“Talk to the Rock”

“Talk to the Rock”

The 5th Drill & Blast Conference 2019.

The 5th Drill & Blast Conference of 13-14 August 2019 was organized by PERHAPI (Indonesian Mining Association), Petromindo.com (Publications & conference organizer) and ASPRODISPA (Indonesian association of explosive producers & distributers). The two-day Jakarta conference was attended by about 200 Indonesian & international people, of whom about 3 were women. The conference was mostly held in English, with translation services provided. The program stuck well to schedule.

Presentation downloads were made available on the link; bit.ly/DrillBlast2019. The following are personal short notes, plus discussions, comments to draw attention to selected points. I recommend others to attend such conferences to gain their own personal perspective of this industry. I apologize for any omissions or mistakes.

Dr. Hendra Gunawan – Head of Sub-directorate Technical & Supervision of Coal and Minerals, ESDM. About 85% of Indonesian open pit mines overburden is now blasted. Blasting is managed by regulations throughout the chain of custody – from import / production to the end products of blasting gasses etc.

Dr. Kasmen – Kombes Police. Outlined the history of regulations for the control of blasting. Explosives  are mostly used in mining, with some in oil & gas exploration etc. Reminded the audience that the disposal of unused explosive material can be an issue, and may become the responsibility of the importer / manufacturer where the user has abandoned the site. Maintaining the 3 key security system is vital.

Gordon Wallace – senior Commercial Manager- Asia, ORICA Mining Services. Previously industry emphasized lowering costs, but today the focus is on productivity. ORICA have selected research centres around the world, including the Balikpapan facility focussed on monitoring slope stability. Industry 4.0 is implemented with more sensors on drill machines, scanning blast fragmentation and monitoring ease through a process plant to give input to blast design. The physical side of blast technology is also advancing, with such features as wireless blasting being implemented around the world. Blast preparation is one of the remaining areas where manpower is manually working in the pit, wherein ongoing research is trying to remove / reduce human exposure to such risks.

Fitra ArifinDyno Nobel. Bulk explosives are continuing to evolve, with differential energy designed down each hole to reflect the variation in designated rock strength and jointing (feed-back from drill machine & associated modelling). Designed charges contribute to improved fragmentation, less gas, less explosive. These designs have typically reduced powder factor by 8% and increased dig-ability by 5-10% (some Australian examples).

Moderator Suseno Kramadibrata reminded the audience that the study of rock strength, fracture patterns and such factors are important for blast design. This is initially undertaken by geotechnical engineers that “talk to the rock”. In Industry 4.0 we are reminded that equipment and people “talk to each other”. The science that goes with Industry 4.0 is designed to enhance all stages of mining, from mine design to waste disposal and environment.

Hossein Asgari, Director at SUN Mining Services P/L. New blasting product WALA has nano-technology to hold the micro bubbles in the explosive emulsion, allowing for lower powder factors to be used in large commercial applications. Research ongoing into energy-release etc. Talk & discussion shows depth of scientific research in developing and understanding explosives, and the association blast technology.

Dadan Munawar, Operational manager at PT. Dahana (Peresero). Great example of explosive role in digging the new high-speed rail line between Jakarta and Bandung. Blasting just started in medium rock, yet to operate in hard rock.

Shane Slaughter, Technical Manager at AEL Intelligent Blasting. New business approach in blasting is to encompass Industry 4.0 and interconnect with cost, security, social impact, environment and technology. Pointed out areas for further development in the blasting industry, such as developing explosives closer to use points to reduce transportation component, 3D printing of detonators, real time data gathering around the mine site etc. Protection from virus attack, and other risks need attention.

This is an exciting frontier industry that wants to attract millennials and provide training. Get the “right people in the right place”. Discussion pointed out that regulations still require registered mine engineers to supervise & be responsible for drill & blast.

Ramadoni, PT. Pamapersada Nusantara. World dynamics is setting for Pama to be a competitive contract miner. The target is to get OB cost to US$1/bcm (including blasting typically $0.25/bcm all up). Biggest mining consumable cost is fuel, closely followed by blasting. Each of their 7 mine sites have different overburden blasting / mining characteristics. Pama form partnerships with many specialists, including blast simulation & design. Pama now using slimmer blast holes to speed up drilling and reduced powder factor with improved down hole design of explosive character and placement.

Overall it appears that blasting 4.0 is taking traditional blast design formula and adding input from new drill sensors, survey, modelling and feedback from previous blasts to improve the blasting program of each mine. Use drill & blast relationships evolved from one mine to adjust into another mine.

Atif Khan, Sr. Automation Manager SANDVIK Mining & Construction Indonesia. New technology is being adapted to the modern drill rig. Drones gather topography and location using differential GPS to give modifications to drill depth to yield planned flat surface. Looking at mounting thermal cameras on rig / drones to look for high ware parts of drill rig. Drill have sensors to measure rock strength and other features while drilling. Drilling largely automated, where one driller may run 3 rigs from his office remote control system.

Sandvik have office-based teams in the USA developing algorithms and software to improve their drill & blasting models etc. At 5pm they go home, but then the team in Europe pick up where they left off and continue, this is later handed over to teams in India, and then back to USA when they arrive for work the next day “Follow the sun” working habit. This 24-hour multi continent approach reflects an new dimension of Industry 4.0 working model. A challenging environment for Indonesian graduates and experts to participate and compete in this Industry 4.0 world. Sandvik are enthused by the top young Indonesian engineers that are eager to learn new technology & skills, even more so than the Australians in Australia who tend to be a bit slower off the mark. Some traditional international mining sites are more reluctant to adapt to the new technology.

