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ROCK BLASTING FOR MINING

Technical Report · April 2017


DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.26967.88488

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ROCK BLASTING FOR MINING

Prof. A. Balasubramanian
Centre for Advanced Studies in Earth Science
University of Mysore
Mysore-6

Objectives:
You are all aware that Mining is a major economic sector of any country.
Mining is a geotechnical industry. Geologist explore the economic mineral deposits for mining.
A lot of methods are adopted to exploit the valuable economic mineral resources through open cast
mining or underground mining methods.
In all these methods, there is a need to dislodge the ore or mineral deposit from the main body of the
rocks. Dislodging requires heavy energy application and machineries. To simplify the work, rock
blasting is the easiest way.

In mining operations, blasting has become a routine work. With proper understanding of the rocks
and blasting methods, the mining work can be done effectively. The basic objectives of this report is
to highlight the principles and practices adopted in rock blasting operations for mining sectors.

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The aspects concentrated in this report are:
a) Purpose and scope of blasting
b) Steps involved in blasting
c) Blast design and patterns
d) Methods of blasting
e) Controlling factors of Blasting.

1.0 Introduction:

Most of the economic mineral deposits occur in association with massive hard rocks. These rock
masses should be fragmented to obtain the valuables and separate the materials for further
processing. Breaking a rock mass involves energy. This can be achieved by drilling and blasting.
Hence drilling and blasting are considered to be the first phase of the production cycle in most of the
mining operations. Today technology has shown much advancement in several activities of mining.
Inspite of that, there is no alternative to blasting or drilling. Quiet a lot of improvements have been
shown by experts in controlled blasting operations which are more beneficial not only on production
point of view, but also on the safety point of view of mine workers. Let us see the details of blasting
methods adopted in mining operations.
This image shows a large scale open cast mine.

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Large scale mining in hard rock zones are difficult without the application of drilling and blasting
operations. This is an areal view of a mine.

This illustration shows the schematic view of a quarry operation.

This diagram shows the extension of an ore body to be mined after removing the over-burden/ waste
lying both sides of it. The bench slope is about 45 to 72 degrees.

Systematic blasting is necessary to mine this ore body.

1.1 What is blasting?

Blasting is the process of breaking of bulk rock masses into loose forms, using explosive
compounds. Here, the primary role is played by the explosives.
The explosives are the substances or devices used in blasting. The explosives are used to produce a
volume of rapidly expanding gas that exerts sudden pressure on its surroundings and break the mass
into pieces.
There are three common types of explosives used for blasting as chemical, mechanical, and nuclear
explosives.
About 100 years ago, the Chinese invented explosives. The first chemical explosive was gunpowder.
Germans manufactured gunpowder in the early 1300s.
A detonator is a device used to trigger this explosive device. Detonators can be chemically,
mechanically, or electrically initiated.

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Different explosives require different amounts of energy to detonate. Detonation is a necessity for
the explosive to get triggered for blasting.

1.2 Purpose and scope of blasting:

Blasting is employed for breaking the massive rocks in quarries, open pits, surface and underground
mining works.
Sometimes, blasting is also carried out for removing the overburden from the surface of the earth for
construction purposes.
An optimum blast is associated with the most efficient use of blasting energy in the rock-breaking
process.
The mine blasting expenditure should also be very less.

The process should not only reduce the blasting cost but also reduce the consumption of explosives,
and less wastage of explosive energy in blasting.
During any mining-related blasting, there should be less throw of materials, and there should not be
much blast-related vibration.
All these should provide greater levels of safety and stability to the nearby structures and also for all
the people working around the mines.

1.3 Blasting- An essential part of the mining cycle:

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This diagram illustrates the overall organisational structure of a mine cycle. Once the ore body is
investigated through detailed surveys, the next steps include drilling and blasting, followed by
loading, hauling, primary crushing and other ore-dressing operations. Blasting helps in not only in
rock breaking, but also in primary crushing.
So, Blasting is an essential aspect in the mining cycle.
Now, blasting has become a technology by itself.
Many Mega engineering projects need some kind of blasting of basement rocks.
The blasting technology is the process of fracturing the material by the use of a calculated amount of
explosive so that a predetermined volume of material is broken down into pieces.
Everything can be visualized by proper calculations and execution, with reference to time and space.

2.0 Steps involved in blasting:

In surface mining operations, most of the rocks require blasting prior to their excavation.

