@AuManufacturing’s new series, ‘Working smarter with data‘, continues today with a look at chemicals and explosives company, Orica that is digitising its products. Rajkumar Mathiravedu tells Peter Roberts how using data is bringing benefits for the company and its customers.
For chemical and explosives company, Orica, digitising the deceptively simple task of packing explosives into blast holes, has turned an art into a science and a powerful tool to boost productivity in the world’s, and Australia’s key mining industries.
The global company introduced its first digital product a little over a decade ago, but has now extended the concept right across the value chain that turns an orebody into a predicable product for which customers will pay a premium.
The company’s vice president of digital solutions, Rajkumar Mathiravedu (pictured below) explained that giving miners greater understanding, feedback and control of the blasting operation has a massive impact on mine production costs.
It turns out that controlling the size of the fragments created underground or in open-pit mines determines the cost of grinding, processing and delivering concentrated ores.
Mathiravedu said: “It all starts with understanding the resource.
“What you are wanting to do is understand the geology, and once you do that you can go an improve your blast design.”
Data on the nature of the orebody can then be fed into Orica’s ShotPlus design software, an intelligent system which builds up a picture of the orebody and determines exactly how much explosives to load into each hole, their spacing and depth, as well as the sequencing of explosions.
“Then we have to execute the blast design and eliminate the normal variabilities (of a system implemented by people).
“So we use data to make sure the design is clearly executed as per expectations.”
This is where Orica’s LOADPlus system and BlastIQ platform comes in to play.
LOADPlus is a system fitted to Orica’s Bulkmaster 7 explosives delivery trucks, or can be retrofitted to a mine’s existing trucking.
Teamed with BastIQ, the smart control system technology allows the mine to load explosives precisely, with the right explosives and hence energy potential delivered to the right hole in an orebody.
WebGen is designed as a wireless, electronic explosives initiating system developed with a number of Australian-based technology partners.
Mathiravedu said: “Finally how do you make sure you have delivered on your promise?
“You measure outcomes – particle size distribution – with the FRAGTrack and ORETrack product.
That feedback closes the loop.”
Designed in collaboration with Design Anthology, Newie Ventures and Your Engineer Mechanical Engineering, FRAGtrack uses binocular cameras and a proprietary hybrid 2D/3D image processing algorithm to monitor ore fragmentation, while ORETrack studies dilution by waste rock.,
The final part of the digital picture from pre-blast modelling through to post-blast measurement and analysis, is Orica’s GroundProbe which uses lasers to map the dimensions of an open-cut mine pit, helping ensure the stability of its walls.
In this way the results of each blast are fed back into SHOTPlus to add to its knowledge base, further improving its ability to create an optimum blast design.
Mathiravedu said: “This is all designed to improve productivity and optimise drill and blast through the integration of data into the drill and blast planning and design processes.
“We are talking about more of an automated workflow. We have always had this data, but we are converting it from data to insights.
“Now we are able to connect all the dots and this creates an opportunity for our customers to significantly improve downstream outcomes.”
With mines only becoming deeper and more remotely located, data-based technology is one of the few ways to increase productivity and reduce costs.
And there are benefits for Orica besides being able to increase market share and exports on world markets where it is a major player.
Orica staff are able to look at mine data in real time, at how many blasts were performed each day and at the data behind each blast.
Mathiravedu said: “It gives us complete visibility an of the external world.”
Pictures: Orica/Rajkumar Mathiravedu/SHOTPlus
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