Pillar recovery using new wireless blasting technology: a case study in Vazante mine, Brazil
Palabras clave:wireless booster, pillar recovery, WebGenTM, safety, production increase
The application of explosives has never been considered as a major influencing factor during either the designing of a mine or the selection of the mining method. However, this has changed with the launch of WebGenTM wireless blasting system, which allowed underground mines to exploit their orebody applying methods previously not possible due to limitations imposed by the use of wired detonators. The wireless blasting system is based on magnetic induction communication, and its signal is capable of overcoming hundreds of meters through rock, water, and air, to reach individual primers in the blastholes without any physical connection.
A noble application of wireless detonators is being used in Vazante mine, Brazil, an underground zinc mine where ore pillars are left in the mined stope to secure stability and minimize dilution by limiting the hydraulic radius. The recovery of these pillars is financially desirable but involves extra time and costs associated with scaling, backfilling, reinstalling infrastructure, accessing areas previously blasted (less stable), drilling, charging with explosives, and subsequently, firing and mucking out the blasted material with expected high dilution. Applying 100% wireless detonators made it possible to safely preload the pillar together with production blasts before losing access to the area, a method named Temporary Rib Pillar (TRP). After all the stope is mined and the pillar accomplished its objectives, the primers are initiated without neither the need for the extra cycles described previously, nor the need to re-enter the area. Thus, it was possible to reduce the exposure of people and equipment, reduce operational cycles, and increase ore recovery, directly contributing to anticipate the ore production while guaranteeing the safety of the teams involved.