By: Partha Das Sharma


The massive use of blasting agents such as ANFO, Heavy ANFO etc., in rock breakage has brought about an important development of initiation and priming techniques. This is due to, on one hand, the relative insensitivity of these compounds and, on the other hand, a desire to obtain maximum performance from the energy released by the explosives used in the process.

The detonation process requires initiation energy so that it can develop and majntain stable conditions. The most frequent terminology used in initiation is:

Primer: High strength, sensitive explosive used to initiate the main column in the blasthole. They are cap and detonating cord sensitive, including ones of low core load.

Booster. Powerful explosive charge with no initiation accessory that has two functions:

I. Complete the initiation work of the primer in the explosive column, and

2. Create zones of high energy release along the length of the column.

In the following paragraphs present day knowledge is discussed in order to obtain maximum yield from the explosives.

Detonation pressure is the pressure in the reaction zone as an explosive detonates.It is a significant indicator of the ability of an explosive to produce good fragmentation.A high detonation pressure is one of the desirable characteristics in a primer


A blasting agent is an explosive that:Comprises ingredients that by themselves are non-explosive; can only be detonated by a high explosive charge placed within it and not by a detonator.All blasting agents contain the following essential components :

  • Oxidiser – A chemical that provides oxygen for the reaction. Typical oxidisers are ammonium nitrate and calcium nitrate.
  • Fuel – A chemical that reacts with oxygen to produce heat. Common fuels include fuel oil and aluminum.
  • Sensitiser – Provides the heat source (‘hot spot’) to drive the chemical reaction of oxidiser and fuel. Sensitisers are generally small air bubbles or pockets within the explosive.


  • Priming a charge is simply positioning a suitable primer within a charge or column of explosives.
  • The object is to provide the primary-initiating explosion needed to detonate the main charge efficiently.
  • If an explosives column is not initiated properly, its optimum energy cannot be generated.
  • A change in the configuration or type of initiation, priming or boosting can lead to a significant increase in blasting efficiency.
  • The terms “primer” and “booster” are often confused.
  • Primer is a unit of cap-sensitive explosive used to initiate other explosives or blasting agents. A primer contains a detonator or other initiating device such as detonating cord.
  • The primer cartridge should be assembled at the work-site.
  • The transport of cap primers is hazardous and is against the regulation of most countries.
  • Priming should be done correctly by experienced shot-firers.
  • The primer cartridge must not be tamped nor dropped into the blasthole.
  • When priming blasting agents such as ANFO, the primer should have a diameter which is close to the diameter of the blasthole.
  • A booster is a cap-sensitive explosive but does not contain a detonator.
  • Its purpose is to maintain or intensify the explosive reaction at a specific point in the explosive charge along a blasthole.
  • It is a specially manufactured explosive that can produce a high velocity of detonation (VOD) such as cast boosters that have VOD of 7,600 m/s.
  • The most common used boosters are the pentolite boosters.
  • A pentolite booster is made up of a mixture pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) and TNT.
ANFO generates a relatively low detonation pressure, but provides very good heave performance. The steady state VOD of ANFO is approximately 4200ms in 310mm diameter blast holes.The steady state detonating velocity is also a function of loading density. Poured ANFO densities range between 0.78 and 0.85 g/cc while pneumatically loaded ANFO can reach densities up to 0.95 g/cc, consequently achieving higher detonation velocities.ANFO is highly insensitive to mechanical actions (shock, friction, impact).

ANFO should not be placed in conditions where heavy impact or excessive heating may occur as detonation is possible especially if under confinement.

ANFO is desensitised by absorbing moisture.

Every explosive has a certain critical diameter below which detonation will not propagate beyond the primer point.

Confined, ANFO’s critical diameter is approximately 1 1/4 inches.

That is, a borehole or column of ANFO less than two inches in diameter will detonate in the immediate area of the primer, but cannot reliably carry the detonation process much beyond that point.

When ANFO reaches its full VOD the strength is given as:

  • The weight strength of ANFO (94.5%/5.5%) is 912 Kcal/Kg and
  • Bulk strength is 730 Kcal/Cum


  • When an explosive column is initiated at a point, the full steady-state VOD is generally attained some distance away from that point.
  • This distance is called the run-up distance.
  • The run-up distance varies between explosives.
  • ANFO has the maximum (about six charge diameters) and PETN/TNT explosives have the least (about one charge diameter) as in fig – 1.


Fig – 1

  • A VOD less than 2,000 m/s is not considered stable.
  • Tests carried out by Swedish Detonic Research Foundation (SVEDEFO) showed that a NG based explosives primer cartridge initiates ANFO directly to its full velocity.
  • The same result will be obtained with an AN based emulsion explosive primer, provided that its diameter is close to the blasthole diameter.
  • Figure 2 shows a primer that has a stable detonation velocity greater than the ANFO stable detonation.
  • This will ensure that ANFO will reach its stable velocity in a shorter time and the blasting agent will explode efficiently.




  • When ANFO is efficiently primed it rapidly reaches its steady state velocity of detonation and maintains it.
  • The steady state velocity depends on the density, the confinement and particle size of ANFO as well as the blasthole diameter.
  • The VOD increases as the blasthole diameter increases and reaches its highest value at a blasthole diameter of 300 mm.


  • The purpose of a primer is to initiate the ANFO so that it rapidly reaches its steady state velocity.
  • The primer may initiate the ANFO with low order velocity (VOD lower than the steady state VOD) or overdrive velocity (VOD higher than the steady state VOD).
  • Low order initiation is caused by a primer being too small or too low detonation pressure.


Fig – 3

  • The velocity distance curve (Figure 3) shows that it takes approximately the length of four blasthole diameters.
  • The low energy initiation in the bottom of the blasthole may have serious effect on the blasting result.
  • Figure 4 shows how various types and sizes of primers affect the distance from the primer at which ANFO reaches steady state VOD.


Fig – 4

  • In general, the closer the primer diameter is to the borehole diameter, the more effective a primer will be in initiating ANFO.


  • In large diameter blastholes in bench mining, an ANFO charge may have a 10 m column, and its VOD of 4 000 m/s.
  • If this charge is bottom primed, the stemming and the top part of the burden are not affected by the detonation until 2.5 ms after initiation.
  • Thus, the bubble or the gas energy has more time to work near the bottom to move the toe before explosion gases escape through the fractured rock.
  • The practice of bottom priming provides a much lower probability of cut-offs, and hence greatly reduce incidence of misfires.


  • Four properties of primer have a significant influence on its performance.
  • Detonation pressure: An effective primer should have a minimum detonation pressure of 5 000 MPa.


Fig – 5

  • Diameter: The primer should match the hole diameter as closely as possible; however, its diameter should not be less than 0.67 times the blasthole diameter.
  • Length: It should be sufficiently long for maximum VOD to be reached (that is, run-up distance shorter than the primer length).
  • Shape: The importance of shape can be seen in Figure 6, which shows the results of a ‘double-pipe tests’.


