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Transforming Drilling and Blasting

Blasting is the core of Orica’s business
Blasting is the core of Orica’s business

First published in the April 2024 issue of Quarry Management 

Orica highlight how new technologies and advanced service solutions are helping customers to operate more efficiently, precisely and responsibly

Orica are one of the world’s leading mining and infrastructure solutions providers, with a focus on new technologies and advanced service solutions. With more than 150 years of experience in the UK, including Northern Ireland with Orica BQS, and with global expertise, Orica continue to pave the way for innovative mining and infrastructure practices, going above and beyond traditional drilling and blasting operations to enhance operational efficiency and deliver benefits across the whole value chain.

Blasting remains at the core of Orica’s business model. The company’s portfolio includes bulk explosives, packaged explosives, and initiating systems, including i-kon III, the most sophisticated electronic blasting system in the market, and Exel Neo, the first lead-free non-electric detonator range offered to blasting industry. With new technologies and solutions, including WebGen and BlastIQ, Orica allow customers to think differently and to operate more efficiently, precisely, and responsibly.

 
Exel Neo, the world’s first completely lead-free non-electric detonator range
Exel Neo, the world’s first completely lead-free non-electric detonator range

Exel Neo

The protection of the environment has never received as much attention as it does today and the desire to contribute to a more sustainable future has never been greater. Both the industry and the general public are looking for solutions and products that support development towards a more sustainable future. This is also noticeable in the blasting industry, where there is an increased demand for environmentally friendly detonators and explosives. To contribute to this need, Orica have developed the world’s first completely lead-free non-electric detonator range.

Committed to operating a safe and responsible business, Orica launched a lead-free initiating system in September 2023. It is called Exel Neo, where Neo is Orica’s brand for environmentally friendly, sustainable initiation systems products. Based on proven non-primary explosives detonator (NPED) technology, Orica have successfully developed a range of new lead-free pyrotechnic compositions for the range of non-electric detonators produced in Gyttorp, Sweden, without compromising the product performance. The compositions provide the same range of delays which meet the delay time accuracy standards for underground and surface customers in the mining, quarrying, and construction markets. The NPED detonator technology also offers a very high resistance against mechanical impact, which provides an extra level of safety in manufacturing, handling, transport, and end-use of the product.

With a keen focus on health, safety, and sustainability, the new formulations have been developed to remove lead from the entire life cycle of the product while maintaining the performance and key features of the well-established Exel brand.

Some of the key benefits of the Exel Neo range are:

  • Sustainable production with a lead-free formulation in the manufacturing process

  • No accumulation of lead in the environment

  • All risks related to the use of Substances of Very High Concern during the life cycle of the product in manufacture, production, and application of the detonators have been eliminated.

Exel Neo will be available for the customers in the UK during spring 2024.

WebGen wireless electronic blasting system
WebGen wireless electronic blasting system

WebGen

WebGen is Orica’s wireless initiating system. The system eliminates the need for down-lines and surface connecting wires and communicates through rock, air, and water to initiate blasts reliably and safely, removing people from harm’s way. WebGen allows new mining methods and blasting techniques to increase productivity and reduce blasting costs. Using low-frequency magnetic waves to communicate to each WebGen primer prior to a blast, WebGen is the only commercial explosives product with SIL 3 rating.

WebGen was commercialized in 2017 and, as of January 2024, is the only truly wireless initiation system on the market. More than 220,000 WebGen primers have been fired in more than 6,700 blasts worldwide.

The second generation of WebGen was launched in 2022. It includes variants for underground production blasting and surface blasting, and a special underground development variant used only in the mechanized development charging machine Avatel.

With WebGen, blasting challenges are significantly reduced, giving users the flexibility to maintain sleeping shots by firing on demand, ensuring minimal disruptions to nearby environments. The secret lies in the absence of wires or signal tubes on the surface, making WebGen a truly secure and reliable solution.

Solutions within the BlastIQ Platform
Solutions within the BlastIQ Platform

BlastIQ

Orica’s digital proposition, BlastIQ, is a cloud-based digital platform designed to enable continuous improvement of blasting outcomes by integrating data and insights from digitally connected technologies across the drill and blast process.

The BlastIQ Platform delivers a suite of enhanced technologies, empowering better decision-making and increased control of blasting outcomes. The technologies in the BlastIQ Platform are designed to deliver economic and operational value individually, but the benefits are maximized when they are integrated in a systemized process.

