Utilizing technology to produce safer blasts

By |  October 4, 2023
Richter

Richter

Flyrock is typically a concern blasters have as they prepare a site for detonation.

A flyrock incident, however, can rattle blasters to their core – even if no one gets hurt – and keep them from focusing on next steps should a problem arise.

“A lot of times what happens is blasters are so shook up that they threw a rock,” says Brett Richter, general manager at Buckley Powder Co., who manages the Central Region for his company. “They have too much going on, and they’re unsure of what happened. Combined with phone calls and reporting structures, it’s hard to stay focused in that moment. Blasters have a lot to think about – the responsibility of explosives is not taken lightly.”

Following such an incident, a next step for Richter is to get somebody capable to assist with the incident on-site immediately. But one efficient way of working a problem remotely is to have somebody share cellphone images from the site.

“The cellphones with cameras can provide the best piece of evidence you have,” Richter says. “And that goes whether you hit a deer on the way to work or maybe there was a misfire. Show me what we’re looking at so we can find the best way to fix it.”

Drone world

Fortunately, Richter says technology has evolved so much in recent years that blasters can be as precise as ever with their blasts.

The onset of drones, for one, has produced safer, more productive blasts.

“We have really stepped up our game in the drone world,” Richter says. “All of our blasters in the Central Region have drone licenses. The reason is if something is unsafe – say a crack in the face – then the drone picks it up.”

A single drone flight empowers a blaster like never before, he adds.

“You can fly the drone 350 ft. in the air and see what’s around the shot,” Richter says. “When blasters go to load the shot, it gives them a good idea of what their maximum safety buffer is because you get an overhead view.”

Say a highway or a few houses are situated behind a shot. A blaster working the site for the first time might not be fully aware of the surrounding landscape.

“If you have the overhead view from a drone, you can see everything in every direction,” Richter says. “Your blast radius could be a broken-down excavator 150 ft. away. Maybe that’s something the blaster didn’t know about the last time he was at the quarry. But with the drone, he can tell what his blast radius is.”

Another game-changer

The more control blasters have on the front end of a detonation, the less likely an incident is to occur on the back end. Photo: Xesai/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

The more control blasters have on the front end of a detonation, the less likely an incident is to occur on the back end. Photo: Xesai/iStock / Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Like drones, Richter says bore track technology has significantly advanced blasting.

“A lot of the big producers are basically doing mandatory bore tracking,” Richter says. “I would say drilling technology has changed for the better, but some of the new drills are so smart, it’s best to bore track behind them to verify the holes. Bore tracking does help with the results if everything is working the way it should.”

As Richter describes, the combination of drones and bore tracking gives blasters much more control over a blast’s outcome.

“We utilize drones to lay out most shots,” he says. “That way, we know before we even get a drill to the quarry that we have confidence in exactly how much burden is going to be on those holes if they’re straight. And if they’re crooked, we’ll catch them with the bore track.

“Precise drilling allows you to inch out the pattern, save on costs and get longer, straight rows,” Richter adds. “Really, blasting is about long, straight faces. That’s when it’s best. When things get jagged, that’s when you have to put extra holes in to clean up a face, and that gets messy quickly.”

The more control blasters have on the front end of a detonation, the less likely an incident is to occur on the back end.

“Technology is changing the game,” Richter says. “It paints the whole picture for what a shot is going to look like.”

Related: How drilling, blasting tech continues to advance

Kevin Yanik

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or kyanik@northcoastmedia.net.

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