Fig – 6


  • Sometimes, after detonation, a low sensitivity explosive may show signs of losing the VOD progressively along its column.
  • This may arise when an ANFO charge is contaminated with water.
  • The boosters can be placed at appropriate intervals (about 30 times the blasthole diameter) to increase the VOD along the explosives column.
  • Boosters can be placed at appropriate spots where the ground is especially hard and requires extra pressure for satisfactory breakage.


In the priming of ANFO, the efficiency of a primer is defined by its detonation pressure, dimensions and shape. The higher the detonation pressure, the greater its initiating ability.

When priming blasting agents with holes up to 2 1/2 inches in diameter, a full cartridge of high velocity explosives like 60 percent ammonia gelatin, gels, slurries, or cast primers with a blasting cap, is a sufficient charge.

For larger holes, the priming requires much more care, especially if the hole is wet or decked charges are used. A small quantity of a high-velocity primer is better than a large amount of a lower velocity primer. The detonating velocity of the primer must be greater than or equal to the detonating velocity of the agent for efficient detonation.

The best location for priming a charge is at either end of the charge. The placement of primers anywhere else within the powder column shall never be done if there is not also a bottom primer.

With large diameter holes, the shape of the primers, as well as the strength, is important. The diameter of such primers should approach the diameter of the borehole so that the major portion of the available energy is released to propagate a strong detonation wave along the column.

Therefore, the conditions that a primer should comply with in order to eliminate low detonation velocity zones in the ANFO are: the highest possible detonation pressure and a diameter above 213 that of the charge, approximately. The length of the primer is also important, as the primer itself is initiated by a blasting cap or detonating cord and they have a run-up distance in the detonation velocity zone.

The use of detonator cord as a sole detonant is not recommended, since it could cause deflagration rather than detonation of the charge.

The objective of the primer is to achieve a stable detonation. Neither over-priming or underpriming the agent is desirable. The diameter of the primer must be larger than the critical diameter of the explosive.

Every explosive has a certain critical diameter below which detonation will not propagate beyond the primer point. Confined, ANFO’s critical diameter is approximately 1 1/4 inches. That is, a borehole or column of ANFO less than two inches in diameter will detonate in the immediate area of the primer, but cannot reliably carry the detonation process much beyond that point.

The problem of determining how many primers to use and where to locate primers in an explosive column is a difficult one. Too many unnecessary primers add to the cost of blasting, while too few primers rob the blast’s efficiency. Basically, the primers must be located so that the detonation travels through the entire powder column before any of the gas and pressure is vented.


Effect of double-primer placement on fragmentation and rock fracture: The double-primer placement is based on the principle of shock wave collision. When two shock waves meet each other, the final pressure is greater than the sum of the initial two pressures. Stress analysis indicates that this should be favorable to rock fracture and fragmentation in blasting. Double-primer placement was tested successfully in various mines by using electronic detonators, aiming to improve rock fragmentation.

It has been experienced, when two primers are placed at different positions in a blasthole and they are initiated simultaneously (with the same timing), shock-wave collision takes place. In other words, the double-primer placement is based on the principle of shock wave collision. When two shock waves collide each other (head on), the final pressure is greater than the sum of the initial two pressures. Stress analysis indicates that this should be favorable to rock fracture and fragmentation in blasting.

Theory on shock wave collision – According to one-dimensional shock wave theory, when one shock wave with pressure P1 meets another shock with pressure P2, the final shock pressure P3 produced is greater than the sum of the pressures of the initial two shock waves, i.e. P3 > P1+P2. This case is called shock wave collision.

A shock wave collision is different from an elastic wave collision. In one-dimensional condition, as an elastic stress wave with stress σ1 meets with another elastic wave with stress σ2, the final stress σ3 produced is equal to the sum of the stresses of the initial two elastic waves, i.e. σ3 = σ1+σ2. In fact, shock wave is not elastic; thus the resultant intensity of pressure is more than double, hence the benefit of fragmentation.

Generally, in the case of double-primer placement, one primer is placed at the bottom (or slightly above bottom) of the borehole and other placed at the middle (not at the collar) of the borehole.

Experiments showed that, the amplitude of stress waves in rock mass due to two-primer placement in a blasthole was much greater than the double of the amplitude of the waves caused by one single primer in a similar blasthole. These experiments indicate potential applications of a two-primer placement in rock blasting.

When electronic detonators came into being, shock collision theory was used to improve fragmentation more precisely.

As fragmentation is improved greatly by placement of double primer in borehole, for side-cast blast and Ring-blast this method of double-priming is very advantageous to get higher percentage of cast (throw) and ore recovery respectively.





1. Explosives Energy Release and Rock Breakage: Mechanism of rock breakage while release of Explosives energy upon detonation and other relevant points are discussed below:

  • When an explosive charge is detonated, chemical reaction occur which,   very rapidly changes the solid or liquid explosive mass into a hot gases.
  • This reaction starts at the point of initiation where detonator is connected with explosives and forms a convex like shock wave (Compressive wave) on its leading edge that acts on the borehole wall and propagates through the explosive column.
  • Ahead of the reaction zone are undetonated explosive products and behind the reaction zone are expanding hot gasses.
Understanding theory of detonation of explosives– The self-sustained shock wave produced by a chemical reaction was described by Chapman and Jouquet as a space. This space of negligible thickness is bounded by two infinite planes – on one side of the wave is the unreacted explosive and on the other, the exploded gases as shown in the Fig. 1.There are three distinct zones:a) The undisturbed medium ahead of the shock wave,b) A rapid pressure at Y leading to a zone in which chemical reaction is generated by the shock, and complete at X,c) A steady state wave where pressure and temperature are maintained.This condition of stability condition for stability exists at hypothetical X, which is commonly referred to the Chapman- Jouquet (C-J) plane. Between the two planes X and Y there is conservation of mass, momentum and energy.

Fig – 1

Velocity of detonation (VOD) of explosive is function of Heat of reaction of an explosive, density and confinement. The detonation pressure (unit in N/m2) that exists at the C-J plane is function of VOD of explosives. The detonation of explosives in cylindrical columns and in unconfined conditions leads to lateral expansion between the shock and C-J planes resulting in a shorter reaction zone and loss of energy. Thus, it is common to encounter a much lower VOD in unconfined situations than in confined ones.

Rock breakage by Detonation and Interaction of explosive energy with rock – There are three sources of generation of fragments in mines: (a) Fragments formed by new fractures created by detonating explosive charge, (b) In-situ blocks that have simply been liberated from the rock mass without further breakage and (c) Fragments formed by extending the in-situ fractures in combination with new fractures.

Rock fragmentation by blasting is achieved by dynamic loading introduced into the rock mass. The explosive loading of rock can be separated into two phases, the shock wave and gas pressure phase (Fig.2).

