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Glencore’s Ernest Henry Mining (EHM) is reporting significant improvements in blast performance as it fine tunes its trailblazing use of wireless technology.

The site has been one of the first mines in the world to trial Orica’s Wireless Electronic Blasting system, WebGen.

Following the first trial of WebGen in 2017, Glencore said the EHM team recognised that their existing design philosophies were not fully capitalising on the benefits of wireless detonator technology.

Glencore and Orica engineers began investigating how to use the wireless initiation system to deliver extensive operational benefits to the mine.

“In March 2020, a design was proposed utilising the WebGen technology which has since significantly improved blasting performance,” Glencore lead resource engineer Michael Hawtin said.

“In fact, WebGen-enabled designs have demonstrated recovery of approximately 95 per cent of available tonnes, whereas previous shots were recovering roughly 80 per cent.”

Orica’s WebGen technology has also allowed EHM to create independent drives and eliminate slot drives.

This reduces lateral development in the main ore body, meaning less money is spent on building this infrastructure which can instead be invested into other parts of the operation.

Mr Hawtin said that eliminating the lateral development areas also reduced requirements for ground support and complex equipment interactions.

“This minimises the wear and tear of mobile equipment and allows them to extract quicker tonnes due to the reduced path length,” he said.

“The implementation of WebGen has also created simpler ventilation requirements and means that operators are not exposed to potentially unsafe underground areas during blasting.”

Wireless blasting sees encrypted firing signals sent directly to an in-hole receiver attached to each individual detonator, completely removing the need for physical leads.