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Blasting News VOLUME 24 ISSUE 3 2015

IN THIS ISSUE • Simplexity – when complex designs result in simple usability • Steady supply of explosives provides security for mining industry • Successfully moving tonnes by choosing the right millisecond when blasting

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Editor’s Note Welcome to our Spring edition of Blasting News. This issue is teeming with fresh offerings displaying how AEL can add value to our customers’ operations.


In our knowledge transfer section we explore the concept of “simplexity” which is based on harnessing the power of digital processes to take mining into a new era.


The mining optimisation platform speaks specifically to our customers in the coal mining sector showcasing how precision blasting can provide value to every stage from mine to mill.



AEL KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER: Simplexity – when complex designs result in simple usability


AEL MINING OPTIMISATION: Coal mining optimisation - the devil is in the detail


AEL SECURITY OF SUPPLY : Steady supply of explosives provides security for mining industry


AEL CUSTOMER SATISFACTION : New Start At Asanko Gold – Obotan Mine Project

10 AEL CASE STUDY: Successfully moving tonnes by choosing the right millisecond when blasting 12 AEL THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: Technical Bulletin: An Update On The Practical Use Of IED’s 15 AEL LEGAL: How is compliance acchieved?

AEL guarantees security of supply to customers across the globe. Global Supply Chain Manager, Denvor Govender highlights our efficient delivery processes which keep customers’ operations running smoothly and effectively. We share news from West Africa and South East Asia, documenting our first blast at Asanko Gold’s Obotan Mine in Ghana and the successful use of AEL’s blast design software and electronics at Gunung Bayan Pratama Coal in Indonesia enabling an increase in the mine’s productivity.

Meet Sepadi Mohlabeng Sepadi is Executive: Group Operations, in charge of providing strategic direction in all local and international

Finally, in our thought leadership series, we present a new technical bulletin updating you on the practical use of IEDs. We will resume with the production of our sought-after Explosives Today in our next issue.

AEL operations with respect to Best Operating Practices

We trust that you will be enlightened by the information contained in this issue. We would like to hear from you our valued readers. Please email your comments or suggestions to:

Care standards.

To subscribe to Blasting News, visit our website:

(BOP), Quality & Manufacturing Capability, Operations Integrated Planning, Procurement, Engineering and Asset

He holds an Mechanical Engineering degree, supplemented with a degree in Packaging Technology. He took up his current position in 2013.



In our next issue we introduce Paul Eagar, Executive IS Operations.

Cover image: Long walkway in dark tunnel, South Africa

Contact Details: Eubulus Pillay - Blasting News Editor I Tel: +27 11 606 0313 I Fax: +27 11 605 0000 I I www.

Disclaimer This publication does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AEL Mining Services Limited management. The copyright to this publication rests in AEL Mining Services Limited. Other product and corporate names used in this publication may be trademarks or registered trademarks of other companies, and are used only for explanation and to the owner’s benefit, without intent to infringe.


Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015



When you use your smartphone to live video chat with someone halfway across the world or for directions with real-time traffic information, how often do you think about the research, design and technology that went into providing you with this power at the touch of a button? While mining operations may not seem comparable to a smartphone, there are several similarities we can take out of this analogy. We believe mines rely on a theory we call “simplexity”, a process which combines endless hours of analysis, design, testing, technological innovation and expertise to create a product that allows the most simple-yet-effective usability for the end user.


Simplexity – when complex designs result in simple usability By Trevor Roberts, Executive Director: Commercial at AEL Mining Services

Coal mining optimisation -

Simplexity is about harnessing the power these countless hours can provide in improved products or methods of operating. For example, it’s about looking at why a customer has to pull several levers and turn switches in order to achieve a blast and finding out how they could achieve the same result at the push of a button.

the devil is in the detail

We have noticed a growing trend toward Simplexity in the mining industry because it is win-win for operators; process times are reduced without the need for further training while the results are typically improved. This process all begins at the Research & Design (R&D) stage, a division in which we dedicated an industry-leading 1.5% of our revenue in the last financial year, where companies strive to continuously find better, more innovative ways of operating in order to challenge outdated methods and outcomes. Mining in the past has typically been an “analogue” industry, where processes have remained the same because that is simply how it has always been done. However, the move toward digital processes and harnessing the power of the immense amount of data available is starting to challenge the status quo and move mining into a new era. One such example is the importance for both mining and blasting operators to embrace Big Data, which is the phrase used for the seemingly endless streams of information that can be collected through monitors, sensors and other devices. However, Big Data means absolutely nothing without the means to decipher the information, such as how apps can decipher the information off locations of smartphones to determine live


