A recent survey of quarry companies attending Quarry Academy hosted by Dyno Nobel and Sandvik found that a whopping 60% of quarries feel their muck pile fragmentation could be better. Only 2% felt the quality of their muck pile fragmentation was excellent. 50% of the quarries stated that their major fragmentation issue was that the fragmentation was oversize, 28% said it was inconsistency in fragmentation size, 18% said excessive fines and ONLY 3% said the fragmentation was good.
97% of quarry companies feel their muck pile fragmentation could be better
Only 3% of quarries are satisfied with the quality of their muck piles.
Poor fragmentation is a consistent and expensive issue for mines and quarries. Inconsistent sizes means increased time, effort, and expense to load, haul, and process material. Too large fragmentation puts unnecessary burden on machines to process the rock into the desired size.
Achieve the proper fragmentation size from the very beginning
Chemical explosive crushing is 5x more efficient than mechanical crushing and 25x more efficient than mechanical grinding.
So, instead of investing heavily in screens, crushers, mills, and all of the machines and their attendant maintenance expenses, companies should be investing in the drilling and blasting phase of ore extraction to get proper fragmentation from the beginning.
Most quarries, about 60%, use contractors to do their drilling and blasting, 25% would like to move those operations in house.
Drones & AI
Utilizing new technology including AI, drones, and smart drills would allow mines as well as aggregate producers to eliminate much of the costs resulting from poor fragmentation yields.
AI platforms designed for drillers and blasters, like Strayos, use data gathered by drones and smart drills to create 3D maps of benches. They use machine vision to identify the characteristics of the rock seen on the bench face and the AI uses it to create interactive models for blasters to plan their shots. The AI can predict yield fragmentation and muckpile placement. If the blaster is not satisfied with the yield, he needs merely to enter a new blast plan to see the effects.
Add data gathered by smart drills such as penetration rate, feed rate, pressure, burdens, and exact gps locations of the holes to the drone images and the AI can generate interactive models allowing blasters to create optimal fragmentation in blast yields by simply altering their loading plan.
After the blast and a drone flight later, the AI can quickly identify and analyse the rock segmentation. This data can be used to optimize loading, hauling, crushing, and milling. All of this optimization increases the overall yield.
Its hard to change an entire process, especially one that has been working for so long, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." But, is just "working" really enough?
Technology changed 15 years ago, holding onto antiquated processes merely because "that's the way its always been done" is not enough in this current market. Now operations must be lean and mean to compete and survive. If giant companies like Sandvik, Vulcan Materials, Dyno Nobel and others realize the importance of rising to meet the times, then the rest of the industry needs to realize it as well or run the risk of being left in the dust.
“The challenge for everybody is that things have been done the same way for so long,” says Bill Hissem, senior mining engineer at Sandvik Mining & Rock Technology in North America. “But improvement means change. Change means habits need to shift. That’s the challenge.”
And if there is one thing mines and quarries can handle, its a challenge. After all, they move mountains for a living.
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