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The Benefits of Bulk Emulsion Explosives in Underground

Development Mining
S Parsons
and N Bennett
This paper examines the practical and economic benefits of using bulk
emulsion explosives in underground development mining; compared to
ANFO, ANFO derivatives and packaged explosives. The key economic
benefit of bulk emulsion is the replacement of relatively high cost
packaged explosives with a bulk product. Key practical benefits include
water resistance, improved coupling of explosive, reduced toxic gas
production, increased shock energy and improved manual handling
through the use of bulk products.
Each of the benefits is proven using a variety of measurements and
field results in order to quantify them. Where possible, dollar values are
determined so that the benefits can be shown to translate into savings for
the mine operator. The results show that, despite the difference in price
between ANFO and bulk emulsions, bulk emulsions are most capable of
delivering the lowest total cost of blasting.
The savings potential of the introduction of bulk emulsion systems can
result in an improvement in drill and blast costs for a mine operator, or a
significant increase in profit margin for a contract mining company.
Packaged emulsion is traditionally used for charging wet holes,
with operators manually loading each cartridge into the hole,
then tamping in place. The effective coupling using this
technique is generally in the range of 60 - 70 per cent. By
loading with a water resistant bulk emulsion, 100 per cent
coupling is achieved, providing much greater energy for
breakage. The manual handing of boxes and cartridges is
removed, with the hose simply inserted to the toe of the hole and
the pumped emulsion slowly filling the hole to the desired collar.
Perimeter products vary from low-density bulk products to
packaged decoupled charges or high strength detonating cord.
String loaded bulk emulsion achieves results comparable to
packaged decoupled charges whilst maintaining the manual
handling and cost benefits of a bulk product. Charge rates as low
as 0.35 kg/m in a 45 mm blasthole are achievable using bulk
emulsions; with the string size controlled by simply changing
hose retract speed.
Bulk emulsion explosives detonate with a higher velocity of
detonation (VoD) than ANFO. The shock energy component is
therefore higher in bulk emulsions than ANFO, providing more
energy for breaking the rock rather than moving it. With in situ
block size generally much larger than that required for
development mining, it is preferable to have as much energy
available for breakage as possible, creating smaller blocks more
suited to the breakage and clearing methods used in development
Water resistance
Bulk emulsions have excellent water resistance properties and, as
such, all wet holes including those drilled below horizontal can
be charged successfully without dewatering. Charging of wet
holes is essentially the same as a dry hole. The emulsion is
pumped, via the hose, to the back of the hole, completely filling
it. As the hose is withdrawn, the water is displaced from the hole
as the emulsion is pumped in.
Completely filling the hole is of particular significance where
bulk emulsion replaces packaged products. Adamson et al (2000)
found using plastic packaged 32 mm diameter emulsion
cartridges and best practice tamping techniques yielded a
coupling ratio of only 60 per cent of the hole volume. This is the
equivalent of a 35 mm diameter cartridge in a 45 mm diameter
hole. This decoupled charge results in a breakage radius of half
of the blow-loaded ANFO equivalent charge.
Plastic tube charges fare even worse, with cartridge diameters
around 30 mm, resulting in even greater decoupling and reduced
breakage radius.
Lifter and knee hole performance is excellent with the
improved coupling of bulk emulsion compared to packaged
products. This can result in the opportunity to remove knee holes
and expand the burden between holes at the bottom of the face.
Ground vibration monitoring has indicated that increased
burdens on lifter and knee holes did not affect the blast
With bulk emulsion, around two-thirds of the holes drilled in
the face can be drilled below horizontal, providing a more even
charge distribution throughout the face. The burn, box and
diamond, a total of 17 holes, are the only holes in the face drilled
above horizontal. Further trials are required to investigate the
performance of burns drilled below horizontal, with particular
emphasis on the performance of water-filled relief holes.
Perimeter charging
Perimeter holes are charged using Dyno Nobels patented string
loading process. The charge hose is retracted from the back of
the hole using a motor driving a set of wheels. This allows the
emulsion to be loaded at a set rate per metre, according to the
speed at which the hose is retracted. String charging has been
successfully used to load charge densities of 0.35 kg/m in
tunnelling applications and down to 0.70 kg/m for mining
applications. Breakage radii for common perimeter products
were calculated using the Holmberg-Persson method and
JKSimblast software and are listed in Table 1.
Qualitative results are difficult to compare between perimeter
products in most mining operations at present, due to popularity
of in-cycle fibrecrete as the surface support. This prevents visual
inspection of the backs and walls and hides any potential
deterioration in the rock mass following mining. Inspections
carried out immediately following blasting reveal an increase in
the number of half-barrels evident in the backs and upper walls
when using emulsion.