“It’s about understanding the environment where commodity prices are struggling and margins are tight or even nonexistent. We are here to assist our customers to optimise operations so they can get to a lowcost curve,”

Coal mining operations are facing tough times – the commodity’s price is under pressure with simultaneous rising operating costs.

traffic information and then suggest alternative routes. Mining operations need to seize the opportunity to collect thousands, if not millions, of data sets for each step of their processes and then analyse the data so as to identify improvements to efficiency, or their own alternative routes. However, they need to do so now or face the impact of being left behind the pack. We foresee the combination of simplicity and complexity becoming a

well-recognised theory in the mining industry as mine operators strive to reduce unnecessary operating times while maintaining output levels; which can be provided by the Simplexity of modern products and methodology. Simplexity, therefore, is about finding ways in which we can reduce the number or processes, or the complexity thereof, for our customers while simultaneously ensuring the improved efficacy of the result.

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

operational savings over time,” he says.

This is according to Hennie van Niekerk, Regional Manager at AEL Mining Services, who says coal mining operators can save millions of rands in costs by making improvements of just one second or one percent to their operation’s efficiencies through blasting optimisation.

AEL negotiated a set of KPI’s with a major mining house in October 2014. The aim of the KPI’s was to identify where blasting could improve processes throughout the mining chain. By implementing a thorough analysis of operations, AEL identified that precision blasting and the correct use of energy has the potential to reduce the full cycle of a dragline by one second or to throw the rock one metre closer to its destination.

“The impact that targeted and controlled energy distribution during blasting has on the final product for mining is immense. Even the slightest improvements add up to significant

“While these figures sound nominal, operators know that if you multiply these efficiencies throughout the day and across several mines, even the slightest of improvements can

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

optimise man hours and reduce costs significantly,” says Van Niekerk. He says that AEL’s data showed that these improvements compounded over five years provides major mining houses the opportunity to generate in excess of R500 million additional revenue. Van Niekerk adds that these savings opportunities can be achieved without increasing resources such as labour and equipment but that it is crucial that companies find strategic blasting partners that understand the unique economic and physical environments in which they operate. In terms of the physical environment, he says operators can determine the specific size of rock they need at the mill and AEL can work backwards through the process and design accordingly to meet the customer’s needs. “We call this mining optimisation because precision blasting provides value not only on the bench, but to every single stage from mine to mill,” he says. “Every little bit counts in modern mining. We believe in looking at the finer details in order to build up to the bigger picture by capturing data, providing thorough analysis of needs and outcomes and implementing plans to achieve these results,” Van Niekerk concludes. 5


emulsions are one of the explosives options which is leading the way in keeping mining houses supplied with the right products at the right times. He says AEL’s capabilities provide an end-to-end solution for the supply of emulsion, from manufacture to transport and from storage to on-site delivery. Emulsions can be manufactured in 24 of AEL’s 25 plants and even onsite through mobile manufacturing units (MMUs) according to the mine’s unique specifications, including the type of rock being blasted and the temperatures they need to be able to withstand.

AEL MMU’s on their way to breaking new ground

Steady supply of explosives provides security for mining industry

With increasing competition and operating costs, coupled with declining commodity prices, mines cannot afford any interruptions to production over a lack of supply. This is according to Denvor Govender, Global Supply Chain Manager at AEL Mining Services, who says that a secure and steady supply of explosives in particular is of great importance to the industry. “Mining houses are increasingly seeing the value in identifying strategic partners who possess the necessary market intelligence and footprint in order to deliver on the fast and reliable supply of explosives and related services,” Govender says. Govender adds that the growing use of


Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

Govender says AEL is also able to safely transport emulsions across the SADC region because these products are stable and not explosive until they are sensitised. Transportation efficiency is increased by reducing the regulatory conditions which accompany authorising the movement of traditional explosives. However, transportation would mean little to mines if they had nowhere to store the emulsion which is why AEL has individual silo capacities of up to 240 tonnes in strategic locations in mining areas to help keep supply channels open to customer operations. Meanwhile, AEL’s MMUs are providing the best method for steady supply when mines opt for on-site emulsion blending.