Fig. 2

  •  Rapid the detonation process, the quicker the energy release from explosives mass, in the form of a shockwave followed by gas pressure, is applied to the borehole wall.  In other words, faster the detonation velocity of the explosive, quicker is the energy applied to the borehole wall, and for a shorter time period.
  • Conversely, with a slower detonation velocity, the energy is applied more slowly, and for a longer time period. The degree of coupling between the explosive and the borehole wall will have an effect on how efficiently the shockwave is transmitted into the rock.
  • Pumped or poured explosives will result in better transmission of energy than cartridge products with an annular space between the cartridge and the borehole wall.
  • Again, the pressure that builds up in the borehole depends not only upon explosive composition, but also the physical characteristics of the rock.
  • Strong competent rock will result in higher pressures than weak, compressible rock.
  • When the shock wave reaches the borehole wall the fragmentation process begins.
  • This shock wave, which starts out at the velocity of the explosive, decreases quite rapidly once it enters the rock and in a short distance is reduced to the sonic velocity of that particular rock.
  • Most rock has a compressive strength that is approximately 7 times higher than its tensile strength, i.e. it takes 7 times the amount of energy to crush it as it does to pull it apart.
  • When the shockwave first encounters the borehole wall, the compressive strength of the rock is exceeded by the shockwave and the zone immediately surrounding the borehole is crushed.

Fig. 3

  • As the shockwave radiates outward at declining velocity, its intensity drops below the compressive strength of the rock and compressive crushing stops.
  • The radius of this crushed zone varies with the compressive strength of the rock and the intensity of the shock wave, but seldom exceeds twice the diameter of the borehole.
  • However, beyond this crushed zone, the intensity is still above the tensile strength of the rock and it causes the surrounding rock mass to expand and fail in tension, resulting in radial cracking.
  • The hot gas following the shockwave expands into the radial cracks and extends them further.
  • This is the zone where most of the fragmentation process takes place.
  • However, if the compressive shockwave pulse radiating outward from the hole encounters a fracture plane, discontinuity or a free face, it is reflected and becomes a tension wave with approximately the same energy as the compressive wave.
  • This tension wave can possibly “spall” off a slab of rock (see figure 3).
  • This reflection rock breakage mechanism depends heavily upon three important requirements:

(a)  the compressive wave (and resulting reflected tensile wave) must still be of sufficient intensity to exceed the tensile strength of the rock,

(b) the material on opposite sides of the fracture plane or discontinuity must have different impedances,

(c) the compressive pulse must arrive parallel to, or nearly parallel to, the fracture plane or free face.

  • If carried to extreme, when this reflective breakage or “spalling” process occurs at a free face, it can result in violent throw, a situation that is not desirable.
  • This can be overcome by designing blasts with burden and spacing dimensions that are within reasonable limits.
  • Once the compressive and tensile stresses caused by the shockwave drop below the tensile strength of the rock, the shock wave becomes a seismic wave that radiates outward at the sonic velocity of the material through which it passes.
  • At this point, it is no longer contributing to the fragmentation process.
Important points learned through experience:

  • Within the range of conventional blasting, the physical characteristics of the rock are more important than the characteristics of the explosives used and can have a greater impact on the success or failure of a blast.
  • Final-size fragmentation is usually obtained before any appreciable rock movement or throw occurs.
  • Rock can absorb only so much energy and only at a certain maximum rate before it will fail.
  • The final displacement of the bulk of the rock is more a function of the duration of the gas pressure than its intensity.

2. Contemplation of Blast Design: Blast designing is not a science, but knowledge, experience, studying and analyzing past practices in relation to rock strata & geology etc., makes blaster to achieve perfection. Thus, for a blaster, valuable tool is the file of blast reports that he builds as he gains experience. Not only do these provide evidence of the quality of his work, but they also provide a wealth of information upon which he can draw as future blasting situations develop.

Blast Design: This is meant to be a toolbox for blast design in conventional rock quarrying and open pit mines. This write-up is not meant to give straight answers to the blast design parameters, as every single quarry is unique. However, the general relations between the main blasting parameters; geology, blastability and explosives, will be applicable, and the estimation model is a very good tool for planning test blasts and experiments, and also for adjustments of the blast design when this is necessary for optimising the quarry production line as time progresses.High accuracy throughout the whole blasting process is fundamental for achieving a proper blast result. Various points as success criteria are shown below:

  • Planning
  • Surveying and marking of holes
  • Adjustment of drilling pattern
  • Adjustment of specific charge
  • Delay times and initiation pattern
  • Accurate drilling
  • Properly selected stemming material
  • Control, documentation and supervision of the work

When optimising quarry operations, it is often difficult to accomplish several elements of improvement simultaneously. It is very important to try one effort at a time and be sure of the conclusions from each single specific adjustment before introducing new adjustments. Elements of improvement must be effectuated according to a mutual superior strategy.

It is important to continuously keep up the process of improvement and always be interested in increasing the workers knowledge and skills about the process. This must be done to gain competence and effectuate the potential long term outlook. It is important to document the results to avoid loss of information if key personnel quit. The sum of improvements will most often be visualised in the form of higher efficiency and lower repair and maintenance costs. Understanding the meaning of the blasting process as a continuous cycle, how the various parameters can be changed to optimize wanted blasting result and how to evaluate the result, is essential when optimizing the quarry processes.

Before a blaster can design a blast, there are a number of site specific things that he must take into consideration that will have an impact on his design. Blaster should define at least the following items before he undertakes to design a blast:

A. Fragmentation desired:

  • Size of digging/handling equipment.
  • Size of crushing equipment (if required).
  • Rip-rap or dimensional stone desired?
  • Size limitations in project specifications?

B. Rock quality/character:

  • Hard? Soft? Porous?
  • Holes wet? Dry? Variable?
  • Joints and slip planes? Bedding planes?
  • Voids or other incompetent zones?

C. Site limitations:

  • Structures or other property to protect? At what distance?
  • Utilities nearby (underground or above ground)?
  • Vibration and airblast considerations?
  • Integrity of rock to be left in place.
  • On-site or off-site vehicle traffic?
  • Any other project specification limitations?

D. Safety limitations:

  • Adequate protection from flyrock?
  • Weather – is lightning a possibility?
  • Any nearby electrical hazards?
  • Any nearby RF (radio) hazards?
  • Impact hazards from rock fall?
  • Ventilation needed?
  • Traffic control required?
  • The impact of potential misfires. (How isolated is the site?
  • Is double-priming advisable to minimize misfires?)

E. Equipment / materials limitations:

  • Drilling equipment – size, condition.
  • Steel lengths available – depth of blast.
  • Explosives (including detonators) – Type, size, quantity available.
  • Adequate magazine site nearby?
  • Blasting mats available if needed?
  • Other blasting accessories?

Apart, investigate the area thoroughly and identify those items that will affect your blast or be affected by your blast and design accordingly.

