Continuous improvement in drill & blast

Drill & blast is the cornerstone for safe and efficient mining operations. BlastLogic is helping AngloAmerican mines significantly improve processes.

Anglo American commenced implementation of Maptek BlastLogic in 2017 to deliver the digitisation of critical drill & blast information. The goal was to transform inconsistent practices into an integrated function underpinning safety and value protection.

Dr Alan Tordoir, Lead Drill & Blast Group Mining Technical & Sustainability for Anglo American, oversees drill & blast for 20 surface and 12 underground operations. He benchmarked the original rollout at six open pit sites, which has enabled streamlined uptake at a total of 15 global locations so far.

‘It’s a really exciting time to be in the industry, with a lot of new technologies and processes emerging,’ said Dr Tordoir.

Turning data into proactive decision-making information is key to success.

Traditional paper-based drill & blast is inefficient, complicated by multiple platforms contributing to design, hole placement and tie-up. Data transfer between stages leads to further communication challenges between field and office.

BlastLogic stores a single source of truth for all processes. The outcome is a significant increase in downstream productivity and better management of explosive risks.

Anglo American has also found that design and execution teams have been brought closer together, and providing the data in a timely manner allows every level of the organisation to make proactive decisions.

Change management

However good a new system is, the changeover phase can be disruptive. Maptek supports customers through BlastLogic configuration, training and implementation, aiming for minimal disruption to the production environment.

Dr Tordoir paid particular attention to proving the benefits during the Anglo American rollout, mapping out the process and troubleshooting at the original sites so that replication was easy for subsequent sites.

Benchmarked data was made universally available, so that teams could track their adoption trajectory curve. When an operation can see how others have overcome initial problems, uptake is faster.

Maptek has found that other customers have a similar change management experience. Recent graduates may be initially more comfortable with new systems, but longer-term players soon recognise the benefits of digital processes and quickly absorb them into a new integrated workflow.

Anglo American found continuous improvement is much easier when multiple sites are sharing the same system. Operations can learn from each other, and can see what good practice looks like. The KPI data showed how some sites were performing better than others.

Having a unified platform for design work enables consistent training and upscaling. This ensures that engineers are performing at the required level to deliver fit for purpose designs that promote safe and efficient operations.

‘Improvement is a never-ending journey,’ concluded Dr Tordoir.

Technical and Innovation May 2021 update from Anglo American stated:

In blasting practices, the company reported a 50% improvement in drill and blast execution vs plan, which was enabled via real-time, in-field digital platforms.

Automation advances

Upcoming releases will introduce a drilling data entry on the blast loading tablets for sites with contractor drill rigs, so that all the drilling and charging data is captured for analysis.

Automation of the blast design process is an exciting innovation by Maptek to advance analysis of the interaction of different factors as part of blast design. Engineers can then better understand how they can trade off objectives to determine the value that can be gained by small incremental design changes.

The future will also bring blast design deeper into the upstream planning process and broader cross-operation scenario design.

Dr Tordoir looks forward to a continuing partnership with Maptek to integrate technology solutions, to improve the downstream feedback loop and to empower engineers.

  • In a 2021 corporate update, Anglo American reported a 50% improvement in drill & blast execution against plan
  • BlastLogic has brought design and execution teams closer and providing timely data allows every level of the organisation to make proactive decisions
  • A unified platform ensures engineers can deliver fit for purpose drill & blast designs that promote safe and efficient operations