“AEL is constantly innovating products and delivery systems which will meet the unique needs of any mining operation around the globe. We will always respond to demand by increasing storage capacity, transport distances and efficient-delivery processes to provide security of supply which can keep mining operations running smoothly and effectively” which a series of tubes transport these products safely to an access point adjacent to the workings. Portable PCU pumps then allow the emulsions to be sensitised on-site underground. This significantly reduces transport times as the emulsions no longer need to be transported through operations and no staff need to be evacuated to do so. As both new and established mining houses increasingly explore frontier markets in a bid to develop profitable operations, innovations are required in the supply of explosives in what can often be challenging environments to deliver to.

For instance, Africa saw a 75% increase in its global share of deals by value between 2011 and 2012, according to research by EY’s Global Mining & Metals Center and while this shift is significant to the African market, challenges including how to transport such products to areas of high temperature and humidity arise. Govender recommends the use of dry gels in such areas because not only can they be transported over long distances; they also retain their rigidity in the aforementioned weather conditions.

In the past, mine operators would have to wait for an MMU to refill anywhere between 40 minutes to 2 hours while AEL has developed a rapid-reloading method which reduces this time to between 15 and 30 minutes. Underground mines then have a further option of emulsion delivery through Vertical Drop infrastructure in

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

AEL MMU on bench




New Start At Asanko Gold – Obotan Mine Project By Franky Botha, Managing Director - AEL West Africa and Maida Quiala, Mining Engineer - AEL Ghana

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On the 23rd of July 2015 at 15H00 GMT, AEL Mining Services (AEL) fired the first blast for Asanko Gold’s Obotan Mine in Ghana.

Bench conditions were fairly even with portions of the bench containing water due to rain the previous night.

The Obotan Mine is situated in Ghana’s Amansie West district of the Ashanti Region. AEL was awarded the explosive supply business by PW Mining International Ltd who is the main mining contractor for the owner Asanko Gold Inc. AEL provides a full Prime, Load, Tie and Shoot (PLTS) service for PW from its brand new distribution site at Obotan Mine.

Due to some last-minute changes the blast design had to be adopted on arrival at the bench. AEL’s Mining Engineer, Maida Quiala displayed her skills by thinking on her feet during charging operations, continually doing the math to ensure a safe and efficient blast. The blast plan was hand drawn on the bench and timing calculated, based on conditions found.

Two benches and a ramp were blasted. Hole depths averaged at 4.2m for the bottom bench and holes for the ramp ranged from 2.1m - 8.6m. The top bench averaged at 6m. A Total of 183 holes were charged with 4.4 tons of AEL’s S100 bulk emulsion.

The AEL team performed very well under the circumstances. Like a well-trained sports team, they were adequately prepared and pulled through a great blast under the careful scrutiny of the high-powered VIPs. The client was pleased with the AEL team performance and satisfied with the blast results.

The 35 000 BCM blasted area comprised of soft transitional rock material and a powder factor of only 0.25 to 0.3 kg/m3 were used on a 5 x 5.5m staggered pattern in 115mm diameter holes. The request from PW was to “shake & break” the ground to enable faster digging rates.

The project was led by Akwasi AmoakoKankam - Regional Manager, Johan Fourie -Business Manager, Maida Quiala - Mining Engineer, Albert Osei-Yeboah -Customer Accounts Manager and Augustus Arthur Maintenance Superintendent.

The Shocktube Initiating System was used and timing of 25ms intra row and 65ms inter hole were selected to give an optimal result for the prevalent rock properties.

The Ghana team looks forward to conducting more safe and successful blasts at Obotan Mine as we assist our customer unearth wealth.

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015 Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015 Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

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Within the drill and blast industry, explosives companies continue to develop technologies that can further increase production whilst reducing costs, which is a welcomed approach especially in the current market conditions. This, according to Carlos Paz – Technical Manager at AEL Indonesia, is why electronic detonators are leading the charge towards reaching optimal blasts, right down to the correct millisecond.