3. Blast design Calculations and empirical formulas: In designing a blast, following principles should be kept in mind:

  • Explosive force functions best when the rock being blasted has a free face toward which it can break.
  • There must be an adequate void or open space into which the broken rock can move and expand (or swell).
  • To properly utilize the energy available, the explosive product should be well-confined within the rock.

If a blast is lacking in one or more of these above principles, the results will generally be less than desired.

Empirical formulas developed by Ash with few modifications are discussed here. Following symbols and definitions are given in relation to the equations discussed:

  • D = Diameter (in inches) of the explosive in the borehole.
  • B = Burden, the distance (in feet) from a charge to the nearest free face in the direction that displacement will most likely occur.
  • S = Spacing, the distance (in feet) between two holes, measured perpendicular to the corresponding burden.
  • L = Hole length or depth (in feet).
  • J = Sub-drilling length (in feet), the depth that the hole extends below the anticipated grade or floor.
  • T = Stemming height or collar distance (in feet). The top portion of the hole containing inert materials intended to prevent premature ejection of gasses.
  • H = Bench or face height (in feet).

Note: In these relationships, the Burden and Spacing dimensions are the “shot” burden and spacing, which may or may not be the “drilled” burden and spacing. Changes in the initiation timing scheme will determine the difference (see Fig. 4). Moreover, it is important to understand that the blast parameters listed are inter-related and that changing one parameter will have an impact on others.

Fig – 4


  • The burden that can be successfully blasted depends largely upon the strength of the rock and the amount of energy that is placed behind it.
  • The amount of energy that can be loaded is dependent upon the hole volume, or diameter; hence, the hole diameter and rock strength largely determine the burden distance.
  • Often, the hole diameter has already been established by the drilling equipment on hand.
  • If it hasn’t, the optimum hole diameter should be selected based upon considerations such as fragmentation desired, bench height, rock quality, etc.
  • In selecting hole size, smaller hole diameters and tighter patterns will result in better fragmentation, but will increase drilling, loading and product costs.
  • Taller bench heights will allow larger hole diameters and larger burdens and less drilling and blasting cost.
  • Also, if the material to be blasted is blocky, it is quite likely that some blocks may emerge intact unless smaller hole diameters and tighter patterns place explosives within them.
  • Once the hole diameter has been established, burden distance can be selected.

The following ratios can be used as first approximations in designing blasts. Bear in mind that the ratios will usually have to be adjusted as one learns more about how the particular rock reacts when blasted:

  • Burden = roughly 24 to 36 times the explosive diameter.
  1. Using AN/FO at a specific gravity of 0.82 g/cc:

i)         light rock (2.2 g/cc density) = 28 x diameter

ii)       medium rock (2.7 g/cc density) = 25 x diameter

iii)      dense rock (3.2 g/cc density) = 23 x diameter

  1. Using Slurries, Emulsions, etc at a specific gravity of 1.20 g/cc:

i)         light rock (2.2 g/cc density) = 33 x diameter

ii)       medium rock (2.7 g/cc density) = 30 x diameter

iii)    dense rock (3.2 g/cc density) = 27 x diameter

  • Spacing = 1.0 to 2.0 times the burden

i)     holes shot instantly by row = 1.8 – 2.0 x burden

ii)    large diameter holes shot sequentially = 1.2 – 1.5 x burden

iii)   small diameter holes shot sequentially = 1.5 – 1.8 x burden

  • Bench height = 1.5 to 4 times the burden, or possibly higher

Bench height is usually limited on the low end by the height of the stemming column required and its limiting effect on the amount of explosive that can be loaded, and limited on the high end by the height of the digging equipment (for safety reasons).

  • Sub-drilling = 0.1 to 0.5 times the burden

i)      flat bedding plane at toe = 0.0 – 0.1 x burden

ii)     relatively easy toe = 0.1 – 0.2 x burden

III)    medium toe = 0.2 – 0.4 x burden

IV)   difficult toe (vertical bedding) = 0.5 x burden

  • Stemming column length = 0.5 to 1.3 times the burden

I)         Increased multiplier if drill cuttings are used for stemming and/or holes are wet.

II)       Decreased multiplier if stone chips are used for stemming and/or holes are dry.

III)      For very cautious blasting (no throw or flyrock allowed):

IV)     Stemming = up to 36 times the hole diameter, possibly more

V)       Stemming length between decks to be fired on separate delays:

VI)     Deck length: dry hole = 6 times the hole diameter

VII)    Deck length: wet hole = 12 times the hole diameter


A certain amount of caution must be exercised when selecting values. For example, too small a burden would result in excessive forward throw, while too large a burden would probably yield inadequate fragmentation with possible excessive upward throw. In a similar manner, too wide a spacing would result in loss of interaction between detonating charges, while too little spacing could cause partial cancellation of explosive forces and could contribute to excessive vibration.

The type of stemming material plays an important part in confining the gas generated from explosives detonating in the hole. Angular crushed stone chips are preferred. Round pebbles, dirt and water are not and should be avoided. Most of the time, drill cuttings are used, but they can be marginal.

If sub-drilling is not sufficiently deep, the result will be high bottom. Excessive sub-drilling, however, is wasteful of drilling labor and explosive energy.

Other factors such as initiation timing and direction have an impact and will have to be considered.

POWDER FACTOR. In construction blasting, powder factor (PF) is expressed as quantity (unit mass) of explosive per unit volume of material blasted. For mining, it is usually expressed as quantity of explosive per ton of material (or sometimes tons of material per unit mass of explosive).

Fig – 5

DELAY TIMING: Very seldom is a conventional blast set off where all charges are detonated in the same instant. Usually there is a specific time interval and direction or directions for delaying the charges.

For tunnels, drifts and shafts where there is no free face parallel to the axis of the holes, longer delay periods are utilized. These are intended to provide sufficient time delay for the fractured rock from the initial holes to be expelled so that there is room for the rock blasted by the following holes to expand.

In construction and in surface mining, millisecond delays are used between charges in a blast. There are several basic reasons for doing so:

  • To assure that one or more free faces progress through the shot, providing a consistent burden.
  • To enhance fragmentation between adjacent holes.
  • To reduce ground vibration and airblast.
  • To provide a means of directing the heave or displacement of the blasted material. 

V, V1, V2 Patterns :These Pattern are far superior, to row delays. These result in superior fragmentation due to reduce hole burdens and increased spacing at the time of hole initiation and also due to inflight collision of broken rock during its movement. Thedelayed action of holes in the back row reduces over break ensuring increased wall stability.

The best available pattern is one where the holes are drilled (staggered) on a equilateral triangle pattern. This in a drilled spacing to burden ratio of approximately 1.16. It has been observed that an effective spacing (Se) to Burden (Be), ratio of about 3.5 is achieved with holes drilled on an equilateral triangle grid and fired using a V1 initiation sequence.

Drilling (staggered) equilateral triangular pattern require more operator skill and supervision as compared to in-line patterns. Clear marking of the hole positions in advance by a responsible person would help the drillers immensely. Fig. gives various delay patterns discussed above.



