Digital tool enforces safety in surface blasting

Siobhan Doyle

Digital solutions improve miner safety in surface blasting – without losing time.

While the mining industry has made considerable progress in mitigating severe injuries and fatalities associated with mine blasting operations, incidents persist. Inadequate blast area security remains a prominent contributor to injuries and fatalities, posing an ongoing challenge that demands sustained vigilance.

“Before pushing the blast button, it is crucial to ensure that everyone is at a safe distance. But at the same time, it is important to blast on time so as not to jeopardise the next shift’s opportunities to deliver,” says Magnus Nilsson, product manager at Epiroc.

The mining equipment manufacturer has launched a series of digital solutions for surface mining that aim to improve safety. Epiroc drew inspiration from its smart solutions and safety technologies used profusely in underground mines. Its surface-based capabilities help plan, execute, and monitor surface mining operations, according to the company.

“Although open-pit mining faces different challenges than underground operations, it also shares many similarities. We are now unleashing battle-proven solutions from underground mines to create new values for surface mines,” says Hans Wahlquist, global director of product management at Epiroc.

Scanning the situation

Epiroc integrates 3D situational awareness with open-space positioning and satellite imaging to create a 3D map of the blast area, including surface blast zones and tunnels. “Our technology-agnostic solutions are improving safety at mining sites but also increasing efficiency by reducing the time spent looking for people or assets,” says Wahlquist.

The Swedish company’s existing Situational Awareness tool, which allows operators to virtually visualise a whole mine, now comes with a feature called Zone-based Messages, enabling personnel in the control room to send messages from its Situational Awareness application to people in designated areas of the mine.

According to Epiroc, these messages can be information, warnings or alarm messages. They can be persistent messages in dangerous areas or, in some cases, instant messages. Zone-based messages can also be automated through Event Automation scripts triggered by IoT sensors for ground stability, the company says.

Blast away

Epiroc has also introduced a digital decision support tool to ensure improved personnel safety at blasting. 3D visualisation, with open-space positioning, gives the control room an overview of everyone’s location.

By integrating the tool with its Situational Awareness application, Epiroc’s Blast Support tool enables mining operators to both keep track of all people on-site and send zone-based messages. Blast Support is a technology agnostic solution compatible with various tags and virtual tags.

Whether it’s employees, contractors or visitors, the tool alerts all people on site of blast schedules and countdowns. It also monitors blast shelters and refuge chambers. “With Blast Support, you can evacuate designated areas for blasting. With real-time tracking of people through tags, you can be sure that the area is cleared,” says Nilsson.

These digital solutions can help reduce time for blasts by optimising the design, and execution and ensuring that all personnel and equipment are cleared from the blast area on time. It also boosts productivity and efficiency by monitoring the blast results and performance and optimising material flow and haulage routes, the company states.

Stress free

According to Epiroc, its digital solutions enhance collaboration and coordination by ‘enabling seamless communication’ between different teams and stakeholders and sharing relevant information and data.

The company believes that by empowering personnel with real-time information and digital tools for communication with people working on surface mining sites, stress around the blasting operation can be reduced.



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