Successfully moving tonnes by choosing the right millisecond when blasting

“While electronics have been on the market for some time, a small proportion of operations know how to identify the optimal delay timing. One of the most effective ways of determining this is by carrying out ground response and face velocity analysis in order to obtain data on how the rock mass responds to different parameters of drill and blast design” Paz explains. Paz highlights AEL’s Gunung Bayan Pratama Coal (GBPC) ground response case study in Indonesia which examined how the ground reacted to the detonation of explosives in terms of time through

“Blasting companies need to

Optimum timing leads to greater vibration control and fragmentation of the rock, which provides a reduction in the cost of operations. Such costs include a reduction in fuel for vehicles needed to move the fragmented rock as well as improved efficiency of crushers and mills due to reduced rock size. the use of high-speed cameras, laser

delay time and applied DigiShot™

profiling and the use of dedicated AEL

Plus electronic system to achieve an

blast design software.

increase on the mine’s productivity target to 10% over the base-line

“By collecting and analysing the data,

target, which Paz says highlights the

AEL recommended higher burden

benefits of electronic systems.

collaborate further with their

relief in order to allow enough time for

customers to look for efficiencies and

the rock mass to heave and generate

Given these results, Paz and his team

approach situations more innovatively

free face for the following rows and

predicts: “In the next few years the

to drive cost reductions,” says Paz.

avoid back break. Quick intra-row

increased use of electronics and

Paz, an expert in the field of

delay was also suggested to avoid the

the predictability of performance

electronics, recently delivered

loss of gasses between the stratums

and outcomes will see greater

presentations about the effective

which also were observed in the

market share growth in South Africa,

use of electronics in mining

filming,” Paz says.

Indonesia and the rest of AEL’s

optimisation at AEL’s Workshop for


Explosive Engineers and Technical

In addition to these suggestions,

Representatives (WEETR) in South

AEL managed to identify the optimal

Africa in June 2015 and at the 3rd Drill & Blasting conference in Jakarta in May 2015. He says that electronic detonators are helping to optimise processes all along the mining chain as products such as the DigiShot™ Plus electronic system allow for new flexible blast designs, possible with electronic delays between 1 millisecond, all the way up to 20 seconds. However, there is no one-size-fitsall timing when blasting. All related factors, including the type of rock, need to be taken into consideration.

AEL DigiShotTM system on bench


Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

Components of the DigiShotTM system




Technical Bulletin An Update On The Practical Use Of IED’s

causing static build-up, resulting in “sparking” as objects are touched and “clinging” of plastic-based materials. Where the conditions are right, sufficient energy can easily be accumulated on equipment and personnel.

escapes from the intended conductor and returns by another route, be it rock, pipes, or rails, is known as “stray” current. Electrified railways and loading equipment are notorious sources of stray earth currents, both underground and on surface and power lines of all kinds are subject to current leakage due to breaks in insulation. Stray currents through rock follow the path of least resistance, which may be at some distance from the direct path between the leak and current source. Even non-conductive rock becomes highly conductive when wet and charged with explosives, due to the leaching of conductive salts.

There have been a number of recent incidents involving the use of the Instantaneous Electric Detonators (IEDs). This letter is published to remind the users of the potential risks and practical steps to manage these risks. Electric detonators are used extensively in the Mining and Civil Engineering industries. They provide a versatile initiation system. However, electric detonators are sometimes subjected to unsafe handling and also to external electrical or electromagnetic sources. This can lead to accidental initiation.

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The main hazards, when using these detonators include: • • • • • •

lightning; static electricity; stray currents; electromagnetic induction; radio waves; connecting procedure & exclusion zone; and • carelessness.

Lightning Lightning can cause premature ignition in one of three ways, by: • direct strike or conduction through the rock; • striking conducting structures on the surface causing a voltage surge; and • electromagnetic induction.

Mines should have adopted a system that all persons must be withdrawn from the blasting area when lightning is detected within a 5km radius of the workings. Lightning warning devices are commercially available and help the mines to take the decision to withdraw personnel from the blasting area during a thunder storm. The rule of thumb, in the absence of such a system, is to withdraw when the interval between a lightning flash and the thunder is less than 10 seconds. This represents about 3.5km.

Electromagnetic Induction A cable carrying alternating current generates a changing electromagnetic field around itself which, in turn, will generate a corresponding alternating current in a parallel conductor. This is how a transformer works.