Theoretically, it is possible to “fine tune” the timing of a blast to achieve ideal results. Although rather sophisticated electronic detonators are available, standard millisecond (ms) delay systems can be obtained that will generally provide enough flexibility and a sufficient range of timing for most applications. There may be specific applications where extremely accurate delay detonators are necessary, but for most conventional blasting situations, the standard units are satisfactory. In many cases, a small amount of scatter in the times can actually be beneficial in reducing vibration, as long as the accuracy is adequate to prevent overlap, or near overlap, of detonation times.

  1. A.      The delay time between individual holes in a row:

i)         The delay time between holes in a row should be between 1 ms and 5 ms per foot of burden, with 3 ms yielding good results in most instances.

ii)       Where airblast is a problem or potential problem, the delay time between holes in a row should be at least 2 ms per foot of spacing.

iii)      This will result in a blast progression along the face or along a row of holes that is approximately half the speed of sound (or less) and reduces the low frequency airblast generated by face area movement or by surface area mounding.

iv)      Where possible, corner holes at the end of rows should be given extra delay time because of the greater degree of fixation of the rock in those locations requires more time for the rock blasted by previously fired adjacent holes to move away.

  1. B.        Delay interval between rows:

i)         The delay interval between rows should be from two to three times longer than the delay interval between holes in a row.

ii)       The last row in the shot should often be delayed slightly more than preceding rows.

iii)      This serves to allow rock in previously fired rows time to move out and tends to reduce back-break in the rock behind the blast.

Note: Regardless of the delay times selected for holes in the same row or for the delay time between rows, it is absolutely essential that the delay intervals be sufficiently short that there is a buffer zone between a detonating hole and detonators that have yet to see their initiating signal. This is usually accomplished by using longer down-hole delays.

An additional hazard can exist where delay times (compared to burden and spacing) are excessively long, causing cutoffs of the initiation system or powder columns due to ground shift. Again, this needs to be analyzed on a case by case basis and accounted for during blast design.

Direction of heave or throw:  It is generally possible to control the direction of heave of the material from a blast through application of the initiation system timing sequence. In fig -5, an arrow shows the directions of most logical heave when the various delay sequences shown are used. The numbers in the various figures represent the initiation sequence. Shooting row by row will generally lay the muck out in front of the shot. Shooting with a V-cut timing pattern will usually result in a muck pile that tends to mound up in the center in front of the shot.

The method of digging out the shot will usually determine which is preferable.

The direction of maximum vibration (all other things being equal) will theoretically be in the direction opposite from the direction of heave.

Location and Orientation of Primer: In most instances the priming charge will be located at the bottom of the hole. If the priming charge was located at the top of the powder column, the energy would break through the surface earlier in the explosion process, gasses would vent sooner and much of their contribution to the fragmentation process would be lost.

The orientation of the detonator in the priming charge should be such that the detonator is pointing in the direction of the explosives column. I.e. the detonator would be pointing upward in a bottom-priming charge and downward in a top-priming charge.

FRAGMENTATION: Primary fragmentation occurs during the detonation phase. The shock waves exceed the compressive and the tensile strength capacity of the rock, and the rock is crushed and pulverized close to the drill hole, and radial cracks will be created out from the hole to a certain extent (equal to 4 – 5 times the hole radius). The gas pressure will penetrate new cracks and existing fissures and joints, loosening the rock mass and throwing it out and over the bench floor.

Secondary fragmentation breakage starts with the throw when fragmented material accelerates out from the bench. The secondary breakage is attributed to:

  • Collisions between fragments in the air and between fragments and the bench floor.
  • High compressive stress levels and conserved elastic energy in the rock are released when the fragments are loosened from the bench.

The fragmentation varies through the rock pile. See Fig. 7. The coarser fragments originate from the first row and from the uncharged zone in the upper part of the blast.

Controllable factors which influence primary fragmentation:

  • Drill hole diameter
  • Mass of explosive charge
  • Stress waves’ peak values
  • Charge distribution in the bench

Secondary fragmentation may be increased by a plough shaped firing pattern. Fragmentation is also influenced by the original fracturing of the rock. This applies both during the detonation and in the following operations, such as loading, transportation, crushing and placing of the rock.


Studies of the rock pile show that:

  • The coarsest fractions in the rock pile originates from the shoulder/edge section of the blast, and from the uncharged volume.
  • The coarser fractions form a skirt which covers the top of the pile. Increased uncharged length rapidly increases the depth of this top layer.
  • Fragmentation of the shoulder section is highly dependent upon the bench top conditions. Terrain blasts normally produce more blocks than previously subdrilled bench floor conditions which originate from an overlying blast. Decreasing the stemming length to reduce the amount of oversized block will not necessarily be a success. Most likely, gas venting will appear resulting in excessive flyrocks.
  • The part of the rock pile which originates from the charged part of the blast gives the most fragmented rock.

ROCK MASS FRACTURING: The discontinuities or weakness planes of the rock mass influence the blastability. The weakness planes are recognised by little or no shear strength along the planes. Typical discontinuity features are:

  • Systematically fractured rock mass

i)     parallel oriented joints and fissures

ii)    foliation planes or bedding planes

  • Marked single joints
  • Filled joints
  • Crushed zones and zones with mineral or clay fill

Fracturing is characterised by rate of fracturing (type and frequency) as well as orientation (angle between blast direction and weakness planes). Various rock classification systems can be used to characterize the fracturing of the rock mass. Here we mention RQD, RMR and RMi. They more or less measure the same rock parameters.

The different fracturing parameters can be described as follows:

  • “Joints” mean continuous planes of weakness. These joints can be open, e.g. bedding joints in granite, or filled with clay or weak minerals, e.g. calcite, chlorite or similar minerals.
  • “Fissures” are planes of weakness which can only be followed over parts of the face. It can be filled joints with low shear strength and bedding plane fissures (partings) e.g. as in mica schist and mica gneiss.
  • “Homogeneous rock mass” means massive rock without joints or fissures and may occur in intrusive dikes, sills, batholiths etc.

Increased fissure joint degree gives better blastability. This is typical in regional metamorphic rock types.

Systematically oriented joint sets make the rock more difficult to blast. Large blocks are isolated in the throw without being crushed. Fractured conditions are characteristic for rocks in surface blasting.

BLASTING DIRECTION: Normally the blasting direction is perpendicular to the face of bench face, and it should be adjusted according to the direction of the fracturing. In special cases, the bench face direction may be fixed in a non favourable direction due to topography, quarry borders or strict geometrical demands, as in road cuttings or building sites. In these cases, the firing pattern can be used to control the blast direction in a more favourable direction and improve the blasting result.

Before drilling, the blast direction should be set according to the orientation of the main jointing systems. Fragmentation, backbreak and toe problems are all dependent upon the blasting direction.

