Blast performance and the resulting drawpoint condition and volume of oversize has the potential to impact operator safety and mine productivity. Underground measurements showed that approximately 14 per cent of production rings in the Ernest Henry Mine (EHM) sublevel caving (SLC) operation had either overbreak in the brow or left collars. There were also oversize rocks reporting to approximately 30 per cent of drawpoints, which accounted for over 7 per cent of total production and significantly impacted production rates. A series of trials were conducted in 2015–2016 at EHM to test changes to certain charge parameters in an attempt to optimise blasting results and, in particular, reduce oversize and overbreak. The detailed analysis conducted included field observations, hole surveying, blast monitor analysis and blast modelling. There were a total of nine charge parameters tested in the project, which fell into two major categories: energy distribution and inter-hole delay. These were based on observations made in establishing baseline data and those parameters most likely to have a significant impact on overbreak and oversize.
Key results from the project included oversize reduction and improved brow conditions when energy distribution was reduced through changing charge lengths in certain holes in the standard charge plan. Similar benefits were also seen when the inter-hole delay between blastholes was reduced from 50 ms to 25 ms. Based on these results both changes were made to the standard production ring charge plan at EHM.
Moving forward, the aim is to continue monitoring the results from the changes made on all levels to ensure efficiencies are being realised and sustained. A 3 per cent improvement in oversize as a percentage of total tonnes and improved brow conditions not only has a positive impact on production rates, but removes people from any potentially hazardous situations and contributes to a safer working environment.
te Kloot, C and Liu, Z, 2017. The evolution of production blasts at Ernest Henry Mine, in Proceedings 13th AusIMM Underground Operators’ Conference 2017, pp 33–38 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).