Advance rates
Face advance per round has improved with the introduction of
bulk emulsions. For example, a mine in the North-Eastern
Goldfields of Western Australia had experienced very good
EXPLO Conference Wollongong, NSW, 3 - 4 September 2007 87
1. Technical Consultant, Dyno Nobel Asia Pacific, Level 6, 553 Hay
Street, Perth WA 6000. Email: stuart.parsons@ap.dynonobel.com
2. Business Manager Underground West, Dyno Nobel Asia Pacific,
Level 6, 553 Hay Street, Perth WA 6000.
Email: nigel.bennett@ap.dynonobel.com
results when firing 5.8 m long rounds using ANFO and
ANFO-derived products. The historical advance per round was in
the order of 5.3 - 5.5 m per round, which is between 93 per cent
and 95 per cent of a full round. Following the introduction of
bulk emulsion, the advance improved to the point where, upon
scaling, the advance achieved would be between 100 per cent
and 102 per cent. The faces quickly scaled to a solid base giving
the operator a strong indication of when to stop scaling.
Improved re-entry times
The instantaneous gas levels resulting from five blasts monitored
between 4 and 6 July 2006 were recorded at a mine in the
North-Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia using an
Odalog 6000 multigas logger. Gases monitored included carbon
monoxide (CO), oxygen (O
), hydrogen sulfide (H
S), nitric
oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO
). The first three blasts
used Titan 7000 in short rounds, 4.2 m hole length. The final two
blasts used ANFO and Titan 7000 respectively, in long rounds
with 5.8 m hole length. A graph displaying the results of the
monitoring for the 5.8 m rounds is illustrated in Figure 1.
The CO gas levels took the greatest amount of time to be
diluted to below short-term exposure limit (STEL) for both
ANFO and Titan 7000. The time taken for fumes to clear the face
for a round charged with ANFO or Titan 7000 is not significantly
different. Fumes took between 20 and 25 minutes to reach the
portal 1.1 km from the face after firing.
Peak CO levels were above 500 ppm (maximum recordable
level) for both ANFO and Titan 7000 but were not at these levels
for a significant amount of time. Peak NO and NO
levels are
significantly greater for ANFO blasts. Bakke et al (2001) show a
relationship between high peak exposures to NO
from blasting
fumes and a temporary decrease in lung function. Lung function
returns to normal after approximately ten days without exposure.
It should also be noted that NO
gas is toxic and can lead to
pulmonary oedema and death if inhaled at sufficiently high
Velocity of detonation (VoD)
Bulk emulsion explosives detonate with a higher VoD than
ANFO under the same conditions. The energy partition diagram
(Figure 2) illustrates the effect that VoD has on the amount of
energy converted into shock and heave energy during detonation.
The shock energy component is higher in bulk emulsions than
ANFO, providing more energy for breaking the rock rather than
moving it. The higher VoD produces higher detonation pressure,
which results in more intense fracturing of the rock. With the
in situ block size generally much larger than that required for
development mining, it is preferable to have as much energy
available for breakage as possible.
The VoD of the first fired hole was measured using a
ShotTrack time-domain reflectometer (TDR) over a series of
blasts at a mine in the North Eastern Goldfields of Western
Australia. The ShotTrack works by measuring the length of a
88 Wollongong, NSW, 3 - 4 September 2007 EXPLO Conference
ANFO versus Titan 7000 Fumes
-5.00 0.00 5.00 10.00 15.00 20.00 25.00 30.00
Time (minutes)
T7000 CO
T7000 H2S
T7000 NO2
T7000 NO
FIG 1 - Gas levels from 5.8 m round.
# Charge type Breakage radius
1 Packaged tube type charge, 19 mm diameter 0.1 m
2 Packaged tube type charge, 29 mm diameter 0.4 m
3 70 g/m detonating cord 0.05 m
4 String charge with 1.5 kg toe charge,
0.35 kg/m string
0.2 m
5 ANFO/polystyrene blend, 50% ANFO,
blow loaded
0.6 m
6 Blow loaded ANFO 1.0 m
7 Bulk emulsion, 1.0 g/cc density 1.4 m
Energy distribution distances of various perimeter charges.
Heave Energy Heave Energy
Shock Energy Shock Energy
Increasing Velocity of Detonation
100% 100%
0% 0%
Heave Energy
Shock Energy
Heave Energy Heave Energy
Shock Energy Shock Energy
Heave Energy
Shock Energy
Increasing Velocity of Detonation
FIG 2 - Energy partition diagram.
coaxial cable installed in the hole 100 000 times per second. As
the detonation front travels along the explosive column, the cable
is consumed. The slope of the resulting graph of cable length
versus time is the VoD of the explosive. A typical VoD trace is
illustrated in Figure 3. The VoD ranged from 3600 to 3800 m/s,
which agrees with theoretical calculations for Titan 7000 at a
density of 0.90 g/cm
, calculated using the Vixen ideal
detonation code developed by African Explosives Limited
(Cunningham, Braithwaite and Parker, 2006). As a comparison,
VoD values for ANFO are typically 3000 m/s.