The process of blasting includes the following stages:


1. Creation of blast holes and cleaning by using suitable tools.
2. The charge of explosives and place them at the breaking ends.
3. Filling of the remaining portion with clay and tamping.
4. Insertion of Fuse and keep it projecting 15-20 cm above the rock surface.
5. Firing from the free end of fuse by using a suitable detonator.

(after Joseph M. Pugliese, 1972)

This diagram shows the drill hole charged with explosives at a depth. The burden face is shown as B.
The left-hand side is the bench over which the fragmented mass will fall. H is the depth of the
borehole.
This diagram shows the schematic arrangement of blast holes.

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This photograph shows the drilling works being done on a bench.
You can see the location of boreholes in the form of a design.

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Selection of explosives, drilling pattern, blasting pattern and delay patterns are the major aspects in
mining.

2.1 Drilling and Blasting:

There are two basic operations that are necessary to achieve success in mining. One operation is
drilling and the other one is blasting. Drilling is mainly done for three reasons. The first reason is to
investigate the depth-wise distribution of minerals during prospecting. The second reason is to create
the blast-holes for rock blasting. The third reason is to drill for dislodging the soft and friable
minerals like magnesite with shallow depth drills.

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For surface explorations, in opencast mining operations, drillings rigs may be used.
For subsurface explorations, rock boring machines are used.

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A shallow-hole driller may also be used for preparing blast holes in underground mines.

If we do not do these operations, the expenditure of mining would be more and the time taken for
recovering the economic deposit will also be more. In order to cut down the cost of the production and
speed up the processes, optimal fragmentation of the ore body is necessary. Fragmentation is a
necessity for mining and ore dressing also. Fragmentation helps rapid excavation of resources.
Through a properly designed blasting pattern and safe execution, in a mine, it is possible to achieve
the targeted productions. Rock blasting is an interesting aspect of study.

2.2 Concept of Blast:

Mine Blast looks like a very simple but effective, thought provoking process. The physical
characteristics of the rocks are more important than the characteristics of the explosives used in
blasting. The success lies in proper design of the blasting process. The following are the important
points to be kept in mind:
• When an explosive charge is detonated, chemical reaction is activated.
• This chemical reaction will very rapidly change the explosive mass into a hot gas which
generate shockwaves. These are compressive waves, which also expand on all sides.
• They act on the borehole wall and propagate through the explosive column.
• If a series of holes are detonated simultaneously, the entire line of masses will be fragmented.
• Due to this effect, blasting is always carried out in an array of interlinked blastholes.
• Waves generate cracks and make the entire process very effective.

3.0 Good blast design and execution:

A good blast design and proper execution of it , are very much essential for a successful mining
operation.
Improper design or a poor design planned in blasting, can have a severely negative impact on the
economics of a mine.
Sometimes, it may complicate the situation and may need to excess work and expenditure.
Unexpected hazards may also crop out in the environment.
The use of excessive explosives at a mine site will result in full damage of the rock structures and
cause unwanted caving and large increases in support costs.

3.1 Factors of Blast design:

The procedures developed for a blast are aimed at the desired fragmentation and area of coverage.
Any kind of specific thermodynamic break should take into account of the following aspects:
1. Explosive and energy factors
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2. Type and Quantity of explosives used
3. Diameter of blast hole
4. Orientation of the ore body
5. Dynamic rock/ore properties.

There is a need to have effective free face for blasting.


This diagram shows the effective free face. The location of first blast hole, second blast hole
and the third one also seen here.

3.2 Gun Powder and Dynamite:

In the earliest days, blasting was carried out using black powder which was also called as gunpowder.
This compound is a mixture of saltpeter (potassium nitrate), sulfur, and charcoal (carbon).
There have been steady developments in explosives, detonating and delaying techniques and in the
understanding of the mechanics of rock breakage by explosives.
The subsequent development was the invention of dynamites made by the Swedish chemist and
engineer Alfred Nobel in 1867.
Dynamite is an explosive made of nitroglycerin, sorbents (such as powdered shells or clay) and
stabilizers.
Dynamites gained popularity due to its wide-scale use as a safer alternative to gun
powder and nitroglycerin.

3.3 Selection of explosives:

Usually four types of explosives are used in surface mining operations. They are slurries, dry mixes,
emulsions and the hybrid heavy ANFO(ammonium nitrate/fuel oil).

Selection of explosives depends on many factors. The primarily factors include the critical diameter,
hydrostatic pressure, temperature, minimum primer weight, density weight strength, bulk strength,
gap sensitivity, water resistance, loading procedures, coupling or decoupled properties, shelf life,
reliability for bulk operations and overall drilling and blasting economics.

