Benchmarking your operation’s drilling & blasting process

By |  June 10, 2019
 The majority of aggregate producers who manage their own blasts do so to have a better handle on costs. Photo courtesy of Enaex.

The majority of aggregate producers who manage their own blasts do so to have a better handle on costs. Photo courtesy of Enaex.

Aggregate producers are divided on what’s most essential to a successful drilling operation. Producers are split on what makes a blast successful, as well.

With drilling, some say the drill operator is the key while others emphasize a drill’s availability, a shot’s design, operating safely or minimizing costs.

With blasting, optimizing fragmentation is the key for a number of producers while factors like safety or costs are the priority for others.

Most aggregate producers would probably agree, however, that one major key to successful drilling and blasting is collaboration. Without collaboration between mine operators, drillers, blasters and other stakeholders, desired results likely can’t be achieved, and the safety of those on sites cannot be fully ensured.

In-house versus outsourcing

But how aggregate producers go about drilling and blasting varies considerably. Pit & Quarry surveyed 40 aggregate producers this spring about their approach to drilling and blasting, reaffirming the notion that there’s no one-size-fits-all method that producers follow.

While one-third of producers tell P&Q they own and operate their own drills, the majority of producers surveyed (44 percent) contract out the drilling on their site.

Twenty-nine percent of aggregate producers tell P&Q that they contract drill because drilling is not their core expertise. Photo courtesy of FRD.

Twenty-nine percent of aggregate producers tell P&Q that they contract drill because drilling is not their core expertise. Photo courtesy of FRD.

Even more producers (73 percent) contract blast, citing safety and liability concerns as their top reason for doing so. Other producers (27 percent) admit blasting is not their core expertise, so they’re more comfortable contracting out this part of the business.

Those who do manage their own blasts, however, do so for a few reasons. Cost management is the number one reason producers cite. Others believe they have the expertise to handle blasts, so they continue to manage them in-house. Safety and liability concerns are yet another reason producers manage blasting internally.

Producers who own and operate their own drills have specific reasons for doing so, as well. The primary reason for most is cost (37 percent). Other producers put tremendous value on their internal drilling expertise, while a handful manage drilling in-house simply because that’s how they’ve always done it.

Muck pile management

Good fragmentation is, of course, essential to an effective blast. No blast is perfect, though, leaving aggregate producers with oversize, fines or some combination of the two to manage in addition to rock that’s ideally sized for their crusher.

Source: P&Q Drilling & Blasting Survey (April 2019). Click to enlarge

Source: P&Q Drilling & Blasting Survey (April 2019). Click to enlarge

Between oversize and fines, oversize presents the bigger fragmentation issue of the two for producers. Fifty-seven percent of producers tell P&Q that oversize is the number one fragmentation issue at their operation, with 19 percent pointing to fines as their biggest fragmentation burden.

Inconsistency (11 percent) is also a fragmentation issue for producers, and an equal percentage (11 percent) reports no fragmentation issues at all.

Not every operation will agree, but modern drilling and blasting tech is optimizing rock fragmentation at a number of sites. Most operations admit their use of tech isn’t necessarily highly sophisticated, but they see a place for tools that can help them better plan, design and execute blasts.

Source: P&Q Drilling & Blasting Survey (April 2019). Click to enlarge

Source: P&Q Drilling & Blasting Survey (April 2019). Click to enlarge

Most of the producers P&Q surveyed (58 percent) describe their drilling operation as “somewhat sophisticated.” The majority (62 percent) also describes their blasting operation in these terms.

Fewer producers (24 percent) are willing to describe their drilling operation as “highly sophisticated.” The same goes for producers willing to characterize their blasting operation as “highly sophisticated” (21 percent).

Even fewer producers describe their drilling (16 percent) and blasting (14 percent) operations as “not really sophisticated.”


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