Face pattern optimisation
A standard ANFO pattern will generally be modified to take
advantage of the characteristics and benefits of bulk emulsions in
the following ways:
the burden on all fully charged holes can be increased as the
breakage radius for emulsion is greater than ANFO;
the central knee holes are shifted upwards, increasing the
burden on the lifters;
the offset of the shoulder and knee holes with respect to the
back and lifter holes can be increased; and
a number of stripping holes can be removed and the burden
on the remaining holes adjusted.
As the string loading method achieves similar results to
packaged decoupled charges, burdens and spacings for perimeter
holes should remain the same.
Metered hole loading and explosive consumption
The liquid form of bulk emulsions, combined with the pumping
systems commonly used, allow for accurate metering of
quantities of emulsion and trace chemicals using commercially
available programmable logic controllers (PLCs). For standard
holes, this results in an accurate, repeatable amount of emulsion,
delivered at the correct density to each hole. For string loading,
PLCs also allow for control of hose retract speed, which
determines the size of the emulsion string. Metered hole loading
also prevents much of the spillage typical of a face charged with
blow loaded ANFO.
The application of longer standard collar lengths can be
achieved due to the loading accuracy achieved with the PLCs. A
typical uncharged collar length for a face charged with bulk
emulsion is around 0.7 to 1.0 m. This will reduce the amount of
explosives required to charge the face, with a 1.0 m collar in a
64 hole face saving around 56 kg of equivalent ANFO.
Charging time
Reducing the time required to charge a face provides a number of
benefits to the operation. The most obvious is the ability to
charge more headings in a given shift. However, the most
significant benefit is a reduction in the overall exposure of
operators to the hazards associated with charging a face.
Most operators have reported a 20 - 30 per cent reduction in
the time to complete charging. Time savings are achieved by:
not having to individually load and tamp packaged product,
not having to switch products to charge perimeter holes, and
loading the holes at a faster rate through faster pumping rates.
Safer delivery system
Underground ANFO delivery systems are based on using high
pressure air to deliver the product to the end of the charge hose.
This is achieved using either a venturi style loader or a
pressurised kettle, or a mixture of both. The operating pressure of
the systems can be up to 650 kPa. Working with high pressure
systems exposes operators to a number of hazards, including:
the discharge of the ANFO from the end of the charge hose
it can travel at over 200 km/h, and
issues associated with use of the pressurised ANFO kettle.
Development-specific emulsion loading systems are able to
operate at much lower delivery pressures whilst maintaining
loading rates of up to 100 kg per minute. The back pressure on
the charge hose is just enough to gently push the hose from the
hole whilst charging.
Transport, storage and handling
The transport and storage of bulk emulsions is generally easier
than ANFO due to the classification of unsensitised bulk
emulsions as an oxidising agent, rather than an explosive. Liquid
emulsions are easily transported by road as a dangerous goods
load in either road tankers or Isotainers. On-site storage is
generally in vertical tanks or, for temporary sites, in Isotainers.
Storage as a dangerous good is particularly useful on remote
sites subject to seasonal rainfall, as the licensing and storage
requirements for ANFO can restrict the quantities permitted on
As a bulk liquid, emulsions can easily be pumped from the site
storage facility into the underground unit using a simple, air
powered Wilden type diaphragm pump. In comparison, ANFO
handling systems vary from simply loading 20 kg bags directly
into the kettle, loading kettles with bulkabags and an IT with jib,
EXPLO Conference Wollongong, NSW, 3 - 4 September 2007 89
0 1 2 3 4
Length (m)
VoD (km/s)
Average VoD 3660 m/s
FIG 3 - Velocity of detonation (VoD) trace.
through to overhead rail systems in underground magazines.
These systems have various drawbacks, including being labour
intensive or requiring expensive equipment.

direct priming
Dyno Nobels Titan 7000 emulsion can be reliably initiated with
a #12 detonator in a 45 mm diameter blasthole. Blow loaded
ANFO can also be reliably detonated with a #12 detonator;
however, the conventional loading technique coupled with water
in the blasthole and the deleterious effect of water on ANFO can
lead to misfires. The emulsion loading technique allows for
reliable full encapsulation of the detonator with a water resistant
explosive and displacement of all water from the blasthole.
As a result, conventional packaged emulsion primers can be
replaced with a simple device to centralise and protect the
detonators in the blasthole. The Scorpion is an example of such a
device, constructed from extruded plastic. It is illustrated in
Figure 4 and comprises four fins attached to a central spine and
facilitates direct priming of blastholes with detonators.
As the Scorpion is not an explosive, the primer can be
assembled in the detonator magazine prior to charging, and be
transported to the face fully assembled.
