distance varies between explosives. 3 .Figure 2: Cast boosters Priming When an explosive column is initiated at a point. ANFO has the maximum (about six charge diameters) and PETN/TNT explosives have the least (about one charge diameter) as in Figure 3.

provided that its diameter is close to the blasthole diameter. 4 .000 m/s is not considered stable. carried out by Swedish Detonic Research Tests Foundation (SVEDEFO) showed that a Dynamex M (NG based explosives) primer cartridge initiates ANFO directly to its full velocity. This will ensure that ANFO will reach its stable velocity in a shorter time and the blasting agent will explode efficiently. Figure 4 shows a primer that has a stable detonation velocity greater than the ANFO stable detonation. The same result will be obtained with an Emulite 100 or now renamed as Emulex 100 (AN based emulsion explosive) primer.Figure 3: Run-up distance of two types of explosives A VOD less than 2.

5 . The steady state velocity depends on the density.Olofsson Priming of ANFO When ANFO is efficiently primed it rapidly reaches its steady state velocity of detonation and maintains it. the confinement and particle size of ANFO as well as the blasthole diameter.Figure 4: Effect of primer on velocity of detonation (VOD) . The VOD increases as the blasthole diameter increases and reaches its highest value at a blasthole diameter of 300 mm as shown in the table below.

800 4.200 4. The primer may initiate the ANFO with low order velocity (VOD lower than the steady state VOD) or overdrive velocity (VOD higher than the steady state VOD).The steady state velocity of ANFO for different blasthole diameters Blasthole diameter mm 89 102 152 270 VOD m/s 3.400 The purpose of a primer is to initiate the ANFO so that it rapidly reaches its steady state velocity. Low order initiation is caused by a primer being too small (Figure 5) or too low detonation pressure. 6 .700 3.

7 . Most of the energy is wasted. the more effective a primer will be in initiating ANFO. as it takes more explosive in reaching the steady state VOD.Figure 5: Effect of inefficient primer. The velocity distance curve (Figure 5) shows that it takes approximately the length of four blasthole diameters. In general. Figure 6 shows how various types and sizes of primers affect the distance from the primer at which ANFO reaches steady state VOD. the closer the primer diameter is to the borehole diameter. The low energy initiation in the bottom of the blasthole may have serious effect on the blasting result.

an ANFO charge may have a 10 m column. Thus the bubble or the gas energy has more time to work near the bottom to move the toe before explosion gases escape through the fractured rock. If this charge is bottom primed. Top versus bottom initiation In large diameter blastholes in bench mining. the stemming and the top part of the burden are not affected by the detonation until 2.5 ms after initiation. 8 . and its VOD of 4 000 m/s.Figure 6: Effect of primer diameter on ANFO VOD.

Figure 7: Effect of primer quality on ANFO VOD (After ICI) 9 . and hence greatly reduce incidence of misfires. particularly in blastholes ≥ 150 mm in diameter. Qualities of a primer Four properties of primer have a significant influence on its performance.The practice of bottom priming provides a much lower probability of cut-offs. i) Detonation pressure: An effective primer should have a minimum detonation pressure of 5 000 MPa (Figure 7).

ii) Diameter: The primer should match the hole diameter as closely as possible. however. In this test a low sensitivity explosive column.67 times the blasthole diameter (Figure 6). together with the primer. After the explosive is detonated. run-up distance shorter than the primer length). which shows the results of a ‘double-pipe tests’. is loaded into a 80 mm diameter steel or plastic pipe. iii) Length: It should be sufficiently long for maximum VOD to be reached (that is. the depth of the dent produced along the witness pipe is measured and plotted (as in Figure 8). 10 . its diameter should not be less than 0. iv) Shape: The importance of shape can be seen in Figure 8. It can be concluded from this graph that blast results can be improved without any increase in primer mass. The charged pipe is then placed on top of the heavy duty steel ‘witness pipe’.

after detonation.Figure 8: Effect of size and shape on primer performance (after AECI) Booster Sometimes. The boosters can be placed at appropriate intervals (about 30 times the blasthole diameter) to increase the VOD along the explosives column. This may arise when an ANFO charge is contaminated with water. 11 . a low sensitivity explosive may show signs of losing the VOD progressively along its column. Boosters can be placed at appropriate spots where the ground is especially hard and requires extra pressure for satisfactory breakage.

Figure 9: Charging of explosives into the blastholes 12 .