3.4 Drilling Pattern:

Drilling is performed in order to blast the overburden, ore deposit, coal seams etc., so that the power
requirement for excavators to extract the materials becomes less.

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This also reduces the wear and tear of the excavators, increases their life, reduces clearing time of
materials, and decreases operation cost.
Drilling holes are usually made in a zig-zag pattern. They are done in the form of rows and columns
on the surface like grids. But inside their disposition may be dipping differently.

The spacing between the rows and column should be of equal length. This is called as drilling
pattern. Selection of the drilling pattern varies with the type and size of the drill’s used, depth of
holes, kinds of rocks handled, quantity, rapidity of the explosive & amount of steaming. An array is
the line of drill holes made for blasting works.

4.0 Blasting Pattern:

The basic blast hole arrays may be single-rows, square-grid, or rectangular-grid and staggered arrays.

A typical surface blast design will have a set of blast holes charged with explosives.
In this illustration, we can see the layout. The rows are designated with sequential numbers.

The symbol B denotes the burden thickness and the symbol S denotes the spacing between blast
holes. If this sequence is executed, the array of line 1 will get triggered first, followed by the other
arrays, one after the other. The mass gets fragmented and will get fragmented towards the direction
of arrow mark shown in the diagram.

4.1 Types of blast patterns:

Regular symmetrical or Irregular arrays are used for blasting.


To break any irregular areas at the edge of a regular array, the blast holes may be distributed
irregularly.

The standard blast patterns are of three major types. They are:
• Square Grid pattern
• Rectangular grid pattern
• Staggered pattern.

This illustration shows the square grid pattern:

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This is a rectangular grid network:

This is the staggered pattern used for blasting:

In staggered pattern the alignments are diagonal, as you can see in this diagram. First row blast holes
and third row blast holes are in alignments.

The drill holes may be vertical, inclined or horizontal. In opencast mines, both vertical and inclined
holes parallel to the bench face is practiced.

This illustration shows the vertical blast hole designed to remove the excessive burden on the left.

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This is an inclined blast hole. But has an excessive inclination. Not a good method. You can see that it
burst at the bottom. the rest of the burden may come as a big block.

Here is another example. The location and design may produce much air blast. There may be a failure
in blast operations, which may incur loss of explosives.

The row of the holes may be in single or multiple. Based on this, blasting pattern is also classified into
a) Single Row blasting pattern and
b) Multi-row blasting pattern.

4.2 Single& Multi- row firing pattern:

In single row blasting, the fragmentation will be low and the explosive consumption may be more
than multi-row blasting.

The multi-row blasting pattern is better and mostly preferred.


Plan A Shows the multi-row blasting design. The mass will move towards the direction of the arrow,
that is vertically upwards.

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(after Joseph M. Pugliese, 1972)

Plan B shows another pattern.


It is called as box-cut design. In this, the area to be fragmented is not a square. Valley-like excavation
is aimed at, in this design. Fragmented mass will fall back within the trapezium.

Plan C shows a corner-cut design. It is also called as echelon design. The fragmented mass will fall
back on the cut bench itself.

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This is one more corner-cut design- Plan D. The blast sequence is different from the previous plan-C.

Plan-E is another corner cut blast design. The cut bench will expand leftwards.

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For any shallow-depth excavations, single-row design is preferred as shown in this plan F.

These blast designs are preferred for the following kinds of rock materials:
a) The alternate delay pattern (used for softer rocks),
b) Consecutive shot delay pattern (used for rocks with medium hardness),
c) Short delay firing with a cut (used for hard rocks).

4.3 Bench blasting :

Bench blasting is a common blast technique most often used for open pit mines.
By definition, bench blasting is blasting in a vertical or sub-vertical hole or a row of holes towards a
free vertical surface.
More than one row of holes can be blasted in the same round.
A time delay in the detonation between the rows creates new free surfaces for each row.

There are three methods involved in this process as short-hole blasting, long-hole bench blasting and
ring drilling and blasting methods..

The short-hole blasting is usually limited to drilling rounds of 1.2 m to 5.0m length and hole
diameters of up to 43 mm.
Cut and fill and room and pillar underground mining methods commonly employ short-hole blasting.

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The Longhole bench blasting is similar to bench blasting in open pits, using long holes drilled
downward either parallel to each other or in slight rings to cover the stope area. Initiation of the blast
is with a booster down the hole.

