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SME Annual Meeting

Feb. 27-Mar. 02, 2011, Denver, CO

Preprint 11-091
R. Owen, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., Morenci, AZ

to send blasthole patterns to the drills, view drilling progress in real

time and review the status of key parameters for the current and
previous shifts.

An overwhelming amount of data can be collected around the
blasting process. This information can include blasting product,
pattern design, blast results, and routing. It is only when these data
sources are combined in a concise and accurate form that they are of
real use in determining the safety and economic implications of each
parameter. Two key technological aspects of blasting are drill fleet
management (DFM) and size fraction analysis (SFA). As these
technologies are integrated as near-real-time measurement and
QA/QC tools, the resolution and realization of blasting parameters is
significantly increased. The Freeport-McMoRan Morenci Mine has
integrated these technologies along with other existing database
structures to create a responsive and sustainable tool for
reconciliation, forecasting and parameter matching. This ability allows
Morenci to customize blast patterns to meet the criteria most critical to
each shot, whether the impact is influenced by routing and recovery,
equipment maintenance or safety concerns.

Blastholes that are completed are sent to a server with a

multitude of drilling parameters.
This data includes the GPS
coordinates for the collar of the hole, as well as multiple down-hole
parameters that include the total drill depth. The time in which each
phase of down-hole drilling occurs is recorded giving detailed
penetration rate and energy consumption per drilling interval. This
data is used to supplement geotechnical data and forecasting on drill
time requirements. This incremental down-hole data is also valuable
as a drill bit tracking source to ascertain bit performance and
correlation to bit wear and drilling conditions.
The SFA has been developed to capture images of active dig
faces for all large production shovels. The images are manually
cleaned of unusable images and automatically processed. This data is
stored on a database where each image is collated to a GPS
coordinate of the location where the image was taken.
combination of information has increased the ability to systematically
judge fragmentation results.


The current DFM was stabilized in its current form in mid 2009
after database and hardware maintenance met stability requirements.
Currently the system is running on 12 production drills. The system
receives pattern layout and is capable of semi-autonomous drilling
over the entire district. The fleet is capable of drilling in highly altered
intrusive units and hard granites through the range of sedimentary and
volcanic units that comprise the Morenci District. The system brings a
level of accuracy not achievable with earlier paint-marked patterns.
Depth control is also increased along with more consistent wear and
maintenance patterns due to semi-autonomous drilling.

The SFA cameras are mounted to the bottom of the shovel cab
and are triggered to capture images only when the shovel is in dig
configuration. This is achieved by reading the shovel geometry and
control inputs to determine the shovels position relative to the bank.
By using this Smart Trigger, it is possible to significantly increase the
number of quality images taken by each camera. The cameras are
equipped with lighting sources that allow the images to be taken 24
hours a day.

The primary advantage of the DFM is to increase the realization

of blast pattern design. This reduction in variation from design to
actual allows for more accurate blast modeling. Manually surveyed
patterns characteristically have large enough error to potentially
invalidate correlations of blast parameters and blast results. As a
primary element of successful blasting, energy distribution is
achievable when assisted by the DFM. The current resolution of the
DFM is around 6 inches in the horizontal and 2 feet in the vertical.

The images are transferred to a folder where they are checked for
quality. Images that contain obscuration from dust or machinery are
discarded. Images that pass this quality control are then analyzed for
size fraction distribution and processed into a database. The database
names each image and captures the time it was taken. From this time
it is possible to determine the exact GPS point where the dipper was
located when the image was captured. This position is used to code
the images into the blasting block model for comparison to other

The vertical component is based upon hardware installed on the

drill platform and is more physically maintenance intensive than the
GPS and software-based system utilized for the rest of the DFM. This
aspect is also the easiest and least expensive aspect of energy
distribution to correct. A deep hole can be back filled using blasthole
cuttings to reach target depth with ease. The driller manually tapes
each blasthole to ensure quality control. This will catch any errors with
the on-board system and allow for holes to be extended as needed.

For the cameras to capture adequate data an average of 1 image

per kiloton of shot material is required. The average number of images
captured per kiloton is 5.8. The high number of images to shot
material supplies the engineer with very clear trends in muck size. The
total time for an image to spend in processing is 24 hours or less. This
time frame allows operators and engineers to monitor the process of a
shovel through a bench with day resolution to determine the quality of
fragmentation. Any un-forecasted trends in lithology or geotechnical
parameters are easily recognized and can be reconciled in the block

The horizontal component requires the first pass to be accurate.

Any adjustments to this parameter require the hole to be re-drilled or
abandoned. Either of these options is time consuming and expensive.
Current production patterns are completed with mean horizontal
variation less than 6 inches. At this level of accuracy, a 10 to 12
diameter blasthole can be expected to deliver the modeled charge to
the area designed.


