Warren Fair, GM, Action Drill & Blast
For contractors, today’s market conditions demand 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 drill and blast service and provide 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 born 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 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 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.
Tailoring also applies to equipment. A good contractor will have a diverse range of drills to ensure the project is provided with best-for-project solutions. Contractors should be able to provide equipment with different ranges of technology to suit each project’s requirements and budget
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 cost efficiently.
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. It calls for 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 multi-skilling drill and blast personnel mean a smaller, more efficient, more productive and safer team, contributing to improved quality of service and cost savings.
An approach based on the quantity of output will still break the rock, but could it have been broken better, with fewer 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.