Ring drilling and blasting is done from a series of sub level drill drifts developed in the ore body.
The drill pattern is designed to cover off the extent of the ore in the stope.
This type of blasting will cause the ore to swell by 30%, and this must be allowed for when blasting
otherwise the blast may freeze.

4.4 Delay Patterns:

In addition to these aspects, there is yet another factor which plays a dominant role. That is the blast
timing and triggering sequences. It is called as delay pattern. It is also called as firing sequences.
The delay patterns, and varying the hole array to fit natural excavation requirement, allow for an
efficient use of the explosive energy in the blast. This diagram shows the delay in triggering with
reference to arrays

5.0 Methods of Blasting:

The major method adopted in mining is called as controlled blasting.


Controlled blasting is a technique of blasting for the purpose to reduce the amount of over break and
to control the ground vibrations.

5.1 Controlled Blasting

Following are the different types of controlled blasting techniques:


Pre-Splitting - this is an old but highly recognized technique with the purpose to form a fracture
plane beyond which the radial cracks from blasting cannot travel.
Other methods include
Trim (Cushion) Blasting,
Smooth blasting (contour or perimeter blasting) for underground mines and muffle blasting as a
solution to prevent fly-rock from damaging human habitants and structures.

Presplitting

Presplitting is a technique that involves loading a single row of holes that have been drilled along a
desired highwall crest or excavation line.

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Here in this diagram, you can see the role presplitting. When the final limit of excavation is known,
there is a need to restrict the blasting zone. Presplitting helps to control the zone.
Presplitting is to create buffer holes and presplit holes in a closed network. When blasting is done,
since the zone is already weakened with series of holes, the blast has no role to play after this line.

Such methods reduce the crushing effect around the borehole and are shot before the main production
shot. The idea is to minimize or eliminate overbreak from the primary blast and to produce a smooth
rock wall. Presplitting will add a large drilling cost to an operation.

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Borehole Diameters

Normally, the diameter of a borehole is limited by the capabilities of the drill used to create it. As a
rule, open-pit and coal strip mines using large drills will drill presplit holes that range from 9 to 12-¼
inches in diameter.
Quarry and construction presplits are much smaller, generally ranging from 2 to 4 inches in diameter.

Presplit holes may be drilled on an angle if the geology and drill allow for it.

Spacing

Presplit spacing will vary, depending upon rock characteristics, size of the operation, and bench
height.
Trials should be conducted to determine the optimal borehole spacing.

Explosive Charge

Depending upon the rock characteristics and spacing used for the presplit, charge loads will vary.

Smooth Blasting

The term “smooth blasting” refers to lightly loaded holes that have been drilled along excavation
limits and are shot after the main excavation is removed. Typically, such holes are shot
instantaneously or with little delay, leaving a smooth wall with minimum overbreak.

Smooth blasting is the most widely accepted method for controlling overbreak in underground
headings and stopes.

Line drilling

“Line drilling” provides a plane of weakness to which a primary blast may break.
It may also protect a highwall by reflecting some of the shock wave created by a blast.
The distance from the back row to the line drill is normally 50 to 75 percent of the production burden.
Line drilling is normally limited to construction projects, dimension stone quarries, and rock sculpting
activities.

Cushion blasting

“Cushion blasting,” or trim blasting, is similar to smooth blasting. In this method, the holes are shot
after the main production shot.
Cushion blasting involves backfilling the entire borehole with crushed stone to cushion the shock
from the finished wall.

5.2 Major factors influencing blast efficiency :

The major factors involved in blast efficiency are :


• Burden
• Spacing
• Bench height
• Powder column
• Blast hole diameter and depth
• Powder factor
• Stemming.

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5.3 Secondary Blasting:

Irrespective of the method of primary blasting employed, it may be necessary to reblast a proportion
of the rock on the quarry floor so as to reduce it to a size suitable for handling by the excavators and
crushers.

5.4 Explosives based on chemical nature:

The Explosive used here, is a reactive substance that contains a great amount of potential energy that
can produce an explosion if released suddenly.
Chemical explosives are materials which under ignition start rapid chemical reactions to release
gaseous products and energy.
These gases under high pressure exert forces against borehole walls which causes the rocks get
fractured.

Non-Explosive Rock Breaking is also a possible method:

Non-explosives are used in areas very closed to sensitive structures, like buildings.
These are mostly used in construction industry for breaking oversize rocks, concrete etc.

5.5 Calculating Powder Factors

The Powder Factor is a relationship between how much rock is broken and how much explosive is
used to break it. It can serve a variety of purposes, such as an indicator of how hard the rock is, or the
cost of the explosives needed, or even as a guide to planning a shot.

