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Optimum Blasting Techniques for Surface

Optimal Blasting Practice

Optimum Drill & Blast

Old definition:
Optimum drill and blast is achieved when the broken floor stocks are
produced at the lowest cost per tonne for a particular mining rate

New definition:
Optimum drill and blast is approached when the valuable mineral
is delivered for downstream processing in such a way and form
that the cost of the finished mine product is minimised

What is Needed for Optimisation?


Mine Requirements
Blast Design
Blasting Practice

STRATEGY for improving overall mine efficiency

DIRECTION of attack on the problems to be overcome
TOOLS to carry out the work
COMMITMENT from the top down to improving performance
SUPPORT from drill, explosives, loading unit and truck suppliers for the
TIME to carry out the work and implement the changes.

Optimisation of Blast Design

Blast optimisation is complicated by the fact that, while the D&B
process may not change, all the circumstances, inputs, even desired
outputs, may
This means that our optimisation process has to remain as flexible as
Because things change, no correct answer lasts very long. We strive to
satisfy a series of criteria which define as Success

Common Perceptions of Success

Good fragmentation

Who decides what is good? Shovel Productivity, Dragline Productivity?

Maximised recovery of valuable mineral

Structure and quality dependent, cost/benefit

Minimised dilution/coal loss

Processing cost vs coal value dependency

Maximised geomechanical stability

SAFETY, reduced wall stability costs,
Minimising the cost per unit benefit will maximise
profitability of the whole operation

Blast Damage
Fragmentation is blast damage inside the blast area
Blast damage is fragmentation outside the blast area
Impact of Blast Damage:

Reduced safety in blasting and excavation

Increased ground support costs
Increased oversize and secondary breakage costs
Difficult drilling and loading for the subsequent blast
Unplanned increases in stripping ratios
Reduced coal recoveries
Wasted energy = wasted $

Optimum Drill & Blast

What is required to move an operation along the curve in the direction
of Optimum Drilling and Blasting?

A Team approach

Understanding the process

A shared definition of what is understood by Optimum


A Team Approach
The efficiency and cost effectiveness of the Drill and Blast process,
affects (and is affected by) a number of different groups within the mine
If you can be part of the problem, you deserve the chance to be part of
the solution
An enhanced perspective is brought to the process as well as
additional sources of important information:


Design engineers

Drilling/Explosives contractors and employees

Production and Process Plant staff

Understanding the Process

At least some understanding of the overall process is important if changes

are going to be made which have the desired effect

This includes some understanding of;

How explosive and rock interact

How rock breaks

What aspects affect performance of different explosives

How drilling performance can make life easier (or harder) for blasting

How fragmentation affects loader and truck fill factors and


How fragmentation affects comminution processes

How rock mass damage affects mine economics

A shared definition of Optimum

A decision has to be reached on the optimum economic
performing state of the mine, including:

What fragmentation should is required

What trade-offs between variables are legitimate (eg Higher

productivity Vs wall damage, grade control Vs diggability)

Drilling costs versus accuracy and therefore effectiveness of charge


These decisions should be based on hard cost

These decisions should be effectively communicated
down to all involved members of the operations

You get what you inspect, not what you expect!
Measurement tells the optimisation team where on the cost
effectiveness curve the operation sits
Measurement can tell the blasting engineer:

Whether the blast is firing as is expected

Whether the explosives/initiation systems are functioning as
specified by the supplier
Whether the drill holes are being placed where the explosive
is needed
What remedial action may be required to improve the

Measurement is a way of finding out what you dont know

Once measurement produces data, these must be
converted into Information through a process of Analysis

Vibration traces must be interpreted

VOD traces need analysis and interpretation

Shift production reports need interpretation in order to identify

gaps between what equipment is doing and can it achieve

Ultimately measurement needs to be analysed and the

results portrayed in financial terms
Analysis of measured data must lead to a cause and effect
understanding which can be used to redefine practices and
communicate the results back to the operators

Measurement of Performance
Both quantitative and qualitative measures can be used to
assess performance improvements

Quantitative measures are objective and less prone to

interpretation if correctly selected prior to the trials

Qualitative measures are inherently subjective and difficult to

justify to a critical audience

Data need to be collected over a representative period of

time so that trends can be accurately detected and credibly

Evaluation of the Results

Use both quantitative and qualitative measures
Most mine recording or statistical packages are set up to generate
daily, weekly, monthly statistics for accounting purposes
This can make it difficult to gather data on a shot by shot basis
Develop the data recording system and identify suitable sources
prior to beginning the trials
Use both critical and control KPIs:
Critical KPIs are those that are required to improve for the
project to be considered successful
Control KPIs are those that cannot be allowed to
deteriorate as part of the changes undertaken in the project

Evaluation of the Results


Loading unit productivity

Haul unit cycle times

Coal plant downtimes and throughputs

Dilution, coal loss, coal plant feed

Floor levels

High wall stability

Evaluation of the Results

Use of Monthly Statistics

Excavation rates averaged over a time frame

Crushing rates averaged over a time frame

Number of and length of crusher delays due to rock blockages

Time spend on crusher clearances and secondary breakage

Amount of dozer time spent ripping toe

Evaluation of the Results

Use of costing data
Maintenance costs

Non-scheduled maintenance

Equipment availability

Ground Engaging Tool life

Secondary breakage costs

Boulder counts

Dozer time on oversize and pushing down to excavators

Explosives costs

Blast delays

Evaluation of the Results

Coal loss and reconciliation with planned tonnages

Total excavation cost per tonne (averaged)

