Poitrel puts Orica wireless blast tech to the test

BHP Mitsui Coal’s Poitrel mine in Queensland, Australia, has conducted the world’s largest blast using wireless technology, after successfully completing the third blast in a trial series to test Orica’s Webgen technology
Poitrel puts Orica wireless blast tech to the test Poitrel puts Orica wireless blast tech to the test Poitrel puts Orica wireless blast tech to the test Poitrel puts Orica wireless blast tech to the test Poitrel puts Orica wireless blast tech to the test

Blast at BMC's Poitrel mine in Queensland, Australia

Lou Caruana

The latest blast shifted 1.3 million cubic metres of overburden in a strata blast fired with 1,920 Webgen 100 units across 534 holes.

Poitrel mine production manager Jayson Smeeton said there were significant safety and efficiency improvements to be made by using the Webgen technology Orica was trialling, which featured wireless in-hole primers initiated by a firing command that communicated through rock, water and air.

"Wireless blasting means we are able to really reduce our people's exposure to dust in the pit, and eliminates the potential for misfires because they do not need to physically tie each hole into the blast pattern," Smeeton said.

"Eliminating the need to tie in each hole also makes the process for loading explosives far more efficient, and less susceptible to wet weather delays, as the pit does not need to be shut down because of the potential risk of accidental ignition during thunderstorms."

The first trials conducted in May and June were small shots to test the technology.

The latest blast involved a more complicated strata blast, with the top and bottom decks of the shot fired at different times to maximise fragmentation, and preserve the coal below.

Further production blasts, including through-seam blasts are planned for the next 12 months.