Powder factor can be expressed as a quantity of rock broken by a unit weight of explosives. Or,
alternatively, it can be the amount of explosives required to break a unit measure of rock.

6.0 Tools for blasting:

There are lots of tools used in blasting.


The major tools used for blasting in mines are as follows:
a) Dipper is the machine used to drill the hole to the required depth.
b) Jumper is the machine used to make small blast holes & it is more effective in boring a
nearly vertical hole.
c) Priming needle is used to maintain the hole while tamping is done & is in the form of a thin
copper rod with a loop at one end.
d) Scraping spoon is used to remove dust of crushed stone from blast hole.
e) Tamping bar is used to tamp the material while refilling a blast hole.

6.1 Time design / delay design :

Time design refers to the selection of time between holes in a row based on one third to one half the
time between rows.
Delay intervals between holes in a row less than 3 milli seconds per meter of spacing are not
recommended due to air blast and fragmentation considerations.
Delay intervals between rows less than 6 ms per of burden can cause stemming ejection, fly rock, and
excessive back break.
Multiple row blast (> 4 rows) use longer intervals in back rows.
Bottom delay has generally the shortest delay and delay between decks in the same hole should range
10 to 50 milli seconds.

6.2 Selection of explosives:


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Five characteristics are considered in the selection of explosives. They are:
concern environmental factors,
1. sensitiveness,
2. water resistance,
3. fumes,
4. flammability and
5. temperature resistance.

Sensitiveness is the characteristic of an explosive which defines its ability to evaporate through the
entire length of the column charge and controls the minimum diameter for practical use.

Water Resistance:

Water resistance is the ability of an explosive to withstand exposure to water without it suffering
detrimental effects in its performance.
Explosive products have two types of water resistance, internal and external water resistence.
Internal water resistance is defined as water resistance provided by the explosive composition itself.
As an example. some emulsions and water gels can be pumped directly into boreholes filled with
water.
These explosives displace the water upward, but are not penetrated by the water and show no
detrimental effects if fired within a reasonable period of time.

External water resistance is provided not by the explosive materials itself, but by the packaging or
cartridging into which the material is placed.

The fume class :

The fume class of an explosive is the measure of the amount of toxic gases produced in the
detonation process.

Carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen are the primary gases that are considered in the fume class
ratings.

Although most commercial blasting agents are near oxygen-balanced to minimize fumes and
optimize energy release, fumes will occur and the blaster should be aware of their production.

In underground mining or construction applications, the problems which can result from producing
fumes with inadequate ventilation is obvious.

Flammability:

The flammability of an explosive is defined as the characteristic which deals with the ease of
initiation from spark. fire or flame.
Some explosive compounds will explode from just a spark while others can be burned and will not
detonate fast.

Temperature Resistance:

Explosive compounds can suffer in performance if stored under extremely hot or cold condition .

Cold Resistance:

Extreme cold conditions can also effect the performance of products.


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Most dynamites and blasting agents will not freeze under ordinary exposure under the lowest
temperature encountered in the country.
This is because the manufacturers have added ingredients to these products which allow them to
perform properly, in spite of the cold weather.

6.3 Performance of Explosives:

In the explosive selection process, the environmental conditions can eliminate certain types of
explosives from consideration on a particular project.
After the environmental conditions have been considered, one must consider the performance
characteristics of explosives.
Characteristics of main concern are sensitivity, velocity, density, strength and cohesiveness.

6.4 Integration of all factors:

Blast engineering is an integrated approach. It considers the internal environment, external


environment, drill pattern and loading and haulage of the fragmented ore materials.

A good fragmentation needs this integrated approach. Planning is a must to achieve success in this
process.
The good design will produce good results or release of broken masses.

A bad/ poor method gives a poor output as shown here:

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6.5 Cleaning operations in blast holes:

The blast holes are to be cleaned before loading the explosives. It is also a time consuming process.
Now-a-days, automatic drilling and cleansing systems are available.This diagram shows the schematic
of such an operation available within the drilling equipment.

7.0 Conclusion:

Fragmentation control through effective blast design and its effect on productivity are the major
challenging tasks in mining.
The easiest way to mine the valuable ore bodies is through the use of explosives and well-planned
blasting layouts which can produce good fragmentation profiles.
The design of blasting patterns is specific to not only the explosives that are being used, but also to
the rock or ore type that is being fragmented.
In this lesson we have seen most of the important aspects related to rock blasting for mining.

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