Orica Explosives' New Technology Trials Deliver Results
29th October, 1999
Orica’s first large-scale Australian trials of its new electronic detonator technology, the super accurate Orica Electronic Blasting System (EBS), are underway and surpassing expectations. The technology, which has been trialed at Gympie Eldorado Goldmines in Queensland, has enabled the mine to extract a large and previously unrecoverable gold ore zone.
Orica owns the intellectual property for the new technology which has been under development for several years. Orica recently announced a joint venture with DNES in Germany which will manufacture the electronic detonators in a highly automated facility in Troisdorf, Germany.
Orica Explosives general manager Mr Julian Segal, responsible for the Australian and Asia-Pacific explosives business operations, said "The Gympie trial results show that the Orica EBS can deliver underground production results that would be impossible using conventional signal tube systems.
"In addition to the unique benefits of the novel application, it's the consistency of the blast results which have been so impressive. We’ve been utilising new Orica blast prediction design software, developed in Australia, to complement the EBS and optimise blasting."
The Orica EBS consists of precision electronic detonators and associated control equipment. The programmable electronic detonators feature on-board processors, energy storage and memory which enable them to function independently once the fire signal has been sent. Potential customer benefits from EBS include more controlled fragmentation which should lead to easier digging, improved cast, reduced back break, smoother walls in presplits, as well as better vibration control. These benefits should lead to lower total mining costs.
Mr Segal said, "Reliability is at the heart of the market’s requirements for electronic blasting systems and this has been the focus of our testing and re-testing. During development over 100,000 small-scale trials have been conducted and the test data used to incrementally improve system reliability. Related data from trials that we are conducting at quarries and underground mines is also providing excellent feedback for the EBS system.
"We are now so pleased with its consistency of performance that we have embarked on the ultimate test - trialing the system on our customers’ sites. The blast results will be extremely closely monitored and used to fine tune the system’s performance."
The EBS technology has been developed around the principle of ‘inherent safety: "A testing device ensures the system used in underground or open cut applications is unable to fire detonators should any part of the system not function perfectly," said Mr Segal.
"The system also has high voltage protection and the detonators require complex digital signals to arm and fire. These are the types of safety features which will create a new benchmark in safety performance and reliability for the mining industry.
"The detonators are connected by a low cost, twin twist connecting harness. Once hookup is complete, or at any time for that matter, the system may be fully tested by communicating with every detonator individually to determine its status. Should an error be detected, the system will provide details along with comprehensive help information."
The Australian EBS trials will continue over the coming months at a number of Orica’s customer mine sites throughout Australia.