The imperative to continually improve productivity and increase shareholder value sees miners looking beyond previous methods to capture, measure and report information around mine processes. Predictive analysis and what-if scenarios are now routine keys to applying digital data for effective decision-making.
Peter Johnson, managing director of mining technology developer Maptek, comments on the benefits of the well-connected mine: "We are now seeing operational equipment such as blasthole drills and explosive loading trucks connected to the design environment, which in turn is connected to the orebody model and mine plan. The upside is that delays and equipment availability are visible in real time. The accuracy of blasting operations has never been better."
He adds: "Integrating drilling with drill and blast, technical data and economic scenarios provides a connected framework, so mining companies can make more informed, productive and safer operational decisions.
"This was our mindset when we began developing BlastLogic with industry participation six years ago."
BlastLogic applies evidence-based information to solve critical drill and blast issues. Linking blast designs directly with geological and geotechnical data, mine plans and field measurements enhances blast precision. Reducing variation in drill and blast leads to more consistent outcomes with flow-on effects for achieving safety and production targets.
A large South American copper mine has recently reported a reduction in costs by streamlining blast design, realised through up to 60% increases in efficiency in fundamental processes since adopting the Maptek drill and blast management system. Removing the in-field divergence from drill and blast plans is one key area. Identifying areas where money is wasted is another opportunity for improvement.
Drill and blast processes are typically some of the most expensive, but also the hardest to measure and audit activities for mine operations. Drilling route allocation, operational loss through inexact estimations of drilling length, load design, reporting and control are recurrent challenges for drill and blast teams.
Maptek developed BlastLogic to address these challenges, creating a software solution for tracking drill and blast information, identifying trends and benchmarking best practice to improve performance.
Since Maptek helped the South American mine to phase in BlastLogic over a 12-week period, operations have found potential savings of more than US$100,000 per month in nominal over-drilling. Site safety was also improved by limiting the need to access areas where it would be dangerous to bring the rig back to re-drill.
BlastLogic provided flexible control from hole to hole. Drill hole measurements were shared online with details of shifts, personnel, metres drilled and hole positions.
In the second month of implementation, data capture was migrated to the BlastLogic tablet. Better field capture of drill hole quality assessment data, and integration with ground equipment, operator comments and explosive reports improved data quality control.
Connectivity to management was strengthened by accurate online reporting, and availability of data as forms, reports, images and videos. Site knowledge is now supported by auditable data and assumptions and generalisations for driving effective decision-making.
Precision and quality of drilling was improved through detection of failed holes and holes outside tolerance. Reconciliation of planned hole design against actual holes drilled allowed more informed revision of designs and identification of significant trends.
More user-friendly reporting improved communication between crews, technical staff and management. Smoother working conditions have resulted from tighter coordination, transparency in planning, avoiding the number of decisions made on-the-fly without the benefit of accurate, current data.
BlastLogic can help optimise total cost as it enables consideration of mine and plant costs together.
"Our development focus is customer-centric," comments Johnson. "Iterative feature rollout in close contact with several key customers has resulted in a powerful and efficient solution that global users can take advantage of."
For this customer, implementation of BlastLogic led to identification of several areas of improvement, highlighting a critical need to address automatic depth gauge measurement on the drills. Wireless connectivity in the pit allowed capture of near-live data from drill rig systems to feed into the BlastLogic database.
Reducing variability in any process leads to more consistent, repeatable outcomes, and a better foundation for defining and meeting safety and production targets. Action was taken to improve activities by operators who may have drilled arbitrary sequences based on their own judgement.
BlastLogic was used to decrease loss by enabling drilling to proceed at the right time and in the right sequence, identifying whether design plans were followed, and determining how well the blast performed so that designs could be improved.
BlastLogic also facilitates feedback of field knowledge to designers in the office. Activity tracking allows for automatic communication to be forwarded to suppliers to streamline ordering of materials.
For the digital mine
BlastLogic has been designed as an easy-to-use system that adheres to industry standards and streamlines workflows, and is backed by comprehensive functionality.
A true digital mine solution empowers field crews and management to overcome the inherent complexities that changes in the technical mine landscape can bring to drill and blast processes.
According to Maptek, BlastLogic delivers effective control of drill and blast, eliminating hours of manual data formatting, entry and reporting. Importantly this can then free up engineering time to analyse performance and identify improvements for adding value to the project and shareholder returns.