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Upcoming BME Conference to Focus on Blast Technology

Modern technologies to boost operational efficiency – helping mines survive the extended commodity slump and position them for stronger growth – will come under the spotlight at BME’s 24th annual Drilling and Blasting Conference at the CSIR, in Pretoria, on 3 November.  
All BME emulsion delivery equipment is fitted with electronic control and information systems for the reporting of daily blasting activities All BME emulsion delivery equipment is fitted with electronic control and information systems for the reporting of daily blasting activities

BME is a supplier of explosives and services to the African mining, quarrying and construction industries.

The company reports that among the exciting line-up of expert papers is news of ground-breaking progress in applying emulsion explosive to the underground mining environment – including a portable charging unit, a pump controller information system, and a vertical feed system directly from the surface.

“While underground mines are generally both labour and capital-intensive, BME has been hard at work developing innovative tools for efficiency,” according to the authors, technical manager (underground) John Truter, regional manager (underground) Selwyn Pearton and senior operations manager (underground) Neil Alberts.

They will report on the success of BME’s portable charging unit (PCU), a technologically advanced emulsion pump for use in narrow reef mining operations – delivering BME’s range of Megapump emulsion formulations.

“Enhancing the impact of this new product is BME’s new pump controller information system, which will increase operational transparency and allow for faster decision making,” said the authors. “The system supplies statistical and operational data on amounts of emulsion used, thereby controlling waste and improving efficiency.”

They will also talk about the BME’s pioneering vertical feed system – a pipeline to drop emulsion from surface into underground silos with no product degradation or chemical change.

“We have already installed the world’s longest vertical emulsion pipeline at 318 metres, and are now confident that depths of up to 2,000 metres are safely achievable,” they said.

Improving mines’ bottom-lines is also the focus of Tony Rorke, director of Blasting Science at BME, who will present useful methods of blasting along final pit walls to allow optimal angles.

“Steepening a final pit wall by about five degrees can save a mine hundreds of millions in unnecessary waste removal,” said Rorke. “Normally the rock mass dictates a pit wall angle but poor blasting technique can lower the quality of the rock, thus causing unsafe final walls and – in extreme cases – could trigger wall failure.”

Based on proven and documented theory, his paper covers blasting impacts in terms of presplit blasting, trim blasting, vibration control and drilling.

“Electronic delay detonators impact the method of blasting due to the flexibility of the timing that can be achieved and the elimination of cut-offs,” he said. “These detonators have allowed new methods and controls in final wall blasting that were previously unattainable with non-electric initiation systems.”

Getting optimal blast results through fragmentation modelling is the topic to be addressed by Dr Mick Lownds, international consultant to BME, who will compare the results of precise, programmable electronic timing with imprecise pyrotechnic timing.

“Optimal blast results are achieved with inter-hole and inter-row delays in the range of milliseconds per meter of spacing or burden,” said Dr Lownds. “Delays that are too short or too long lead to poor fragmentation results.”

He said the inherent scatter of pyrotechnic delay blasting can cause timing errors of several milliseconds; when one detonator fires early or late, it results in a pair of holes with a too-short interval and another pair with a too-long interval – both adversely affecting the blast result.

Looking at continuous improvement in blasting practice, Quantal Response principal Aaron W Austin will discuss the application of the methods and tools of Lean Six Sigma to mining and blasting – using examples including various geographies, mine types and change tools employed. Austin will address scopes limited to drill and blast, and extending into the comminution and ore recovery processes.

“Whether Lean thinking is applied to drill and blast practices, or monitoring fuel quality with control charts, the examples prove that this suite of tools and methodology – originally developed to address manufacturing in controlled environments – can be applied to the challenges encountered in the pit, on the bench or at the face,” he said.

Neal Stanton of Colorado-based BME North American Business Development will examine how cold weather can impact blasting productivity, product performance and profitability.

“Blasting in Canada has its unique challenges,” said Stanton, “cold weather being one of the most significant environmental elements that will challenge a blaster and blasting products.”

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