Explore effective use of chemical energy in blasting

Reference blasting fundamentals, properties of explosives and blasting principles in this section. For more specific requirements, reach out to our Orica specialists for an in-depth discussion today.



A term commonly applied for mining development and civil tunnelling. It is the distance by which the face of tunnel is progressed and may be described as distance per blast or distance per unit time (shift, day, week, or month).

Airblast (Overpressure)

Pressure pulses in air (often not audible), which are generated by blasting. Routine blasting operations using explosives in properly confined blastholes do not generate excessive airblast overpressures.

AN (Ammonium Nitrate)

Ammonium Nitrate is a chemical compound prepared by mixing nitric acid and ammonia salt. It is the main component of ANFO.

ANE (Ammonium Nitrate Emulsion)

Ammonium Nitrate Emulsion (also called EP or Emulsion Phase) is ammonium nitrate dissolved in water and suspended in oil. It is an oxidising agent used to manufacture a range of bulk blasting agents. The oil surface gives emulsion based products improved water resistance.

ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil)

ANFO is the simplest commercial explosive available. This free flowing mixture of porous prilled Ammonium Nitrate and Fuel Oil is formulated to be oxygen balanced in dry blastholes and is very quickly dissolved by water.


ANSOL (also called melt or solution) is a saturated solution of Ammonium Nitrate used for manufacturing AN and ANE.


Bank Cubic Metre (BCM)

A cubic metre of material (rock) in situ before it is drilled and blasted.


A flat horizontal working area in both surface mines and quarries. The bench forms a single level of operation from which ore or waste materials can be excavated.


Using explosives to break rock.


A hole drilled into a rock to be filled with explosives for blasting.


An explosive component designed to initiate less sensitive bulk explosives using an inserted detonator.

Bulk Explosives

Explosives delivered from a truck or tank, distinct from packaged explosives that are delivered in a box or bag.


The distance between rows of blastholes parallel to the major free face or the amount of rock directly in front of a blasthole at the time of initiation.



A quantity of explosive in a blasthole.

Casting (or Cast Blasting)

A blasting technique that aims to maximise material movement. Casting is generally used in coal mining to minimise the amount of mechanical excavation required to expose a coal seam.


A machine used for reducing the size of rock and minerals by mechanical means.


Chemical compound used to dissolve and separate gold and silver from ore.



An explosive charge that does not completely fill the blasthole radially.


The density of a substance is its mass per unit volume, usually expressed as kilograms per cubic metre (or grams per cubic centimetre). Generally a higher density explosive provides more energy per unit of space. Commercial explosives have a volume between 0.3 g/m3 and 1.7 g/m3. The density range of the most common mining explosives is 0.9kg/m3 to 1.3 kg/m3.


The rapid chemical reaction that produces a shock wave.


A device containing a small amount of explosive, a signal transmitter and in some cases a timing mechanism, usually enclosed in a cylindrical metal shell. It is used to initiate less sensitive or secondary explosives. Modern blasting relies on detonators for the safe and precise control of explosive energy release to achieve desired blast outcomes.

Detonator, Electric

Detonator that relies solely on a threshold electric current for initiation.

Detonator, Electronic (Electronic Blasting System – EBS)

Electronic detonators differ from electric and non-electric delay systems in that the delay time is controlled by a programmed integrated circuit resulting in a high level of safety and very precise timing.

Detonator, Non-electric

A detonator that relies on a pyrotechnic signal for initiation. Overcomes the risk associated with stray currents however does not offer the accuracy of an electronic detonator.

Detonating Cord

A cord of plastic and fibre containing high explosive powder. Detonating cord may be used as an initiator or explosive charge, as is classified by the weight of explosive per metre.


Mining to access the orebody (a term used in both surface and underground mining).


The undesirable lowering of ore grade by mixing waste material during blasting and mining.


A large excavation machine used mainly in surface coal mining to remove overburden (layers of waste rock and soil) covering a coal seam. The machine drags a large steel bucket through waste material using cables.


The act or process of creating holes in rock mass for later filling with explosive and blasting.

Drill and Blast

The combined cycle of drilling and blasting, often classified as a discrete process and cost centre in most mines.

Drill Pattern

A group of blastholes on a bench or face form a drill pattern.


Effective Energy

The amount of energy a user can expect to have available to do effective work. It is calculated as the total energy released by explosive gases as they expand and do useful work from initial detonation pressure to a cut-off pressure of 100 MPa (1,000 atmospheres).

Electric Detonator

Refer to Detonator, Electric.

Electronic Detonator

Refer to Detonator, Electronic.

Emulsion Explosives

An emulsion is a physical mixture of two immiscible liquids (often water and oil) formed by shearing discrete droplets of one liquid phase into a continuous phase of the other liquid. A surfactant called an “emulsifier” is used to maintain the stability of the mixture. Emulsion explosives typically comprise an ammonium nitrate solution in a continuous oil phase.


