Mobile PlantSafety

Game Changer? Trials of Avatel™ Explosives Rig to begin down under

2 Mins read

Automation in underground mining is very much at the forefront of discussions right now in the sector. There are, however, processes that require multiple human inputs to achieve the correct outcome at the face. This is generally due to the in-situ assessment required by a trained and competent person, or extremely precise and technically demanding tasks that need human input.

The emergence of the wireless detonator device (WebGen™) from Orica has allowed many steps forward in blasting techniques underground. The business has now teamed with global reaching manufacturer Epiroc, to create a brand-new concept that decreases human interaction at the blast face; taking a marked step toward automation of this process.

A short video showing the workflow of the Avatel™ development charge rig.

The Avatel rig leverages on the WebGen™ system at its core, as explosive detonators no longer need to be “tied in ” via a tangle of explosive leads. Instead, a detonator can be primed and placed in situ ready to fire when triggered by a unique radio transmission at blasting time. The removal of these tie-in requirements allow for the physically demanding (think operator working at height, often at some of the hottest part of the mine) and technically challenging task now being able to be redesigned and completed by a boom arm from a cabin.

Now a pilot project has been confirmed at Newcrest’s Cadia mine in Orange, NSW. The first time this new, possibly industry changing solution will be used beyond the research and development labs in Sweden.

What Orica said:

“The award-winning solution will offer mine operators like Newcrest, the largest producer of gold in Australia an effective solution to keep personnel out of harm’s way, by moving from traditional to mechanised development charging. A critical enabler of Avatel™ is the second-generation wireless initiation initiating system, WebGen™ 200 which will eliminate the need for wired connections and subsequent exposure to crews at the face, enabling continued and safe access, even in poor or seismic ground conditions, to accelerate the development cycle.

Orica Chief Technology Officer Angus Melbourne said: “We are very excited to see Avatel come to fruition, but equally excited for what the future holds for disruptive technology and the mining industry’s desire to embrace new innovations that move the dial on safe and sustainable mining.  

“We are proud and excited that Newcrest have continued to place their trust in us by being the first site globally to trial Avatel. They have provided invaluable advice throughout the design and development of the system, which we are truly grateful for. Together, we eagerly await the delivery of the first Avatel unit as it will herald the start of a new era for safer and productive underground development charging.” 

An operator trialing the twin booms utilised for development charging.
Source: Orica

This system has many advantages for underground workers primarily, but it will also have many positives for project development rates and quality. The blending of technological advances has allowed for a very niche machine that should remove operators from potentially hazardous environments, whilst also reducing explosive handling times.

I will follow up with the possible pros and cons of the Avatel system later in the year, as it is one to ponder for operations who have already trialed and/or implemented wireless detonator technology for production blasting.


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