Mine-to-mill studies have previously demonstrated downstream productivity benefits from relatively modest increases in blast energy, or powder factor. These increases have up to now been limited by safety and environmental constraints, since excessive blast energy can result in flyrock, unacceptable vibration, airblast and wall damage.
Here, a new blasting method that overcomes these constraints is presented. For the first time it is possible to employ powder factors that are several fold higher than conventional blasting. Independent modelling has shown that such powder factors can potentially increase mill throughput by 20 to 40 per cent. The economic implications are substantial, both in terms of increasing production in existing operations and in consideration of capital and plant requirements for greenfield sites. In addition, mill electricity and grinding media consumption and their associated costs and energy and emissions penalties can be reduced.
This method represents a step-change in blasting practices. It involves a novel design utilising dual blast layers within a single blast event, all initiated with state-of-the art electronic blasting systems. The energies in the lower layer can be as high as five times the standard energies, providing for intense fragmentation of the ore. Results from blast models have been confirmed in field trials of the method.
Open cut gold mining, in particular, stands to benefit from this method. As gold grades decline, milling costs and throughput increasingly become constraints on production that can be alleviated with this new method. Additionally, it opens possibilities for improved recovery. Blast modelling studies show that dilution of gold ore within the blast can be managed with the new method. Furthermore, it has been shown that vibration from the new method is actually lower than from conventional blasting, allowing the use of the technique in proximity to mine highwalls and other key infrastructure such as underground orepasses.
It is concluded that this new method could substantially increase gold mine production and profitability while reducing overall energy consumption and associated emissions.
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