Even though optimal fragmentation usually is the most important criterion, consideration of back wall, toe and bench floor must be considered to get an optimal total result. Orientation of the back wall may be along a weakness plane and the blast direction turned close up to the optimal angle.

Quarry management should provide documentation of the main discontinuity systems in operational maps. The blasting results should be followed up according to blasting directions and main fracture systems. The results from these studies will be the foundation for further blast planning and optimal quarry management.

Some of the most common combinations of rock type, fracturing and conventional quarrying blasting results are discussed. These are:

  • Anisotropic rock mass with approximately vertical fracturing.
  • Anisotropic rock mass with inclined fracturing.
  • Rock mass with vertical fracturing and little anisotropy.
  • Rock mass with inclined fracturing and little anisotropy.

Anisotropy of the rock gives directional dependent rock strength and directional dependent blasting effects. The angle between weakness planes and blast direction is given by the angle α. Blast direction is defined to be perpendicular to the bench wall face. Bench wall direction is described by A, B, C or D.

Anisotropic rock mass with approximately vertical fracturing:

A Medium (1) small medium
B Poor (2) large large
C medium to good (3) small medium
D Medium (1) small medium

1. Confined holes in the blast give poor breakage with bench floor underbreaks as a result.

2. Gas venting along schistosity in the walls. Flyrock and blocks is normal, particularly in the first row. Spacing must be reduced in the first row to reduce these problems.

3. Blast direction C is most favourable. The best result will appear with blast direction perpendicular to C and back wall along D. In such rock types, the bench floor conditions often will be the main parameter when designing the drilling pattern.

Inclined fracturing:

A Poor (1) Large (2) large
B good some medium
C good some Medium (3)
D Good (1) some medium to large

1. The main problem with inclined schistosity is the fact that the most favourable blast direction (B) is parallel to the strike direction. When firing row by row, the face does not become stiff enough and it will have excessive buckling.

This problem can be solved by using reduced bench height or small diameter drill holes.

2. Some backbreak and backslides on fissures along the schistosity.

3. In fissure fractured rock, C is the most favourable orientation when it comes to blast direction and the back wall.

Independent upon blasting direction, hole deflection may be a considerable problem in inclined schistose rock, resulting in zones with poor fragmentation and bench floor problems.

Approximately vertical fracturing and little anisotropy (Typical rock types are quartzite and granite gneiss):


A good little medium
B slightly poor Some (2) Varying (4)
C good Much (3) Little (5)
D good Little (1) medium

1. Little backbreak, even though incorrect alignment of drill holes according to the fracturing direction will give large fall-outs along the weakness planes, even for α < 10°.

2. Rough and uneven back wall. The face gets more uneven with higher fracturing degree, increased drill hole diameter and drill hole pressure. This results in more blocks in front of the rock pile.

3. Maximum backbreak for α = 45°, some larger blocks will occur at the back of the rock pile due to fallouts. Backbreak can be reduced by increasing the uncharged length in the back row.

4. Gas pressure leakages in the face resulting in flyrock, poor fragmentation (especially along the bench floor) and general bench floor problems. Especially in joint fractured rock.

5. Bench floor problems may occur if the first row breaks poorly. A possible way to make this better is to drill along D and fire along C.

Rock with inclined fracturing and little anisotropy:

A Poor (1) very large (2) large
B good Some medium
C very good little Medium (3)
D good little medium to large (4)

1. A large amount of block from the uncharged length in exfoliated, joint sheeted rock. If blasting on terrain bench, the top should dip backwards, otherwise many blocks will mix into the charged part of the rock pile. This is definitively the least favourable blast direction in joint fractured rock.

2. Extra subdrilling is necessary to avoid bench floor problems.

3. C is the most favourable orientation if the back wall and the first row breaks properly. If not, less specific charge in the back row and smaller hole spacing in the first row will improve the result.

4. Bench floor problems are reduced with increased subdrilling. Necessary subdrilling depends on dip angle.

To some extent, hole deflection may reduce the fragmentation degree and increase the bench floor problems.

Additional information:

Cost effective new formulation of ANFO by using Biomass Briquette as Additive

Cost effective new formulation of ANFO by using Biomass Briquette as Additive

By: Partha Das Sharma

Endeavour is to promote cost effective composition of ANFO, which do not compromise with the energy output (VOD) very much.

1.       Introduction:

ANFO (or Ammonium Nitrate/Fuel Oil) is a widely used bulk industrial explosive mixture in mines and quarry operation. It consists of 94 % porous  Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3), (AN) that acts as the oxidizing agent and absorbent for the fuel – 6 % number 2 fuel oil (FO), popularly known as High Speed Diesel (HSD). This forms a reasonably powerful commercial explosive. ANFO is non cap-sensitive explosives and requires a large shockwave to set it off.

ANFO has found wide use in coal mining, quarrying, metal mining, and civil construction in undemanding applications where the advantages of ANFO’s low cost and ease of use matter more than the benefits offered by conventional industrial explosives, such as water resistance, high detonation velocity, and performance in small diameters. It is estimated, use of this product accounts for an estimated 80% of explosives used annually, globally. To keep the cost down, bulk ANFO is used, i.e., mixed at the mines / quarry near the borehole by a bulk truck or stationary mixer.

2.     Industrial Ammonium Nitrate and its use:

Ammonium nitrate is widely used as a fertilizer in the agricultural industry. In many countries its purchase and use is restricted to buyers who have obtained the proper licence. This restriction is primarily because it is an attractive and simple component used in the production of fertiliser bombs.

In the mining industry, the term ANFO specifically describes a mixture of solid ammonium nitrate prills and heating oil. In this form, it has a bulk density of approximately 840 kg/m3. The density of individual prills is about 1300 kg/m3, while the density of pure crystalline ammonium nitrate is 1700 kg/m3. AN prills used for explosive applications are physically different from fertiliser prills; the former contain approximately 20% air. These versions of ANFO which use prills are generally called explosives grade, low density, or industrial grade ammonium nitrate. These voids are necessary to sensitize ANFO: they create so-called “hot spots”. Finely powdered aluminum can be added to ANFO to increase both sensitivity and energy; however, this has fallen out of favour due to cost. Other additions include perlite,  chemical gassing agents, or glass air bubbles to create these voids.

AN is highly hygroscopic, readily absorbing water from air. It is dangerous when stored in humid environments, as any absorbed water interferes with its explosive function. AN is also water soluble. When used in wet mining conditions, considerable effort must be taken to dewater boreholes.

Other explosives based on the ANFO chemistry exist; the most commonly used are Emulsions. They differ from ANFO in the physical form the reactants take. The most notable properties of emulsions are water resistance and higher bulk density.

AN is a substance with relatively weak explosive properties and is not considered an explosive in many classifications. Adding some combustible material, such as nitro compounds, liquid hydrocarbons, solid Hydrocarbons or metal powders to AN increases significantly its explosibility and Energy. Uniform mixing of oil and ammonium nitrate is essential to development of full explosive energy. High explosives boosters are sometime spaced along the borehole to assure propagation throughout the column.

