Dr Andrew Wetherelt is programme Jürgen Brune

Increasing degrees of automation remove miners from hazardous environments. Our mining engineering curriculum is currently undergoing revision to include these digital technologies.” As a final thought on the industry in general, Brune concludes, “Mining continues being necessary and vital to humanity. Te demand for mined goods increases with the rate of population growth. Although there is some recycling of precious metals, very little concrete, for example, is recycled. For many commodities, recycling remains more expensive than mining and processing.” “Battery technologies will continue

to evolve, potentially generating considerable demands in minerals other than lithium and cobalt. Tis is an important area to watch. Key areas for improvement are energy density and time to charge. Also, battery safety will become an area to be watched.”

OTHER SIDE OF THE POND Meanwhile, in the UK, the Camborne School of Mines (CSM) has been a part of the University of Exeter in South West England since 1993. In 2004 it moved from the Camborne area to its current location at Penryn. It’s a newly built university, where much of the teaching involves the use of software that varies from simulation work though to mine design and visualisation. Field trips and direct exposure to the industry are also important parts of the student experience.


director and senior lecturer for BEng/ MEng Mining Engineering. Of the survey process, he observes, “3D remote surveying using scanners and drones has really advanced in the past few years. It has become the norm now to develop large point clouds or photogrammetric analysis of a mining project. I possibly see the development of a full 3D and visualisation headset with capacity to measure and locate ‘on the fly’.” Vibration analysis is one of Wetherelt’s areas of research. “Unfortunately we are still using a 2D PPV against a Scaled Distance approach. Tis could quite easily be developed into a 3D approach where PPV against distance against charge mass is drawn up, thus enabling greater precision in prediction.”

When considering the impact of modelling, he believes it has the capacity to enable blast design engineers to forge complex timing lace-ups without creating superimposition, particularly with the use of programmable electronic detonators (PEDs), offering a greater link up with the impedance of the rock and product development, which should ultimately develop more scientific blast designs. Wetherelt continues, “Clearly one of the main changes that has come about in the past has been PEDs, the use of which has become game-changing. Tere are already trials being undertaken

whereby remote blasting of fully loaded holes without a wired system can be done. Tis may well be revolutionary for underground mining, even challenging the classic stope designs we all know and accept.” Where explosives are concerned, he

adds: “Remote loading of explosives using a robotic system is on the horizon. Whether the human element will ever be removed is doubtful at the moment, but this will trigger changes in the legislation. Te use of bulk explosives in mining has already made things inherently safe. I anticipate explosives that can be developed whereupon less noxious gases are generated. Tis will be particularly important where re-entry times can be reduced in underground tunnelling. Te introduction of RFID tags for mis-fire identification could be developed.”

As a final comment, Wetherelt

reflects on the mixed fortunes of the industry. “Student recruitment into the only undergraduate mining programme in the UK remains challenging. A number of generous year 1 entry bursaries are available at the Camborne School of Mines, however getting today’s secondary school students to apply to do mining engineering at undergraduate level is difficult. Notwithstanding this, our postgraduate numbers are very buoyant.”

Blasting with a wired system could become a thing of the past

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