The SFA reporting allows for very detailed feedback on blasting
performance while the DFM allows for blastholes to be placed within a
half-diameter error of design. The other parameters necessary for
blast design and reconciliation are also captured to create a full
process map.
This data includes bulk explosives information,

The value add of the DFM does not stop at drilling accurate blast
patterns. The data flow from the system gives both operators and
engineers a suite of real-time and near-real-time tools for forecasting
and adjusting mining strategy. The DFM utilizes a web-based interface

Copyright 2011 by SME

SME Annual Meeting

Feb. 27-Mar. 02, 2011, Denver, CO
energy yield and geotechnical properties of the block to determine
interactions between each.

detonation details and accessory utilization.

These items are
combined with the blasthole location from the DFM to give precise
kilocalorie calculations and high explosive tracking.

Very structured tests conducted with varied blasting parameters

can be used to define the base interaction of product, energy
distribution, energy level and geotechnical zones. This information will
be built upon by every shot conducted within the district, using the
block model to capture each parameter. By following the results of the
original experiment, parameter correlations should become more
consistent. If the correlation between parameters starts to drift apart,
other parameters should be considered. This iterative process assists
blasters in dealing with ever changing mining conditions.

The bulk explosive data stored in the system include total weight
of product loaded into the blasthole, the type of product used, the
depth of the blasthole, amount of stemming loaded and any measured
water levels in the blasthole. This information is stored for each
blasthole. By linking this data to the exact coordinates of each
blasthole, it is possible to model the kilocalories applied to the shot.
This information is stored on the blasthole in the database and coded
to the block model. The addition of blasthole depth and water level
can be used to track water infiltration and build water models to
forecast bulk explosive product selection and loading times.
Acceptance sampling on all blasting products is completed to verify
that product placement matches design and conforms to determined
standards. This brings confidence to the kilocalorie calculations and
reduces variation in the process. Any changes to product density and
mixing ratios can have a large impact on blasting performance and are
essential for quality control.


The consolidation and integration of this data allows for web
based reporting that is accessible from any computer on the company
This accessibility of near-real-time reports promotes
improved decision making. These reports can be customized to track
QA/QC processes, review design achievement and review cost
tracking. Where the block model does the design and statistical work,
the web base reporting delivers everyday reporting designed to suit the
needs of diverse work groups from the same bank of information.

The detonation information captured in the database includes the

detonator ID, timing and communication logs. The use of electronic
detonators has greatly increased the accuracy and quality of blasting.
Along with this immediate blasting performance benefit is the ability to
track each detonator from delivery to consumption in the blasthole.
When multiple detonators are required, the position of each detonator
is recorded in the database and can be recalled to report form or visual
display on the mine planning software. The timing information is also
stored to analyze muck movement, pattern timing and burden relief.
Recording the communication logs in the database allows the
operators and engineers to know the exact detonator ID and location of
any detonators that experienced communication issues. Any detonator
issues can be visually displayed in the mine planning software or on
the shovel routing map. The safety implications of this database
feature are immediately apparent. The database provides the ability to
readily track all communication issues for any electronic detonator
used on property and track the precise location the detonator was
loaded. This information can also be used to quality check blasthole
loading and tie-in procedures as well as providing feedback to
manufacturers about any detonator issues.

To achieve and maintain high levels of accuracy with the DFM it is

important to give driller feedback. The data stored in the DFM is
combined with the QA/QC blasthole quality analysis performed by the
blasting crew to inform drillers of plugged holes or re-drill requirements.
This, along with the drillers accuracy in achieving pattern design and
use of automated drilling systems, is used to ensure consistent blast
patterns. These reports are generated on a scheduled basis but can
be run at any time to coach drillers and planners on best optimizing the
The ability to consistently achieve design on blast patterns is
critical to understanding and optimizing the performance of each blast.
The web based reporting is able to generate detailed reports that
review the design parameters of each blasthole for each pattern for
each district zone and compare the achieved parameters. This
comparison can be reported directly after a blast pattern is shot, and
again once the material has been mined. The initial report compares
the design versus actual while the follow up report will compare the
actual performance of the shot. These pieces are continually fed back
into the block model where the iterative process of blast optimization is
continued. These reports are built in drop down form to accommodate
high level overview of district zone performance, blast pattern
resolution or specific to each blasthole. This range of detail can easily
fit the needs of upper management through engineering and blasting

The database also allows blasting accessories to be stored and

tracked for cost coordination and forecasting purposes.
accessory used is linked to a specific blasthole ID and therefore can be
related to blasthole condition and fragmentation requirements.
The blasting block model is the heart of the integrated system.
The model allows all stored parameters to be combined into one area.
The distribution of blastholes, blasthole parameters from DFM, product
utilization, explosive energy, water content and many other parameters
are imported.
The blasting parameters are combined with
geotechnical and grade information. This combination of data allows
for detailed modeling of parameters and interactions.

The design versus actual achievement often hinges upon the

ability to use products as specified. A QA/QC process on blasting
products used is a vital part of the integrated system and must be
followed closely. The quick access to reports on QA/QC allows all
members of the blasting process to review the daily results and identify
trends that need to be addressed. Most processes vary over time
depending on supply requirements, climate changes and blasting
conditions. This variance must be understood and an acceptable
range should be established. The web based reporting will use these
tolerance parameters to flag aspects that fail to meet the design
requirements. These reports can even be sent out automatically if
parameters fail to meet required tolerances. Automatic reporting can
often increase response time to failing systems and ensure blasting
performance is not affected.

The SFA data is interpolated into the block model where it is

bounded by key relational parameters. This will be used to measure
the performance of the blasts. Information is stored for several
passing rates as well as nearest image and number of images used to
code the block. Using these parameters, it is possible to qualify each
block as a viable data point and reconcile forecasted results with actual
results. This resolution of detail can account for lithology and faulting
as well as blast pattern timing and bulk blasting product variance. The
SFA can be reported in table and graph form or in visual format for
plotting. These reports quickly inform the operators and engineers of
areas that met forecast and those areas that have potential for

The ability to customize these reports to suit many needs allows

the system to be transplanted to any mine site and allows interaction
between sites. As data becomes more centralized and near-real-time
reporting from sites and business headquarters grows, the ability to
view on-demand reporting will continue to develop. The web based
reporting used at Morenci is already in these advanced stages and
continues to adapt to more data and more global requirements for
process and product tracking.

The bulk blasting product and ideal kilocalories are coded into the
block model. These values are similarly reported monthly but are
available on demand. These elements can be run through the mine
planning statistical suite to identify correlations between product,

Copyright 2011 by SME

SME Annual Meeting

Feb. 27-Mar. 02, 2011, Denver, CO
This model of integration improves the ability of blasting to
respond to geotechnical, economical and safety issues with high
precision. Blast testing conducted under this blasting model has the
advantage of quick data analysis with more detailed results. This
ability to see impact on multiple variables with less time allows for
greater integration of these test results into the production
environment. By fully integrating these blasting aspects, blasting
performance will better suit both upstream and downstream processes.
The ability of each aspect of the mining process to adapt in a
timely manner to evolving needs is critical. This integrated blasting
model allows blasting costs and results to vary as the mine
progresses. As mines are expanded, steepened and new mines are
designed, geotechnical parameters become more important.
Integrated data allows the blast model to build correlations between
geotechnical parameters and their impacts on both blast performance
from a processing standpoint and highwall stability standpoint. This
information then allows the blast design to be best optimized for the
current economic situation. The ability to move blasting results to
adapt to economic situations means real cost savings with minimum
lag time.
Near-real-time reporting and complete data analysis ability are
critical when evaluating the safety concerns associated with blasting.
The energy expended with each blast is a key concern with every
pattern. Inability to control energy adversely affects blast results and
may put personnel and equipment in harms way. By reviewing the
design and actual blast parameters of each blasthole, it becomes
possible to analyze well-shot blastholes and less than optimal shot
blastholes to evaluate what parameters can be optimized. Blast video
along with recognized success or failure is less effective without good
data collection to analyze.
Understanding the interaction of each variable involved in the
outcome of a blast is a daunting prospect. The amount of data that
can be collected on each blasthole, for each blast pattern, on each
bench, for each pushback in every corner of a mining district is
immense. The need for a robust and manageable database is crucial.
The information must be integrated quickly and with confidence. The
information then should be accessed in a clear and concise manner.
The integrated blast model facilitates this with ability to grow as
technology is advanced and becomes available.
The upstream and downstream process improvements are still
being realized. Each mine site may have different requirements, and
the requirements may change as equipment is changed. Blasting can
accommodate crusher throughput limitations, contributing to the mass
reduction from the initial blast. This can easily be evaluated from a
cost standpoint allowing for the money to make the largest impact:
more crusher capacity or more money spent in the initial blast. In
leaching operations the reduction of ROM material may realize
immediate and significant profit increases. From total recovery to
recovery times, the size of material in a ROM leach pad is very
influential. In milling processes the ability to impart micro-fractures and
small initial input size can greatly reduce the energy and time
requirements to realize particle size. Waste material may not require
small size fractions, but fragments that are too large may cause
unnecessary damage to equipment or loading hardships for personnel.
By optimizing these and many more downstream processes it may be
possible to reduce or streamline the types and amount of blasting
products purchased. Improved maintenance may reduce work hours
required to keep equipment running and increase production.
Blasting is the pillar of open pit mining and is directly influenced
by many factors, both in design and terrain, and can influence much of
the ultimate mine design and cost realization. The technology exists to
reduce analysis time and build sufficient models to accurately predict
rock fragmentation.
The integration of data sources and the
application of this data into the process is the key to success. The
future of blasting is here and will only continue to develop as new
technologies are developed.

Copyright 2011 by SME