Kiswanto, Product Manager at PT. Trakindo Utama. Getting drill placement and blast charge right can produce 80-90% of planned fragmentation target that will allow faster excavation, less wear on diggers, trucks, belts, crushers etc. One touch drill machine automatically level rig base and mast vertical. Various failsafe mechanism built in. Can have any standard drill bit.

Nick Tschanter, Senior Product Consultant Drills Asia Pacific & Mongolia at Caterpillar. Features include concern for terrain management, and irregular rocky blast areas. We now see the surveyor managing a drone & computer screen.

All brands of new high technical drills are built overseas, with only modest add on’s here (fire suppressant) etc. Many components are off-the-shelf, and software is developed offshore and patented. These drills are now built for women, and likely they will be preferred operators in the future.

Side discussion – Both Sandvac and Caterpillar sales of drills is less in 2019 than previous year. This is due to last years coal price did not continue to climb, volume in coal exports has dipped slightly, and the uncertainty over the extension of the big miner’s tenement permits with the ESDM. This means the miners can not take immediate and full advantage of the newest technology drills. Productivity gains are thus not optimal.

Hazqil Arafi, Drill & Blast Superintendent at Alliance (Amman Mineral – MacMahon Indonesia) Batu Hijau, Sumbawa. In taking over from Newmont, the new drill & blast team needed to improve the company performance to justify the mine acquisition. They divided the pit geology rock types into 9 drill domains based on rock hardness and physical characteristics. Modified the blast design and included lifter holes about the edge dimensions of the blast. Good result and lifted productivity of mining benches. Work with management – not just look at compartmental costs, but to look at overall increase in productivity.

Wirawan Nurcahyo Utomo, PT. Kaltim Prima Coal. A practical example of overburden blasting undertaken in their coal mine in Kalimantan. Sensitive to nearby villages and so use electric detonators and delay boosters to reduce ground vibration. Most misfires and not-on-time blasting are due to human error. Have learnt to better coordinate with consultants and contractors.

Pascal Montageux, Underground Activity Director at EPC Group. Bulk explosives are cheaper than milk, at around US$1/kg of explosive. EPC have expanded more into delivering mining solutions, including drone mounted survey, new algorithms for modelling optimal blast design.

Phillip Buttgereit, Technical manager Asia, Middle East, Subequatorial Africa at Davey Bickford Enaex Asia Co. Ltd. New plasma-based concept for rock breaking, without “blasting”. Great for areas sensitive to blasting (next to factory, highway etc). Presumably not defined as explosive and thus easier to transport, store and use. This is not waterproof, but water resistant. Only needs smaller hole. In process to seek approval / license to import & use in Indonesia.

Agusman, Business Manager at BME Indonesia. BME explosive supplier now 8 years in Indonesia. In South Africa they are able to pump the bulk explosives down through a pipe to the underground workings, for easier delivery & not disrupt mine haul way system. Emphasize collaboration approach, and ability to make fast management / operational decisions through being up to date on HP based systems.

Side discussion – There can develop a “social disruption” with new technology allowing middle management to sit at home / Jakarta and monitor every aspect of the operation, while site operators work hard in the sun, or on the pit face, and don’t see the management sharing their daily difficulties and isolation.

Slamet Rachman Jaka, Technical Services Manager at PT. Multi Nitrotama Kimia (MNK). MNK is one of 9 distributers of Ammonia Nitrate (main bulk explosive) in Indonesia. Undertook research into wave modulation to reduce ground vibrations to nearby villages etc. Based on out-of-step sound ways will reach a point where the peaks & troughs cancels each other out to make no sound. Use few test single explosives with array of seismographs to model the effect of the immediate substrata. Then model and develop the electronic blast delay system to achieve minimal ground vibration.

Hendro Parulian & Anton Priatna, PT. Freeport. Good presentation using video animations to show extensive drill & blast systems to develop underground haulage ways, ore passes and initial caving. Freeport presently developing 32 km / year of underground development haulage ways. Development of initial block cave different for each part of each block – as ground conditions vary, and needs some amount of trial and adjustment. Huge tonnages of explosives used each day. Need for post blast air clearance followed by air safety crew before underground work can recommence in blast area. Many SOP and safety aspects are not yet regulated in Indonesia (SNI), so typically use international standards (ASTM).

Where to from here.

Great presentations from drilling and explosive industries. The level of adoption of Industry 4.0 in the drill & blast sector is fantastic.  There is a game change in the way employment and work practices will be impacted in the mining industry. It seems that the many years of experience to become an accomplished driller, or blast engineer is a thing of the past. Their knowledge has been adsorbed into so many computer algorithms that new drill operators may be tattooed millennials who are trained in a few days to operate the new one button drill machines. Blast engineers sit back and look at real time screens of slow-motion blasts, fragmentation statistics linked to productivity gains and so many graphs that are manipulated by comparative algorithms to produce management performance reports, being almost like a video game. This is not the future, but NOW. It would seem many of the Indonesian mines are cautiously slow to fully adapt to all the new technology. Perhaps it is the price of the new consultancy packages, or losing some form of daily hands on control to these systems, that makes Indonesian owners and operators to be slow on the uptake.

Regulations still require a certified mining engineer / blast engineer on site, and site will need service teams to refuel, maintenance, fill holes with explosives and such. New fields of electronics, computer maintenance and anti-virus systems will grow. I wonder what will happen to the 2,000 new mining engineers, or 1,000 new geologists or 200 metallurgists that are graduating each year in Indonesia? A win-win solution may include taking the breaks of greenfield exploration in order to grow the mining industry.

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