BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s (BMA) Caval Ridge Mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin now holds the title of the world’s largest electronic blast.
The blast, which occurred in December 2019, saw 4.7 million cubic metres of overburden shifted in a blast fired with 2,194 tonnes of bulk explosives across 3,899 holes.
Caval Ridge Drill and Blast Superintendent, Dallas Gostelow, detailed that the blast was loaded over 14 days and involved engineers, schedulers and the E and F Blast crews. It also required a combination of four related blast patterns, using 8,144 detonators – a number which the miner had never set before at the one time.
Mr Gostelow said there were significant safety, efficiency and cost improvements to be made using the electronic blasting technology.
“Timings for the detonators are fully programmable and each blast hole is physically connected to the surface by a wire, but the systems is less complicated and fully digitised, which means higher fidelity of tie in to reduce misfire potential,” he said.
The ability to fire larger blasts or multiple blast patterns in one event means downtime for equipment is kept to a minimum.
Jason Smith, Principal Category Management TCO, Drill Blast & Geology said the successful outcome of the blast was down to the collaboration across Asset, Function and supplier.
He said the Commercial team and Caval Ridge worked with Dyno Nobel to deliver improved technology that would provide bigger and more accurate shots with significant improvements to safety, productivity and cost.
“The significance of it is the precision timing you can get from using electronics rather than pyrotechnical blasting, which requires thousands of metres of on bench tie-in work, and can lead to poor blast fragmentation,” Mr Smith shared.
BHP announced in September 2019 that it was partnering with Dyno Nobel to invest in a blast technology research program that aimed to improve the safety, productivity and sustainability of its Australian operations.
As well as researching ways to lift safety through reduced nitrous oxide fumes that result from blasting and driving productivity from improved fragmentation via differential energy blasts, the partnership represents a joint commitment to eradicate the use of palm oil in the explosive manufacturing process.
Palm oil is a key ingredient in many consumer products – from margarine and chocolate to lipstick and shampoo – but is also used in biofuel for ignition emulsions in mine blasting.
When sourced sustainability, the palm oil industry can bring great benefits to local communities, yet sustainability practices in this industry have not always been upheld.
Increased demand for palm oil has resulted in an increase in deforestation (destroying the habitats of animals such as orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos), displacing local communities and contributing to climate change.
As a part of the agreement with BHP, Dyno Nobel will only use certified sustainable raw materials and products.
If they do use forestry-based products, including palm oil, the agreement outlines that they will provide BHP with information on the country and company of origin, and evidence that they are certified in line with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
If palm oil is included, Dyno Nobel will also include a timeline and plan for its replacement with an alternative product.