Alfredo Arce
Director General
Grupo Terra
View from the Top

Explosives Can Be Safe

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 17:02

Q: How do blasting designs and use of explosives translate into better mine operations?
A: In Mexico, Grupo Terra works with both subterranean and open pit mines. We have been present in this industry for 15 years and explosives are our working tool. Part of our success is that we always incorporate innovation into our offer, modifying our approach to reflect our clients’ specific conditions. This has allowed us to generate substantial savings for our clients. For instance, in 2017, we did some blasting at a Frisco mine. When designing the operation, we decided to use less steel, machinery and explosives, which translated into MX$62 million in savings. An efficient blasting design can improve the development of a mine, leading to better volume production because processes are shortened and operators can advance to the operational stage.
Q: What challenges have you faced in working with explosives and how has the company overcome these?
A:  In Mexico, there is no norm guiding the use of explosives. The only related framework is the Federal Law of Firearms and Explosives. But this is a law, not a norm. It establishes the process for obtaining a permit, what kind of companies can hold this permit, or the required conditions to store, transport and use these elements. But there is no guideline specifying the characteristics with which users must comply to handle explosives.
At Grupo Terra, every employee that has direct contact with explosives receives practical training. We will not deliver a project if the environment or our workers are not supported by the right security measures. The security protocols we follow are a product of international best practices and previous local experience. Limestone mines have very strict security protocols, for example, and by working in this environment we have complemented our knowledge for developing proper security plans when blasting.
Q: How is Grupo Terra supporting industry players to implement secure practices at their operations?
A: To be able to drive a vehicle, you need a driver’s license. Yet, in Mexico, you do not need a license to handle explosives. To address this, we are planning to create a specialized training center. This initiative has to involve the government, educational institutions and industry players. We want every company that uses explosives for blasting purposes to have access to this training. The center is under construction and its inauguration will take place in November 2019. The main idea is to share industry best practices through conferences, events and specific trainings. For instance, we are developing a course that defines the minimum level of knowledge end users must have in three areas: practical use of explosives, supervision and design and control of blasting.
Q: What innovations is the company developing?
A: We have developed an innovative method to execute blasting through the use of trucks. In open pit mining operations, storage facilities hold raw materials that compose the explosives. Our method consists in adding the explosive that acts as a catalyzer while injecting these materials on the drill hole. Two mines in the country are implementing this system but for further development, the Ministry of National Defense has to define the regulation for these trucks.
We are also working with electronic systems that allow us to control vibration and hence, the size of the rocks from the blast. This is important because industry players are demanding a specific range of size resulting from these operations.