Loading cost per tonne for coal & OB

Haulage cost per tonne for coal & OB

Cost per tonne of coal railed

Optimum Fragmentation
Minimise oversize boulders (less secondary blasting)
Minimise coal fines production
Maximise saleable product
Waste fragmentation small enough to ensure efficient digging and
loading (Topsize max ~1/3rd bucket size)
Muckpile loose enough for fast cycle times and full buckets

Fragmentation - Loader Productivity

Benchmark Blast


Finer fragmentation







Loading Productivity (tonne/hr)



Optimum Muckpile Shape

Pit geometry
Loading machines

a) Front end loader

b) Shovel

Wall Stability
Recovery from wall failures is almost
always costly and time consuming

Coal Loss & Damage

Designed low wall


Key cut

Edge loss

Edge movement

Minimise Seam Roof and Edge Losses

Non-variable Drill and Blast Parameters

Fixed Parameters and/or Conditions
Geological Structure
Overburden material type
Size and shape of deposit
Distribution of coal seams
In situ stress field conditions
Water presence
Required mining Rate

Variable Drill and Blast Parameters

Variable Parameters

Hole length
Hole diameter
Burden and Spacing
Explosives product selection
Priming type and location
Initiation timing
Pattern type
Pattern dimensions

Hole Length
Fixed by bench height & sub-drill/standoff
Blasthole Deviation influenced by:
Hole Length (directly proportional to length
for a given diameter)
Diameter (inversely proportional to
Rock Structure

Hole Diameter
Large diameter holes:
Lower cost per BCM relative to smaller hole diameters
Greater accuracy
Higher powder factor
Poor explosives distribution (for constant powder
Increased burdens and spacings
Longer stemming lengths
Potential for larger top size within blast block
Risk of more oversize from front of blast (due to back
break from previous blast)

Hole Diameter
Small diameter holes:
Higher cost per BCM
Accuracy decreases with increasing length
Lower powder factor
Improved powder distribution (for constant powder
Reduced Burdens and Spacings
Reduced stemming lengths

Burden & Spacing

The volume of rock (B x S x Bench Height) effected by the
blasthole will directly influence:
Increasing burden and spacing will increase top size

Increasing bench height will increase fragmentation for same
Increasing burden and spacing will decrease displacement for
same bench height

Increasing burden and spacing (confinement) will increase
vibration for a given PF

Stemming is the critical variable for confinement
Length of stemming column (min 20 hole dia)
Material type (cuttings or crushed aggregate)
Ideal Stemming
Angular material
~5% to 10% of hole diameter
Minimal fines
Deck loading
Control of vibration

Deck Charging
Damage control
Air decking above or below the charge
Vibration control
Reduced confinement of blast gasses
Variable Geology
Explosives placed opposite hard bands
Explosives Consumption
Decking in softer material to reduce PF while maintaining
explosives distribution)

Explosives Selection
Matching the energy delivery to the rock type and
Hard brittle rock requires significant shock
component (high VOD)
Softer rocks benefit from greater heave (Lower VOD)
Hole size controls energy distribution and effects
explosives selection via critical diameter
Higher inert content in explosive will require
greater diameter for stable detonation
Larger particle size requires larger diameter for
stable detonation

Delay Interval Selection

The delay interval used will directly effect:

Dilution/coal loss
Wall stability
Muckpile distribution

Related to:
Burden (workload imposed)
Rock (density, energy absorption)
Fragmentation requirement

Matching Timing to Rock Type

Efficiency of Explosives







Effective Interburden Timing ms/m


Effect of Insufficient Effective Burden Time

If explosives columns do not have sufficient opportunity to
create internal burden relief:
Energy will be released into the atmosphere due to
stemming ejection due to over-confinement
Holes with good stemming will crater and throw rock
behind the blast
Energy will be transferred into the ground or
neighbouring rock strata through vibrations and
Minimal lateral movement or swell will cause hard
digging conditions, oversize and toe

Poor Blasts Due to Insufficient Timing



Insufficient Inter-burden
Time To Produce Sufficient
Burden Relief Between Rows


Poor Blasts Due to Insufficient Timing




Insufficient Delay Time

Stemming Ejection Due to

Insufficient Time to Generate
Internal Burden Relief

Insufficient Delay Time

Optimum Effective Burden Timing

Maximizes the effective rock fragmenting potential of an
explosive design
This contributes to:
Powder Factor Reduction
Lowered Drilling Costs
Reduced Vibration and Airblast
Reduced Fly Rock and Stemming Ejection
Increase to Mines Bottom Line

Blast Optimisation Process

A cross-cyclic process allows both actual and design data to be
combined to produce the best result.

conditions, objectives
blast design, input/output
predict, analyse
implementation, performance
manage the process, optimise the outcomes