October 2017

Drill and blast: contractors need to have it covered

  • By Warren Fair, GM, Action Drill & Blast

Delivering better service to mining operations means that contractors must be innovative in their approach to each project, rather than providing a ‘one-size-fits-all’ service

For contractors, today’s market conditions necessitate an innovative approach. Drill and blast is an integral part of the mining cycle with the potential to significantly impact mine profitability. Finding ways to deliver a better service and providing mining operations with peace of mind matters.

From the broad solution offered, right down to every task performed on the ground, drill and blast contractors need to ask the question: how can we make this easier and more cost effective for mining operations without compromising quality?

Although the application of the latest technology is an essential component, some of the greatest value-adds are borne out of applying a forward-thinking, quality-based approach to all facets of the business.

At the top level

Coal mines, for example, have always contracted one company for drilling and another for the blasting.

The system works, but could it be made easier and simpler? Why use two contractors when you could simplify the process by using one? If a contractor can provide both services, it means less administration for the operation and more streamlined communication between contractor and mine. It also gives the mine the opportunity to take advantage of the more flexible pricing structures that can be offered if the service is integrated – such as the option of a fixed price per blasted cubic metre.

Across any commodity, asset owners also want to be assured that service providers are doing what’s best for their project rather than taking a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, which is neither cost efficient nor likely to deliver the optimum outcome.

A best-for-project drill and blast service should apply that mandate to every aspect of a project’s scope – rigs, explosives, detonation systems and so on.

For example, if a contractor can source the best explosive product for the job, rather than being tied to one type of explosive, then the explosive can be properly matched to ground conditions and blast requirements. This means a better blast, often at lower cost.

Tailoring also applies to equipment. Technologically advanced rigs are becoming commonplace in mining, but is this capability required at every project? Could another, less technological, but equally robust machine do the job just as well for less cost?

On the ground

Every task performed by a drill and blast team should be reviewed from a continuous improvement perspective to establish if it could be done better, safer or more economically.

Efficiency, however, should never be at the expense of quality or safety. Drilling holes quickly is of no benefit if they have to be re-drilled because of fall-back or poor drilling practices.

How can quality be assured?

The drilling team and the blasting teams should be working to the same KPIs, which should be focused on the quality of input rather than the quantity of output. This calls for an investment in processes, technology and training.

Establishing thorough quality assurance processes and check points will minimise re-work. Investing in technology will facilitate more efficient and accurate data capture, providing the team with valuable information to improve each blast. Upskilling and multiskilling means smaller, more efficient, more productive and safer teams contributing to improved quality of service and cost savings.

An approach based on quantity of output will still break the rock, but could it have been broken better, with less resources and less labour? The answer is, quite likely, ‘yes’.

Simply put, a mining operation wants to know their contractor has got it covered, giving them time to focus on other areas of their operation.

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