The way mines operate is changing, rapidly. As technology becomes more readily available throughout the mining industry, there are increasing opportunities to improve systems that have been in place for decades (or longer).
From creating more accurate resource models and optimised schedules to executing efficient blasts, embracing digitalisation and imbuing technology throughout your mine operations can have a serious positive impact on your bottom line. Even better? Mines that take this philosophy to heart can realise the benefits immediately.
But how do you make these changes at your mine and move forward with digitalisation?
Is it at an individual level? A department level? Or should it be a greater corporate initiative?
For Barrick, innovation through digitalisation and technology is a key focus across the entire company. This is especially prevalent at its Pueblo Viejo operation, an open pit gold mine in the Dominican Republic, and the Drill and Blast department in particular.
With access to digital and real-time drill and blast data through technical enhancements across its drill and blast programs, Barrick Pueblo Viejo has seen incredible improvements in its day-to-day operations as well as greater business intelligence for future mining excellence.
To further dig into how digitalisation is helping improve this mine’s drill and blast operations , we sat down with Alejandro Rosario, the Senior Drill and Blast Engineer at Barrick Pueblo Viejo, at this year’s annual ISEE conference.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? What is your role at Barrick PV? What about your previous experience?
A: As the Senior Drill and Blast Engineer at Barrick Pueblo Viejo, I am responsible for coordinating all planning and managing for the technical side of the drill and blast department. My role includes cost control, business improvement, and direct contact with drill and blast contractors.
I graduated from INTEC University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering and began my career working as a Construction site engineer. After a couple years in the construction industry, I started working as a trainee engineer in the drill and blast department at the Barrick Pueblo Viejo mine in 2012. I was promoted to a Short-term Planning Engineer in 2014 and started in my current role in 2016.
Q: Why is digitalisation a pillar of your department?
A: For us, digitalisation is a crucial piece of continuous improvement. By incorporating digitalisation into our department, mine, and company we are able to automate data generation and innovate around operational processes that optimise the business.
The Pueblo Viejo mine is one of the newest operations within Barrick. And while Barrick as a whole holds innovation and technology as key values, it is especially prominent at Pueblo Viejo, and our Drill and Blast department in particular.
The Drill and Blast department is the first to be digitalised across the entire mine—in part because of the technology that is available on the market, such as Maptek’s BlastLogic. With this technology we have been able to integrate our drill and blast process from beginning to end—from when the pattern is designed until it is blasted. This allows us to track results like vibration, fragmentation, performance, cost, and inventory of each blast in a single platform, enabling continuous improvement from blast to blast, and for future planning as well.
By fully integrating digitalisation into our Drill and Blast department, we have been able to realise a number of benefits, such as:
“We spend less time figuring out what we need to change in our designs as the results of each blast are fed back automatically to our system. This enables us to implement improvements in real time.”
— Alejandro Rosario
Q: Prior to using software for your drill and blast operations, what was the system you used to carry out drill and blast analysis?
A: Prior to bringing in BlastLogic, our blast data existed in multiple silos.
All of our machines collected and compiled drill info, but a large part of blast data was recorded by hand and kept separate from the drill data. This made accessing the data very difficult and completing any sort of data analysis was very clunky and time-consuming.
Now that we’ve implemented BlastLogic, we have a database that contains all related drill and blast data which enables faster, easier analysis that is more effective.
Q: Why is it important to track results of a blast, such as fragmentation, performance, and cost?
A: To improve any process, you need to know your baseline. Without a benchmark to deliver against, you will not know if you are making improvements or potentially deteriorating your process.
With digitalisation, we can measure each input and output related to a blast and therefore know where we can improve. For instance, now that all of our drill data is integrated to our blasting results, we can improve the use of explosives in the field, improve fragmentation results, perform blasting with smarter and safer sequences, enhance the distribution of the department tasks, reduce data analysis time, and apply Business Intelligence (BI) to our processes to reduce costs, time spent, and improve the administration of resources.
Q: How do you feel digitalisation of blast data can assist with enhanced safety?
A: When you imbue digitalisation into your drill and blast operations, you reduce the amount of time mine personnel need to spend in the field. Our engineers can now complete blast analysis from the office instead of the field. And less time in the field equates to a reduction in the time that our people are around explosives, or other potentially risky situations, and enables us to keep them safer.
In addition, access to digital drill and blast data allows for easier communication of accurate information between departments. And to be safe in dealing with explosives, accuracy is critical.
For example, if there is a misfire of an electronic detonator, that information is fed back into our system in real time. This allows us to identify the issue immediately and treat it as a misfire instead of being surprised by it down the road.
Q: How did you analyse potential software partners for digitalising your drill and blast operations?
A: While evaluating potential software partners we considered several options to ensure that we had a full grasp on what tools and technology were on the market and what would best fit our needs. We specifically needed a tool that would encompass the entire drill and blast process in one platform so that we could collect all data in a single database and use that data seamlessly to improve our processes.
Having our data integrated in BlastLogic has allowed us:
However, we ultimately chose BlastLogic for more than just the software capabilities. Along with the technology, we have access to a phenomenal support team who helps us customise the platform specifically for our operations. We are not paying for a fixed solution, but one that can grow with our needs and is backed by excellent customer service.
To keep up with the latest from Alejandro Rosario, connect with him on LinkedIn.
For more information on BlastLogic, or any additional questions, please contact us here.
Marketing Content Specialist
February 20, 2019
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