Do I need electronic detonators? And are they value for money?
These are important questions, and if you are a blasting engineer at a minesite, you should expect someone to ask, and you really should have the answer!
Depending on the mine, there may be a technical issue that can be solved using electronic detonators such as controlling blasting damage in the highwall, or they may already be being used to improve fragmentation or reduce dilution. At the same time, and although the use of electronic detonators continues to increase around the world, the majority of mines around the world are still using non-electric detonators and getting perfectly acceptable outcomes. So, what does all this mean?
Without ‘checking’ in with every single site, it’s hard to say but a broad generalisation would probably be because of the price! Historically electronic detonators have been up to 10 times more expensive than the equivalent non-electric surface and down hole delay assemblies and so a lot of mines have rejected them. More recently though, this price difference has reduced, and prices for electronics of more like 2-5 times the price of the equivalent non-electric delay systems are common. There has also been an increase in the functionality, quality and reliability of the systems, although some of the newer entrants to the market still have important issues to iron out.
Electronic detonators are now more affordable because:
(1) there is increasing use of electronics globally (Orica recently reported its 100 millionth electronic detonator had been manufactured);
(2) there are more options and competition in the market; and
(3) suppliers have been able to reduce their costs allowing them to lower the pricing.
If you also take into account that there may be other reasons for using electronics, such as safety, then the whole approach changes. Of course, all of this doesn’t mean you should be using electronic detonators, but what it does mean is that each mine site needs to be able to justify the choice that has been made and ensure that the right overall outcome (balancing the mining application, cost, safety and productivity) is being achieved.
The drill and blast function must have a philosophy of continuous improvement, whether it is improving a mine from a TCO perspective or from a safety perspective, and this means you should always be looking at industry developments and assessing their benefits for your operation.
At Moncourt Group, we specialise in all aspects of commercial explosives and can provide deep insights and understanding of the market and industry to drive down the Total Cost of Ownership for our customers.