Table 2 is a generic summary of the savings available when
replacing ANFO with bulk emulsion in a development heading.
The savings are described both as a theoretical dollar value, and
as a percentage of the cost of explosives required for a typical
ANFO round.
The parameters used for the calculations are:
64 hole pattern, 4.2 m round;
knee holes and lifters considered wet; and
perimeter products used grade line to grade line.
Replacement of packaged products
The major economic benefit associated with the use of bulk
explosives in development blasting is gained by replacing
packaged emulsion products or tube products used in lifter, knee
and perimeter holes. These products are very expensive
compared to bulk products, with bulk emulsion 40 per cent to
60 per cent cheaper than the packaged products. It is also time
consuming to load packaged products, particularly plastic film
packaged emulsions, as each cartridge needs to be tamped.
Combined with the higher loading rates of bulk emulsion
systems, the time saved in charging a face can be around three
per cent of the overall drill and blast costs for each round. There
is also the lost opportunity cost that comes with the extra time
required for each face.
Reduced number of holes
Along with the savings in explosives costs outlined in Table 2, it
stands to reason that there are savings to be made in not having
to drill the holes to begin with. Removing five holes from a face
could save 15 minutes of drilling time along with savings in
consumables. This would save a typical operation $156.53 per
face in drill and blast costs, or around six per cent of the cost to
drill and blast a face.
Reduced explosive requirements
With improved metering, longer collars and reduced spillage,
savings of around $57 per face, or 6.4 per cent of explosive costs
are easily achievable. It is assumed that around 10 kg of ANFO
is lost on the ground during charging operations, not including
prime up.
Improved advance per round
Using the example detailed in the practical benefits section, a
seven per cent improvement in advance will result in a cost
benefit due to the extra metres advance achieved without
increasing drill and blast costs. Using the parameters detailed
above, a seven per cent increase is an extra advance of 0.29 m
per round. If the operation achieves an average of four rounds per
shift, this will result in an extra 72.9 m per month.
The additional drill and blast costs that would normally be
required to achieve these metres would be $42 666 per month.
Primer costs
A plastic detonator centraliser and protector such as the Scorpion
is a much cheaper priming system than packaged emulsions or
cast primers. Replacing packaged emulsion primers with
Scorpion primer can save $53 per face, or around eight per cent
of explosives costs.
Bulk ANFO is cheaper to manufacture than bulk emulsions.
Delivered to site, ANFO is generally about 40 per cent cheaper
than bulk emulsions. Incorporating the savings outlined above,
the lowest total cost of charging and blasting a face is, however,
not achievable using the cheapest bulk explosive (ANFO). Bulk
emulsions instead in development mining have the potential to
reduce explosives costs by 25 per cent and reduce overall drill
and blast costs by 14 per cent. For a typical underground
90 Wollongong, NSW, 3 - 4 September 2007 EXPLO Conference
FIG 4 - Detonator centraliser.
Savings per
round (A$)
Reduction in
explosives costs (%)
Replacement of packaged
emulsions in wet holes
212.52 24
Replacement of tube charges
in perimeter holes
178.90 20
Replacement of tube charges
in wet holes (eg lifters)
100.73 11
Reduced number of easer holes
in face
62.84 7.1
Replacement of packaged
emulsion primers with Scorpion
52.78 7.9
Improved metering with longer
uncharged collar lengths
48.63 5.5
Savings in explosives costs per face charged.
operation charging four faces a shift, this would save over
$54 000 a month, or $650 000 a year in explosive costs and
almost $92 000 a month or $1 103 000 a year in drill and blast
The combination of these savings, and the practical benefits
outlined previously, has led numerous underground mining
operations to change from ANFO based development mining to
bulk emulsions. These include mining contractors and owner-
operators, with annual development rates between 3.6 and
15.6 km. The acceptance of bulk emulsion systems by the
operators has been exceptionally high, with very few wishing to
return to ANFO once familiar with the bulk emulsion systems.
Adamson, W, McKern, E J, Pearce, D O and Duke, D D, 2000. The
influence of cartridge length and tamping practices on the efficiency
of packaged emulsion explosives in development blasting, in
Proceedings First World Conference on Explosives and Blasting
Technique (ed: R Holmberg), pp 259-264 (Balkema: Rotterdam).
Bakke, B, Ulvestad, B, Stewart, P, Lund, M B and Eduard, W, 2001.
Effects of blasting fumes on exposure and short-term lung function
changes in tunnel construction workers, Scand J Work Environ
Health, 27(4):250-257.
Cunningham, C, Braithwaite, M and Parker, I, 2006. Vixen detonation
codes: Energy input for the HSBM, in Proceedings Eighth
International Symposium on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting:
FragBlast 8, Santiago, pp 169-174
EXPLO Conference Wollongong, NSW, 3 - 4 September 2007 91