The popularity of ANFO is largely attributable to its low cost and high stability. In most jurisdictions, ammonium nitrate need not be classified as an explosive for transport purposes; it is merely an oxidizer. Many mines prepare ANFO on-site using the same diesel fuel that powers their vehicles, although heating oil, which is nearly identical, may cost less than diesel fuel due to lower fuel tax. Many fuels can theoretically be used; the low volatility and cost of fuel oil makes it ideal.

ANFO has a wide variety of applications in dry hole blasting conditions. It is one of the most cost effective blasting agents available for use in large hole diameter mining through to small hole diameter quarrying.  Pneumatically loaded, ANFO is also effective in underground development and tunneling applications.

Features and benefits of ANFO are, (a) it is a dry and free flowing product, allowing delivery by loose pour or pneumatic loading, (b) its low bulk density provides excellent charge distribution in the blasthole, (c) it provides excellent heave energy.

3.       Effort in reduction of Cost of ANFO by using Biomass briquette or White Coal as additive:

With recent escalations in Ammonium Nitrate and fuel prices, there have several attempts to reduce the cost of ANFO, without sacrificing the blast performance.

In order to reduce the cost of ANFO, green fuel – Biomass Briquette or White Coal – additive is used.

Nowadays white coal is made from Groundnut shells, Cotton hulls and salks, Castor seed shells, Forest leaves; wood chips and shavings, Sugarcane bagasse, Rice husk and paddy straw, Mustard waste, Coir dust, Coffee husk, Sunflower waste, Maize stalks, Bajra cobs, Sesame seeds oil cake, Wheat straw etc.

Benefits of white coal are (a) White coal is cheaper than coal and fire wood, (b) There is no sulphur in the white coal, therefore no toxic gases, (c) Moisture content is nil, (d) Biomass briquettes have a higher practical thermal value, (e) Briquettes have consistent quality, have high burning efficiency, and are ideally sized for complete combustion, (f) Combustion is more uniform compared to coal due to higher quantity of volatile matter in briquettes, (g) Low ash contents and (h) The calorific value of the finished briquettes is approximately 4000 to 5000 kcal/kg.

Environmentally, the use of biomass briquettes produces much fewer greenhouse gases, specifically, 13.8% to 41.7% CO2 and NOX.

In this system it has been tried to apply combination of low-cost liquid Hydro-carbon fuel (used Diesel) and Biomass Briquette or White Coal  i.e., Solid green Fuel (crushed) with porous Ammonium Nitrate, in order to make the blend cost effective, at the same time, without compromising the Energy output of such blend during the blast.

4.       Development of the new Formulation:

  • As uniform mixing of fuel and ammonium nitrate is essential to obtain maximum explosive energy, several methods of mixing in the field and ingredients used can be employed to achieve optimum result.
  • It has been experimented, Ammonium Nitrate blended with solid green fuel, in the form of crushed Biomass Briquette or White Coal and liquid Hydro-carbon fuel (in the form of Diesel oil and used oil) in various proportions to enhance blasting efficiencies.
  • The hydrocarbon required for combustion in ANFO is provided by Fuel Oil / Used oil to the extent of 4%.

Therefore, in effect, the blend consists of following four components: (a) Free-flowing Ammonium Nitrate, (b) Liquid fuel oil / Used Oil, (c) Solid green crushed Biomass Briquette or White Coal.

ANFO / Biomass Briq Cost Calculation:
Qty Unit Rate Cost (Rs)
ANFO conventional 1000 KG
AN 1000 KG 32.00 32000
HSD 70 Lit 51.00 3570
Total 1000 KG   35570
Qty Unit Rate Cost (Rs)
ANFO/Briq. 1000 KG
AN 910 KG 32.00 29120
Briquette 90 KG 5.50 495
HSD 40 Lit 51.00 2040
Total 1000 KG   31655
Saving in cost of ANFO / Briq 3915.00
%age saving of ANFO / Briq 11.01

Cost Effectiveness – Reduces overall cost by about 11%


  1. Maximum possible size reduction of Biomass Briquette should be done before use.
  2. Replacing some portion of Diesel with used oil may reduce further cost.
  3. First Ammonium Nitrate is to be mixed with required percentage of Diesel or oil (as mentioned), then crushed / grind Biomass Briquette is to be mixed with above ANFO.

5.       Blast Performance:

  • The new blends comprising of ANFO-waste oil-Solid green fuel (Biomass Briquette) blend has been tested.
  • Besides lower the blasting costs, the formulation is comparative in terms of rock fragmentation to standard ANFO (94% AN with 6 % FO).
  • The blast output results into low flyrock and consequently effective casting of the blasted rock.
  • This helps in safer and secured mucking & loading of the blasted material as well as lower mucking cost since the entire blast was well-fragmented.
  • This results in optimum energy utilization of the blast energy and that too for fragmentation and prevents loss of energy resulting from following unsafe and wasteful means: (a) Fly Rock, (b) Vibrations, (c) Noise (d) better heave and (e) preventing of unwanted spreading of blasted material.
  • VOD of the new formulation found to be 3600 ± 500 m/sec.

 6.       Conclusion:

Effectiveness is the most advantageous factor Reduces overall cost keeping blast performance at par / better than conventional ANFO.

Lessened tendency to have fly rock, lessened amount of back break outside drill pattern was observed. Moreover, less “orange smoke” observed during side-by-side comparisons of ANFO and ANFO-Briquette blasts, suggesting less NOx (orange smoke) formation.


HANDLING OF MISFIRES IN MINES: Dealing with it is potentially most dangerous activity.

1. INTRODUCTION – Misfire means the complete or partial failure of a blasting charge to explode as planned. The explosive or pyrotechnical products that remain in the ground or in the muckpile might be triggered by any mechanical effect during the digging, milling or crushing stages of the mining process, causing injuries or fatalities to blasters or operators.

The potential consequences of a misfire are such that every reasonably practicable means available to site managers should be taken to avoid misfires. The emphasis should be made on prevention rather than cure.

Dealing with a misfire is potentially the most dangerous activity that site managers and Shotfirers will be involved in during blasting operations. In the event of a misfire, it is likely that unexploded charges and detonators will be left in the face or in the muckpile. These charges could be detonated if drilled into, if struck by an excavator bucket, wheels or tracks, or if inadvertently fed through a crushing plant. Unexploded charges may also be loaded out accidentally and taken either off site in road vehicles or to site tips. In any of these circumstances there may be a risk of danger to the operator or to the public, particularly from fly-rock in the event of a detonation.

Unexploded charges may need to be recovered by hand. All those likely to be involved must realise that this is a potentially dangerous operation. Great care and attention to detail is required to ensure that this is carried out safely.

2. RECOGNITION OF MISFIRES – After firing, a proper examination must be carried out to check the state of the face, that all the charges have fired and that there is no indication of a misfire. However, explosives can still be discovered at the face, in the muckpile or at the processing plant.

