Alfredo Arce
Grupo Terra
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New Center Focuses on Critical Training in Explosives Use

By Cas Biekmann | Fri, 01/22/2021 - 14:02

Q: What are the objectives for Grupo Terra’s training center in 2021 and how can it help enhance Mexico’s mining industry?

A: The training center was inaugurated on Oct. 15, 2020, and the project was delivered to the Zacatecas Council, which is the end user at the QUANTUM technology park. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we formed partnerships with a Canadian research company and a Chilean university. We are planning to restart the alliance in 2021 once visits are possible again. We already have three training courses up and running. For January 2021, we have two more courses that have been confirmed for mining companies. This includes a hands-on workshop featuring inert materials to demonstrate the effect on people of substances similar to explosives. The center has several rooms with specialized computers and software available. We are also adapting to offer remote courses, providing the quality and certifications that the industry demands. The training center itself has received certification for its expertise regarding explosives as well. We hope to boost certification surrounding explosives because there is not a great deal of knowledge on this topic in Mexico. In fact, our training center is the only one in the country that offers this certification. Today, an increasing number of parties are expressing interest in the area. Safety and knowledge when using explosives are crucial. The industry needs to have the certainty that those who work with explosives have a certain level of concrete testing to back them up.

Q: What is your vision for achieving better and more effective degrees in the areas of explosives and blasting?

A: It is an interesting challenge. The experts are correct: if you do not do your blasting of boulders correctly, fixing mistakes later on can be very expensive. For over a decade, we have signed contracts in which the conditions are based on the size of the boulders that need to be blasted. What we try to show our clients is that there are various options regarding the tools that are available to do the job but it is important to stay within the plans set out in the contract. Blasting is very important in terms of how the fragmentation occurs and the boulder breaks up. These days, there is software available that measures this through photogrammetry and creates templates, which is included in our training programs. For a subsidiary of Minera Frisco, we cut rock small enough to save a lot of time in the removal of the rubble, saving both time and costs. Significant savings can be achieved this way. Another development is electronic detonators that can generate micro-fractures that cannot be detected with the naked eye but can simplify the operation significantly. To make the fracturing an easier and cheaper process, starting with the right blasting is crucial.

Q: How does the company create custom initial studies while integrating these technological developments?

A: The information operators deliver to us is very important, even though it is often basic. Based on these scenarios, we have begun to design types of blasting that have worked out well in other areas. The first factor we start designing is safety, so that the blasting does not cause any damage. Through the blast itself, we gather interesting data. The videos we make using photogrammetry allows us to track how the boulders move during the blast, compared to the initial template. This shows us how the charges we use yield results. We also make perforations, each of which has a specific detonation time set to achieve optimal results. Based on this initial design, we generate all this data and then go back to adjust the plan again. This process has taught us that software is a great help as a tool, but the direct knowledge of how rocks react on the field is crucial to reach the goals of the plan. The process is, therefore, a combination of people’s knowledge, information coming from mines and technical tools in an effort to provide simulations and gather further data. This has yielded great results.

Q: What is the importance of seismographic monitoring in optimal blasting processes?

A: Seismographic monitoring is important for all explosive processes. Today, people are living closer to mines than ever before. Blasting causes vibrations, which might not cause damage but they can be felt further away and, in some cases, can be contained within 150m. However, it is important that these vibrations do not exceed international standards. Seismographs are important because you have to provide certainty to the surrounding population that the vibrations they feel will not harm them or their property. For the operation itself, the subterranean area is an important consideration. If we generate vibrations, we can cause instability and create accidents because parts of the boulders can tumble down. While it has never happened to us, it is important to calculate vibrations through installed seismic stations to address these safety concerns. Some mines use this technology but we want to promote it further because it is important to have access to this kind of information.

Grupo Terra provides explosives and blasting solutions for work related to roads, mines, pipelines, hydropower plants, marine and submarine activities, seismic prospection, wind farms and slope control.

Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst