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Reducing Crest Loss at Barrick Cowal Gold Mine


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Author R Battison, S Esen, R Duggan, K Henley and P Dare-Bryan


Increased catch bench crest loss has been observed in recent years at Barrick’s Cowal Gold Mine situated in central New South Wales, Australia. A project was initiated to diagnose the cause of the crest loss, and evaluate ways to limit its effect on final walls.

A range of different blast measurement techniques were utilised to evaluate the progressive damage caused to catch berms by presplit, production and trim blasts. Techniques employed included; single point vibration measurement, cross-hole seismic analysis, precision berm surveys, horizontal p-wave velocity measurements, crest loss volume calculation and water level changes between blasts.

Blast measurements showed that the majority of damage to the catch berm was caused by the presplit blasts, which registered vibrations greater than 700 mm/s at 5 m behind the presplit line. As a result, considerable changes were made to the blast designs after a series of computer simulations via mechanistic blast modelling (MBM). The uncharged presplit collar was increased from 2 m to 4 m, and every second hole was left uncharged. Vibration modelling using a multiple seed wave (MSW) model was used to optimise trim blast delay timing. Burden relief was changed from 16 ms/m to 27 ms/m using one hole firing per 4 ms time window, and the initiation angle was changed from shallow to steep. These changes in the presplit loading and trim timing helped reduce catch bench crest loss by 1–2 m.

Trim shots using a high strength bulk emulsion explosive were also identified as contributors to berm damage after analysis of blast monitoring and MBM modelling. The modelling study resulted in the generation of alternative blast designs to minimise the crest loss, including the use of low-density/low-velocity of detonation (VOD) bulk explosive product (Flexigel™ Advantage) in trim pattern designs. This was trialled on the Northern and Eastern pit walls to evaluate the damage to catch berms on final walls. The trials demonstrated that berm vibration was reduced significantly; fragmentation was similar (or slightly blockier) compared to the fragmentation using the old blast designs; displacement of the berm was reduced, so increased catch bench widths were attained. This paper summarises the trials, and presents a summary of the crest loss to date.


Battison, R, Esen, S, Duggan, R, Henley, K and Dare-Bryan, P, 2015. Reducing crest loss at Barrick Cowal Gold Mine, in Proceedings 11th International Symposium on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting, pp 189–202 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).