During the mine scheduling process, great focus, effort and resources are allocated to remove interactions and ensure all components of the mine’s overall system are given time and space to work productively. By maximising utilisation of plant and people across the schedule, peaks and troughs in demand can be minimised and the total resources needed to facilitate the mine plan can be reduced.
Drill and blast is a supporting process within this system. Its core purpose is to increase the net value of the overall mining operation by improving the productivity and profitability of other mining activities. While drill and blast can to some extent serve as a production process through methods such as cast-blasting, its main role is as a support process to increase production and decrease costs in adjacent processes.
Each process within the system is impacted to different extents by events such as weather and geology, resulting in demand peaks and troughs. As drill and blast is a supporting process, it is usually preferable to incur park ups or inefficiencies within the drill and blast operation than it is to incur them in production processing. As such, strategies are put in place for managing demand variance of drill and blast as a whole, and for the processes within.
Managing a project’s demand variance WITHIN drill and blast
Sub-processes within the drill and blast function are not immune to variance because different geology, bench height, hole diameters, and simple and complex drill and blast designs tax each aspect of the drill, blast and maintenance system differently at different times of the schedule.
The challenges of managing the peaks and troughs in demand can be overcome by utilising a multi-skilled and integrated drill and blast team:
- When drilling demand is higher, competent fitters or shot-crew can be re-allocated to assist with the drilling activities, and drilling time can be boosted by hot-seating the drill during meal breaks and shift changes.
- When blasting demand is higher, fitters or driller can be allocated to assist in all bench, loading and firing activities to maintain efficient utilisation of loading equipment during crib breaks.
- When maintenance demand is higher, drillers or shot-crew can be allocated to assist the fitter in general trades-assistant tasks.
Action Drill & Blast is the industry leader in this strategy; personnel are able to assist in other areas and many individuals hold multiple qualifications and competencies in shotfiring, blasthole drilling and drill maintenance.
Managing a project’s demand variance of OVERALL drill and blast
If an overall demand peak or trough renders a site’s drill and blast resources strained or idle, further efficiencies can be achieved when multiple sites are being managed by a single entity.
If personnel are inducted and familiarised across as many sites as feasible, any personnel that can provide better value elsewhere can move to that site and contribute.
When considering demand at a whole-of-business level, the benefits of a single provider can be taken a step further: resources can be moved between projects not just because one is idle, but because another project’s need is so business critical that the resources can simply add greater value there. This can be difficult to achieve as the local contract owners are naturally more attuned to the local needs – but the potential is there.
The bottom line is that significant efficiencies can be achieved when drill and blast teams are integrated and unified in their approach.