To avoid accidental initiation of electric detonators by stray currents:

Typical reflective vests and cold weather wear (nylon jackets) generate ample charge to initiate IEDs. Persons handling electric detonators should therefore place their hands against earthed metal objects (or the ground) before touching the detonators and ensure that the blasting cable is shorted before connecting the IED.

Static Electricity

Stray Currents

This is a well-known phenomenon which is caused by friction between two non-conductive surfaces. Extreme cold or hot and dry climatic conditions are notorious for

The insulation of heavy duty electrical equipment under working conditions can never be total, which is why earthing and earth leakage protection is normally provided. Electricity which

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015 Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

equipment within the vicinity of electric detonators from the time they are removed from their wrapping until they are fired; and • keep blasting cables well insulated and away from other conducting surfaces such as metal pipes, electrical cables, rails etc.

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015 Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

• identify whether a hazardous condition may exist (a high voltage (+500 V) power line within 100m); • use a non-electric lead-in which is initiated with an electric detonator at a safe distance (100m) from the hazard; • do not allow any electrical The strength of the secondary current is very much affected by: • the strength of the primary current; • the distance between the conductors; • the length for which the conductors, the blasting cable and the cable carrying the current, are close together;

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• whether they are wound around each other; • what kind of medium separates them; and • the frequency of the current. In general induced currents are the least likely cause of premature initiation, as all of the above factors tend to work against significant currents being induced in blasting cables. In addition, the use of twisted blasting cables completely eliminates the hazard. Where separate blasting lines are used, they should not run any closer than 150mm to any other conductor and should not be attached to such conductor by the same support chain. On surface conductors passing under high tension power lines are liable to pick up induction currents, e.g. a pipeline running beneath the pylons might pick up an induced current and take it into a blast area where contact with a blasting circuit is possible. Therefore caution is essential within 100m of such power lines.

Radio Transmission

Radio and cell phone transmission is a very similar mechanism to electromagnetic induction, except that by using high frequency current, air is made to be a good conductor for electrical flux. As such keep radio transmitters and cell phones 15m away from any electric detonator. The greater hazard is usually the open



access to the battery terminals of such devices.

Connecting Procedure and Exclusion Zone Follow the correct blasting procedure, particularly with the correct sequence of connecting an IED to shocktube and main blasting circuit as per the guidelines below: • ensure (permanent and/or temporary) blasting cable ends and IED leads are twisted together at blasting point, i.e. shorted out; • connect IED to permanent and/ or temporary blasting cable; • connect the IED to the surface shock tube harness on the bench (ensure that the detonator is placed pointing away from the position of safety, cover this detonator so that shrapnel cannot damage the shock tube units located nearby); • connect the temporary blasting cable to the permanent cable (if in place). No connections are to be made until bench is clear; and • only connect the shot exploder to the cable at blasting point when the blaster is sure it is safe to do so.

Carelessness This is by far the most common cause of accidents involving electric detonators and is usually the result of over-familiarity rather than lack of training. Premature initiation with electric detonators is most often caused by such malpractices as: • keeping loose batteries in a detonator box; • leaving the firing key in the exploder; • testing circuits with nonapproved equipment; • open terminals in close proximity to the blasting cable, e.g. cell phone or radio; • ignoring safe distances, minimum 75m; • handling detonators roughly; and • failing to ensure the detonator maintains its position from placement to initiation with the base of the detonator pointing away from the position of safety.

How is compliance achieved? It is the responsibility of all business units within AECI, to adhere to the following in order to achieve optimal levels of compliance with the law – •

identifying all the external laws applicable to AECI including codes, business rules, and policies;

determining that all of AECI internal policies and procedures correlate with the external laws, business rules, codes, policies and non-binding requirements;

identifying the champions for a business area within AECI, who are responsible for ensuring that their department complies with the applicable legislation;

assessing risks due to gaps between external and internal practices;

implementing controls to eliminate or minimise risks identified during assessments to ensure compliance; and

maintaining compliance.

Business units are duly assisted by the Legal Compliance Department where necessary to achieve the above.

Should you have any queries, please contact your regional AEL representative, AEL Product Manager or Simon Tose, Global Mining Optimisation Manager.

During the initiation of an IED, there is a potential for shrapnel from the detonator casing. Independent testing has shown that the minimum distance one should stand from an IED detonator when initiating it is 75m.

AEL Your Global Explosives Partner

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Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015

Blasting News I Third Quarter 2015


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