Any discovery of undetonated explosives or detonating cord must be reported since their presence constitutes a misfire. Indications of a misfire can include noxious fumes, inadequate ground movement, poor fragmentation, unusual blast sound or vibration trace, flyrock or evidence of undetonated explosives

3. POST BLAST INSPECTION – Post blast inspection is a hazardous task and in all circumstances must be carried out in accordance with the site rules.

Hazards exist not only from the existence of undetonated explosives but also from the post blast environment.

There is the possibility of a misfire remaining undetected even after inspection. It is therefore essential that adequately trained personnel regularly check the muckpile and face throughout the loading operation.

All personnel but especially those operating loading equipment, hauling equipment and crushers should be aware of this possibility and must be instructed to report abnormalities.

The extent and nature of the misfire must be determined as soon as possible after the misfire has been detected.

An exclusion zone must be established and secured until such time as any readily retrievable explosive has been collected and removed.

4. IN THE EVENT OF A MISFIRE – If a misfire is discovered during the post blast inspection then the “all clear” signal should not be given until a new exclusion zone has been established and secured.

The exclusion zone must be established by the responsible person who could be either the site manager or the blasting engineer or the shotfirer.

The immediate priority must be to ensure that arrangements to safeguard personnel in the event of a misfire are adequate and complied with.

Only those personnel directly concerned with the misfire should be within the exclusion zone.

5. DEALING WITH MISFIRES – The following procedures should be considered as possible courses of action in dealing with misfires.

* Removing stemming and re-priming

There may be circumstances in which it is possible to remove stemming in order to gain access and to reprime the charge. This is a potentially hazardous operation, which requires great care. It should only be attempted after detailed consideration.

When a hole contains detonators and it is anticipated that excessive force will be required to remove the stemming then the operation must not be attempted. This could result in premature initiation of the charge, particularly if the detonator is close to the top of the main charge and is immediately below the stemming.

If the hole contains an electric detonator the use of high velocity air to remove the stemming should not be attempted. Static charges sufficient to initiate electric detonators can be created.

Bulk explosive can be washed out of misfired shotholes but the utmost care must be taken in removing cartridges, particularly where detonators are involved. Under no circumstances must explosives or detonators be removed from a borehole by pulling on the detonator leads. Suitable extraction tools are available to enable cartridges to be removed. These usually take the form of a corkscrew or barb of nonferrous material which can be connected to stemming rods.

The following factors must be considered:

The use of high pressure water is unlikely to overcome the mechanical lock of stemming comprising chippings; The use of large quantities of water could desensitise any non waterproof explosive and dissolve any explosive with a high concentration of water soluble ingredients;

In situations where multiple decks of explosives are employed, all the above considerations magnify the difficulty of gaining access to the lower decks of explosives. Irrespective of the number of explosive decks, removal of the stemming in order to gain access to the charge as to re-prime is a technique, which ranges from unattractive at best to extremely difficult.

Any tools used inside the borehole to remove stemming must be non-ferrous.

If all the stemming can be removed and access to the top of the charge is achieved, the charge may be reprimed and refired. However it should be noted that in the event of a partial misfire the burden on the misfired shothole can often be reduced or fractured and a careful assessment of the situation must be made before any decision is reached.

* Drilling and firing relieving holes

The hazards in drilling relieving holes are:-

a) intersecting an explosives column, with a high risk of detonation

b) operating a drill in unstable rock conditions

The object of such holes when fired is:

  •  To disturb and displace the adjacent explosive column so that any primers and detonators remaining unfired are not located within an undisturbed explosive column after this blasting;
  •  To break up the rock mass in the region of the misfired hole in order to facilitate the search for and retrieval of any unexploded charges, primers and detonators.

One or more relieving holes may be drilled behind the misfired hole. The separation distance between the holes depends on the diameter, the inclination and the type of drilling equipment and the sensitiveness of the explosives. Any relieving hole must be drilled parallel to the misfired hole and to the same depth. To ensure that the holes are parallel it is essential that the information relating to the inclination and azimuth of the misfired hole is accurate. Care must be taken to drill the relieving hole at the same angle. The precise location of the relieving hole can only be established after careful assessment of the local conditions. Consideration should also be given to operating the drill rig remotely. It may be necessary to seek expert advice.

A further option is to drill small diameter relieving holes around the collar of the misfired hole. These are systematically fired to work off the rock and expose the charge. There may be adjacent charged holes, which must be considered and their location confirmed before any action is taken.

* Discovery and retrieval of explosives

It may be necessary to move rock from the immediate vicinity of the misfire before access to the charge can be gained. The remaining rock next to any misfired charge is likely to be solid and any attempt to remove this can be fraught with danger. Remedial action can only be decided after careful inspection and appraisal of the misfire site.

It may be possible to remove part of a misfired charge by hand from the socket of a hole but this should only be attempted by experienced personnel after due consultation with, and the approval of site management.

Removal of some charge from a hole will allow the introduction of a primer and detonators. Some stemming may then be added to the hole to create additional confinement, before firing.

If a misfired hole contains more than one deck of explosive, it may be necessary to deal with each deck in turn as a separate misfire, with either full retrieval of charges from each deck or re- priming. Sufficient confinement must be provided before refiring each deck.

Explosive which is recovered should be placed in containers for storage or disposal. Detonators should be separated from the explosives and primers carefully and stored separately from explosives. Explosives should be placed in plastic bags and placed in clearly labelled boxes.

The process of searching for explosive material in the heap may involve the use of loading equipment. Note that it is possible to utilise specially protective devices in order to protect the operators during this process.

Material picked up by the bucket should be taken to a leve1 area, carefully deposited on the floor and searched thoroughly. The minimum number of people should be exposed during this process.

Before excavation commences precise instructions should be given to the machine operator as to how to proceed.

This procedure should help minimise the risk of the impact of the bucket or falling rocks detonating unexploded charges. This work must only be done under direct supervision. From the location of misfired material and information from the blast design it may be possible to determine the quantities and types of explosive involved. A search should continue until, as far as possible, all explosive material has been accounted for. Be aware that explosive material may be concealed below the floor where sub-drilling is used.

A more serious situation occurs when explosive material is found when loading out or processing. It must be assumed that some has made its way into the product, stocking area or tip. It may even have been taken off site. An assessment must be made of the dangers and risks likely to be involved should the explosive be inadvertently detonated. Steps must be taken to arrange for the search and inspection of any location where undetonated explosives have found their way. All personnel must be instructed to report the finding of any explosive material to the shotfirer, the face foreman or the manager as soon as possible.

6. MISFIRE INVESTIGATION – After a misfire has occurred it is important that the “lessons learned” are recorded in order to attempt to prevent a repetition of the event.

Reporting is an important part of this procedure and records must be maintained. This is particularly important if it is suspected that all of the misfired material has not been recovered.