Changing the Landscape of blasting

an introduction to the first through earth fully Wireless Initiation Systems

Daniel Hepburn

Lead – Technical Services, South East Metals and New Zealand, Orica

Synopsis

In quarrying every blast is a unique event, and yet until recently all have shared a very common denominator: a physical connection to a primer. This constraint has always been a constant in commercial blasting systems, and it has shaped how we conduct blasting and even mining itself. Therein lies the groundbreaking potential for a fully wireless electronic blasting system (WEBS).

WebGen™ 100 is the world’s first wireless through earth electronic blasting system, and to date has been used in over 200 production blasts in both underground, quarrying and surface mining applications across the globe. WEBS enables groups of in-hole primers to be wirelessly initiated by a firing command that communicates through rock, water and air from either a central or mobile antenna. This removes the constraints imposed by the requirement of a physical connection to each primer in a blast and from the firing point to the blast. 

It is early days for WEBS, and focus has been on surface and underground mining, case studies are still on-going, data thus far has shown benchmark improvements in blast productivity, on-bench efficiency, reduced hazard exposure for workers, and elimination of redundant initiation systems. By its very nature, WEBS has also eliminated misfires due to downline damage.  However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, without the need for physical connections to the primers we have enabled many new blasting techniques and extraction techniques in underground mining, the possibility could extend to surface mining and even quarrying operations.

A fully wireless initiation system presents a solution to current industry challenges with wired blasting systems, but it also poses new challenges. Risks must be managed such as having a power source co located with a detonator and without a physical connection to the blast one must fire the correct blast.  WEBS itself has safety and security at its very core and is the first explosive device to achieve the safety rating SIL 3 – IEC5108, the highest practical standard of functional safety.   

The purpose of this presentation is to provide an introduction to WEBS and how it works, deliver an understanding of how safety and security is managed and finally highlight some of the findings from recent surface mining experiences through a recent case study.

Biography

After completing a Bachelor Degree in Geotechnical Engineering at RMIT, Daniel joined Orica’s graduate program in 2004. Subsequently servicing the open cut market segments of Western Australia for eight years, Daniel transitioned to the Quarries and Construction Technical Services team, where he had great success with fragmentation gains using electronic detonators, environmental blast management solutions and close proximity construction blasting solutions. Additional opportunities have since seen Daniel progress through the Technical Services team to the role of Superintendent for the South East Metals technical Services team, where most recently Daniel has been introducing Orica’s new wireless electronic blasting systems WebGen.