Technical advancements and the future of blasting in mining

15 Feb 2024

In a recent interview, Adam Aubin, Orica’s Technical Solutions Senior Manager, discussed the state of current and future blasting with North American Mining Magazine.

Blasting is a critical step that profoundly influences operational efficiency, costs, and long-term success in the mining industry. The current challenges of blasting stem from several key elements, namely regulations, production demands, time, and safety. With most mines working to a regulated blasting schedule, it becomes a delicate balance to meet the needs of the mine, workers, environment, and nearby communities.

Mines want to reduce blasting fumes, flyrock, dust, air overpressure (noise), blasting vibrations, and nitrate levels, not only for compliance with their neighbouring communities and the local regulations, but also for the environment as a whole.

The focus on these competing priorities often limits the ability of mining operations to explore different methods or optimise process.

On bench delays can have the following impacts:

  • Production delays impacting drill and blast costs, as well as downstream processes and mine plans.
  • Multiple vehicles or equipment waiting on bench decreasing productivity and increasing costs.
  • Regulatory compliance issues, if blasting outside of schedule.

Mr Aubin goes on to say, mines often steer away from optimised practices due to these competing priorities. “A practice not often used today is to let the explosives sleep overnight. Sleeping blasts would allow for larger blasts to be loaded and fired creating more uniform fragmentation and increasing the efficiency of the mine; however, stricter regulations and production pressures now make this practice uncommon.”

ESG considerations in blasting.

The heightened focus on environment, social, and governance (ESG) responsibility influences how mines should responsibly conduct blasting and other operations, as mines have “become more sensitive to ESG issues,” Mr Aubin notes. “Mines want to reduce blasting fumes, flyrock, dust, air overpressure (noise), blasting vibrations, and nitrate levels, not only for compliance with their neighbouring communities and the local regulations, but also for the environment as a whole.”

Championing efficient blast solutions.

In this complex environment, the question for Orica has become how can we support customers and champion optimised, efficient and responsible operations?

Orica’s 150-years has seen their core blasting product range expand into services, digital solutions, and other product advancements to meet changing customer needs across the mining value chain. Mr Aubin emphasises two key areas that can assist mines. “I see two main areas for development in the blasting sector in the coming years.”

  1. More advances using WebGen™ wireless initiation technology, such as double bench mining and mine schedule flexibility.
  2. Secondly, 4D™ Bulk Systems technology, integrated with our suite of BlastIQ™ digital blast optimisation technologies will further enable customers to maximise blast control and efficiency, operational cost and productivity.

Orica has transformed our offerings beyond traditional blasting products, expanding into comprehensive end-to-end services and advancing the digital solutions portfolio. This strategic evolution mitigates many common challenges associated with mining blasts. By providing solutions that harness real-time data, allow for swift adaptations on-bench, and optimise processes, Orica effectively addresses many common pain points, resulting in significant time and cost efficiencies. With a forward-thinking approach, Orica has made substantial investments in research and development, with a view to continuously expanding a product range that aligns with the dynamic needs of the evolving mining industry.

Download the case study: How WebGen™ enables safer undercutting in block cave at New Afton Mine.

Orica’s future of mining.

In addition to its technological advancements, Orica is committed to working with customers to define the future of mining and deliver smarter solutions that are safe, reliable and sustainable.

By focusing on new technologies and innovative processes that minimise our own carbon footprint and enhance energy efficiency, Orica is in turn assisting customers to achieve their own sustainability goals. 

Orica remains committed to providing sustainable solutions and technology to mobilise the earth's resources as sights are set on another 150 years of success and delivering value to customers, employees, communities, and shareholders.

This article uses quotes from ‘More Bang for your Buck,’ a feature in North American Mining Magazine. The original feature can be read here: ‘More Bang for your Buck.'

Media Contact

Andrew Valler

Head of Communications
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