movement of the materials and allow for optimisation of blast sequence so as to prevent flying rock and air blast, while directing the material to shape a heap that is easier to load and carry.” Sridhar Seetharaman, associate vice

president of Research and professor of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering adds, “In the next 10 years we will see more micro-structurally aware models and machine learning. Tere will be a growth in cheaper explosives, with a move to mixing on the spot rather than storage, an important safety consideration. Also safety-related, there will be increasing efforts to reduce fly rock, a tightening of procedures and better control of the shape of the shock wave with advanced manufacturing controlling the structure and initiation points.” With the wider environment in mind,

he reckons higher quality AN-based formulations will become more important because they create less harmful smoke. As well as the materials, Seetharaman sees change in other areas. “Detonators will become more elaborate, with increased reliance on codes or fingerprints. Also, vibration analysis will be part of how blasts are designed.”

Computer modelling has

greatly improved the blasting process

interest for drilling is to mitigate the noise from the operation that caused hearing losses. Tis is through new materials and damping systems in the drill unit and drill string so that it can pass the energy to the bit but reduce the noise. Hard facing of the bit and drill rods to slow down the wear process is of interest and the use of PDC or synthetic diamond for bit and interfacing the rock is becoming very common and affordable.”

BLAST OFF Te relentless advance of computing power is having an inevitable effect on how blasting is planned. Rostami notes that, “Te modelling of the blast process has been evolving through the years and we can estimate the size distribution of the material in the blast heap, project the

THE BIGGER PICTURE In the planning stages, technology is no less crucial. Jürgen Brune, professor of Practice and Associate Head of the Mining Engineering Department observes, “Robotic and automated LiDAR surveys are already widely used in surface mines. Technologies for simultaneous locating and mapping (SLAM) are improving and we are seeing robots and drones move autonomously in GPD-denied underground mine environments. Also automation and autonomous operation will become increasingly dominant in mining as well as in public and private transportation.”

Sridhar Seetharaman

A discussion with an academic about technology would be incomplete without a word on what it’s doing to the actual business of teaching. Brune says: “Digital technologies, big data analytics, automation and autonomous operation will have a major impact on the industry. Virtual and augmented reality will improve the ability to perceive safety and health hazards as well as production data. Digital tracking of miners and equipment improves safety and productivity. 9

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