The solutions provided by the BlastIQ Platform span blast design, blast control for mining (underground and quarries), vibration and airblast control, and fragmentation control.

By effectively capturing and recording data at every stage of the drill and blast process, machine-learning principles, coupled with regression analysis and automation, can be used to generate design inputs targeted at achieving precise blast outputs.

In practice, this means that engineers designing blasts in SHOTPlus can use inbuilt fragmentation prediction tools to model the expected blast outcomes which have been calibrated based on actual fragmentation data captured using FRAGTrack cameras. Blast designs are communicated directly to the blast crews on the bench using BlastIQ Mobile, and similarly real-time updates on the blast progress are fed into BlastIQ Insights to allow supervisors to track the blast progress. All this information is securely stored in the cloud and accessible at any time, ensuring that the data can be effectively used to drive productivity improvements and efficiency gains.

BlastIQ Quarry offers extensive quality control throughout the drill and blast process to deliver cost savings and superior blast outcomes. Designed in collaboration with Orica’s customers, it is a user-friendly system that will save engineering and operational time from planning to blast performance analysis.

Some of the key benefits of BlastIQ Quarry are:

  • Minimize transcription error

  • Efficient documentation management

  • Eliminates excess expense and reduces risk of poor environmental outcomes

  • Remote auditing and centralized collaboration

  • Visibility of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

  • Improved blast design.

Orica UK drill rig in action
Orica UK drill rig in action

Technical services

Along with the new technology, Orica UK and Orica BQS offer their customers a range of technical services that can be performed on site to deliver the best drill and blast outcome. This includes an all-inclusive drilling and blasting (rock-on-ground) service covering design of the blast, drilling and loading of the blasthole, and shooting. For this, Orica have their own fleet of down-the-hole drill rigs, together with specialized operators and shotfirers.

3D Quarry survey
3D Quarry survey

The service range also includes vibration monitoring, measurement of velocity of detonation, 3D face survey, and 3D modelling (laser or drone). The 3D face survey includes 3D survey of the blasting face prior to positioning of the blastholes and the supply of data suitable for use with standard software. The 3D modelling offers a drone service for stockpile surveys or 3D modelling of part or whole of the quarry, allowing volumes, planning, and geometrical calculations.

Safe and efficient blasting course

Every year, Orica organize an international safe and efficient blasting course in Europe. The course is aimed at blasting professionals and the presentations and content are designed to introduce teams involved in the blasting process to the latest technology, including wireless blasting and next-generation digital solutions. The course will help participants make informed decisions about blasting optimization, while delivering safe and productive outcomes.

In 2024, this course will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, from 19–24 May. For those unable to attend for a whole week, Orica UK offer a local one-day version of this course, which highlights the important points to know about explosives.

Stockpile volume calculation
Stockpile volume calculation

Surveying services

Within Orica BQS, Orica offer a specialized surveying department which carries out topographic, hydrographic, stockpile and quarry surveys, setting out and drone and measured building surveys. These services are primarily of interest to geotechnical engineers, quarry managers, consulting engineers, architects, developers, builders, quantity surveyors, district councils, and public authorities.

The benefits that drone surveying offer are enormously varied but, across different industries – whether construction, mining, or waste management, can be grouped into four major categories: 

  • Efficiency

  • Cost-effectiveness

  • Increased data accuracy 

  • Improved safety standards.

Using RTK UAV drones, Orica can produce high-accuracy 3D models of an entire quarry.  This model can then be output in different formats to be used by a geotechnical engineer for assessments.

Orica BQS also conduct stockpile surveys for accounting and audit purposes, measuring the volume of stockpiles in quarries and sand and gravel pits.

Using information gathered by the drone or traditional GPS method, Orica BQS offer volumetric calculations for various uses throughout the quarry, such as:

  • Pre-, interim, and post-strip volumes

  • In-situ bench volumes

  • Reserve calculations.

To showcase their products and services, Orica will be at the Hillhead exhibition in June where visitors will have the chance to meet and hold discussions with the company’s subject matter experts. There will also be the opportunity to sign up to Orica’s Safety Awareness Day on Friday 28 June, which will be held at Orica UK’s head office and Glazebury depot. 

 

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