A large track mounted earth moving machine that uses a downward digging motion as opposed to a “shovel” which uses an upward digging motion.



The active mining area, or an exposed near-vertical surface of rock.


A discontinuity in a rock mass caused by stresses in the earth’s crust.


The size of blasted material/ore.


The undesirable products of explosive detonation including oxides of nitrogen, carbon monoxide and gases other than carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen.


Gas/Heave Energy

The relative proportion of explosive energy available as high-pressure gas for lifting, breaking and moving rock.


The process of reducing rock to finer particles for further processing, usually after crushing and prior to mineral extraction or concentration.



The transport of ore and waste across land.


The unexcavated face of exposed overburden and coal in a surface mine or in a face or bank on the uphill side of a contour mine excavation.


Initiating Systems

Commonly called IS. Detonators, detonating cord, primers, boosters, surface delays, lead in lines and other components used for detonating the main charges at different times.


A layer of waste between ore or coal seams.


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A working surface or groups of tunnels at the same relative level in a mine.


Heavy equipment used in earth moving, usually with four rubber tyres.


MIC (Maximum Instantaneous Charge)

The total charge mass of explosives firing at one instant during a blast, a key measure in managing blasting vibration.


May refer to a rotating machine used for reducing the size of ore particles, or more generally to the whole crushing and grinding plant.

Mobile Manufacturing Unit (MMU™)

A truck with storage tanks and a processing unit designed to transport raw ingredients, manufacture bulk explosives and deliver bulk explosives into blastholes.

Muck (Mucking)

Mucking is the process of digging the muck. The term is more commonly used underground.


Non-Electric Detonator

Refer to Detonator, Non-Electric.


Open Cut/Pit

A mine worked at and from the surface. Also called surface mine.


A natural concentration of valuable minerals that can be economically extracted.

Ore Loss

The loss of ore to the waste mining stream during blasting or mining.


Layers of soil and/or rock covering an orebody.


Rock breakage outside the designed profile or edge of the blast.


Packaged Explosives

Factory sensitised explosive wrapped in plastic or paper and made in a range of sizes. As distinct from Bulk Explosives which are delivered directly into the blasthole from a tank or hopper.

Perimeter Blasting

A special blasting technique to achieve a profile closer to design than normal production blasting would.


A very common explosive used in detonators, detonating cord and boosters.


A term typically used in coal mining to refer to a separate process of overburden removal, prior to the main pass of the dragline or stripping fleet.

Production Blasting

The type of blasting most commonly used in a mine, as distinct from development, trim, presplit, ramp or other special blasts.

Powder Factor

The quantity of explosives per unit volume or unit mass of rock. Typically measured in kilograms per bank cubic metre or kilograms per tonne of rock.


Pre-splitting involves firing decoupled explosive charges simultaneously in closely spaced holes drilled along the line of excavation.


Small spheres of Ammonium Nitrate.


The combination of a detonator and booster commonly used for the reliable initiation of a less sensitive bulk charge.


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A vertical or inclined opening connecting two levels in an underground mine.


The proportion of metal recovered from ore, measured as a percentage.

Relative Bulk Strength (RBS)

A measure of the energy of an explosive, per unit volume, relative to ANFO @ 0.8 g/cc density (RBS = 100).

Rock On Ground

A drill and blast service where the contractor is paid for blasted rock, and takes risks associated with drilling, geology, blast design and loading.

Rock To Specification

A blasting service where the drill and blast contractor provides broken rock to an agreed size specification.


SAG Mill

A type of mill in which the larger rocks in the mill feed act as grinding media along with conventional steel ball grinding media.


A stratum or bed of coal or other material.


The ease with which an explosive can be initiated by heat, friction, impact or shock.


A primary opening in an underground mine used for ventilation or hoisting of personnel and materials. It connects to the surface.

Shock Energy

The energy from explosive detonation imparted to the rock mass as a shock wave.

Sleep Time

The length of time an explosive can remain in the ground after charging and still detonate reliably.


The distance between adjacent blastholes in a row, measured along the row. Spacing is nearly always larger than the burden.

Stand Up Blast

A blast designed to minimise forward movement and instead “stand up” the muckpile, usually for efficient digging with a face shovel.


An inert material placed between or on top of explosive charges to contain the gas energy of the explosive and reduce the risk of flyrock and overpressure.

Strip Ratio

The ratio of waste material to ore or coal moved in a defined period.


An underground void formed by the mining of ore, as distinct from development.

Surface Mine

Refer to open cut mine.


Trim Blast

A blast designed to reduce damage and backbreak to the rock left behind. Usually used against the final or interim walls in a hard rock open cut mine.


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VOD (Velocity Of Detonation)

The rate of detonation measured in units of speed (commonly metres per second).


The measured level of oscillation caused by a particular blasting event at a point of interest.



The worthless rock that has to be removed to access ore.

Water Resistance

The measure of an explosive’s ability to detonate after exposure to water.


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