Digital Blasting & The “New Normal”

The 2020 pandemic has forced countless businesses, including many in the resources sector, to operate with a remote workforce. It has compelled people to restructure their schedules, invent new daily routines, and imagine new ways of working.

 

It’s a learning experience for everyone, and it brings countless challenges to the fore. On the plus side, it could inspire new models for remote work, time management, and organisational efficiency that benefit organisations in the long run.

 

Of course, the impulse to use resources more efficiently is nothing new. Every industry wants to be maximally streamlined and profitable, in theory. But the impulse to play it safe and stick with traditional methods is also strong.

 

The mining and metals industry can attest to this. We made evolutionary leaps at certain points in our history – the invention of dynamite, the development of sophisticated drills and excavators, and the advent of modern detonation systems. But there is also a tendency to prefer the established solution, and to wait for proof of concept before adopting a new one.

 

It often takes a crisis to force a new way of thinking. For the mining industry, the end of the 2000s mining boom was one such event. During the boom, reactive systems were put in place with one sole purpose - to move a lot of  resources out of the ground – with little or no consideration of the value chain as a whole.

 

As bottom lines tumbled, it became clear that any effective strategy for the future would revolve around a strong internal value chain. We would have to reduce waste, use resources more effectively, and build more flexibility into mining operations. This would allow us to cushion the shock of changing markets.

 

An early clue

 

Digital blasting is a practice that many mining sites had already adopted during the boom, and it may have provided a clue into the type of thinking that would become more prevalent in the aftermath. Our Enaex Mining Technical Solutions (EMTS) team travelled to sites across the globe during this time, partnering with a wide range of mining companies to optimise their blasting operations. We customised the latest Daveytronic hardware  in certain circumstances for individual sites. Working hand-in-hand with our partners on the ground, we designed blasts that resulted in better fragmentation, improved dig rates, reduced downtime, and a stronger overall value chain.

 

These are similar to the benefits that today’s newest innovations, including automation and digital site modelling, are starting to unlock. In a complex enterprise like commercial mining, the smallest detail can make a big difference. A seemingly minor problem can lead to problems at other points of the chain. On the other hand, a seemingly minor gain in efficiency can accumulate value. When the blast process is guided by expert engineering and the best hardware, fragmentation is manipulated to optimise the overall production value. When non-digital blast methods or subpar engineering are involved, this level of manipulation is impossible.

 

The ‘new normal’

 

The coronavirus pandemic is another signpost on the path to greater efficiency. The upheaval of so many businesses in such a short space of time has illuminated strengths and weaknesses in countless value chains across the world. It will undoubtedly result in new process of consolidation and refinement in the mining industry, as in so many others.

 

One of the potential upshots of the outbreak is that it provides further incentive for mining companies to be smart and optimise. It gives us a stronger drive to do more with less, and to economise resources (including time) with greater scrutiny. These are habits that can only make the mining industry stronger and better prepared to meet the challenges ahead.