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A study of the impact of stiffness ratio on the fragmentation of sandstone
strata in an opencast coal mine
By Dr Piyush Rai*, Abhai Kumar Ranjan** and B. Singh***

he ratio of bench Fig. 1. Mechanism of
height (H) to effective breakage by flexion,
firing burden (Be) after Ouchterlony2
represents the stiffness
ratio in a surface mine bench blast.
Changing the bench height,
effective burden and/or the mode
of firing may change this ratio in
field-scale blasts.This is because,
for a given burden, there exists a
maximum bench height to
produce a full crater.The breakage
angle for a given burden increases
with the increase in bench height
up to a certain point.This
phenomenon is attributable to the
decrease in the burden rock
stiffness, which makes the bench
more flexible for improved
fragmentation results. Lundberg et
al.1 reported a host of problems
due to increased burden rock Table 1. Potential problems related to stiffness ratio,
after Konya3
The mechanism of rock
fragmentation also considers the Ground
Stiffness Air Blast Fly
role of flexion in rock breakage Ratio Values
Results Rock Results
during and after the radial Results
fracturing and spalling phases; the 1 Poor Severe Severe Severe
pressure applied by the explosion
gases in front of the explosive 2 Fair Fair Fair Fair
column acts on the burden rock
3 Good Good Good Good
mass, which behaves like a beam
embedded in the bottom of the 4 Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
blasthole and in the stemming
region.This beam is subject to Table 2. Optimum bench heights for different drill hole *Reader in Mining
breakage by deformation, fracturing
diameters, after Sarathy4 Engineering (coal
and flexion, as depicted in figure 1. mining)
The potential problems in Drill Hole Bench Height, m **Post-graduate
relation to the changes in stiffness Average
Diameter, scholar, Department of
Burden, m Ideal Desirable Sub-optimal
ratio are summarized in the mm Mining Engineering,
table 1. Institute of Technology,
100 3–4 9–12 6–8 3–4 Banaras Hindu
Sarathy4 proposed the concept
University, Varanasi,
of optimum bench heights for 150 4–5 12–15 8–10 4–5 India
varying burdens with respect to ***Superintendent of
the drill hole diameter, as given in 250 7–9 21–27 14–18 7–5
Mines, Northern
table 2. Coalfields Ltd.,
It is interesting to note that, ®
311 8–10 24–30 16–20 8–10
Singrauli, India

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Drilling, Blasting & Breaking
Fig. 2. Representative scale blasts in order to establish a
drilling and firing IP Free Face relationship between the
pattern for blast no. 1 fragment size and the stiffness
Previously ratio.To meet the above
Blasted objective, blasts were conducted
Muck in one of the opencast projects of
Northern Coalfields Ltd (NCL) in
Singrauli, India.
– 100ms The explosive and rock
= 125ms parameters were kept identical as
High Wall = 150ms
= far as possible in order to
categorically assess the impact of
stiffness ratio alone on the
even under similar bench-height consequential. Studies pertaining fragmentation results (under
conditions, blasts can be fired to the stiffness ratio can be made almost equivalent blast geometry
using different firing patterns that accordingly. parameters). In order to keep the
change the effective burden5, rock parameters constant, all the
which changes the stiffness ratio Objectives blasts were conducted on the
and the stiffness of the bench.The The present study investigates the same bench with no (or
role of effective burden when influence of stiffness ratio on the insignificant) geological variations.
firing the blasts thus becomes degree of fragmentation in field- The studies were performed
on a moderately strong sandstone
Table 3. Influence of stiffness ratio on fragmentation overburden formation with
compressive strength ranging
Parameters Blast 1 Blast 2 Blast 3 Blast 4
from 10–25MPa and tensile
strength from 0.8–2.0MPa.The
Hole diameter sandstone was fine-to-medium
(mm), φ
259 259 269 269
grained.The coal in this particular
Mesh area (m), coalfield is poor in grade and the
9x8 9x8 10 x 9 10 x 9
S xB mine is linked to a thermal power
Bench height plant.
12.5 16 19 22.5
(m), H The explosive used in the
Sub-grade drilling Singrauli opencast coalfield was
1 1 1 2.5 an emulsion comprising hydrated
(m), J
ammonium nitrate plus oil (burnt
Stemming (m),T 4.5 5 5 5 furnace oil, wax or paraffin), plus
sodium nitrite as gassing agent,
Decking (m), DK 1 1 2 0 plus sodium mono-oleate as
emulsifier, doped on site with
No. of holes 42 44 65 52
12–20% ammonium nitrate prills
by site mixing trucks.This
No. of rows 11 12 15 14
explosive was used throughout
Explosive quantity the entire project with no
18,634 26,565 51,350 47,832.5
(kg), Qt perceptible variations in its nature
Column charge and properties, hence the
7 10 12 17.5
length (m), CCL explosive parameters have also
been assumed to be identical for
Initiation system Detonating Fuse Detonating Fuse Detonating Fuse Detonating Fuse
different blasts studied on the
same overburden formation.
Drilling pattern Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular Rectangular
Field study and
Firing pattern Diagonal Diagonal Diagonal Diagonal methodology
Four field-scale blasts were
Delay (ms) 0/100/125/150 0/100/125/150 0/100/125/150 0/100/125/150
conducted and studied on the
Volume broken sandstone overburden bench.
37,800 50,688 111,150 105,300
(theoretical in m3) This bench was worked by a
Effective burden large-capacity shovel and
5.97 5.97 6.68 6.68 dumptruck combination. Details
(m), Be
Stiffness ratio
of the four study blasts, with
2 2.6 2.9 3.4 respect to blast geometry and
other relevant parameters, are
Mean fragment size
0.4557 0.4069 0.3475 0.3376 tabulated in table 3. As is evident
(m), K50
from the table, the blasts were
Coarse fragment conducted at varying stiffness
0.7267 0.6815 0.5233 0.5476
size (m), K90
ratios.To measure the
Maximum fragment fragmentation in the blasted
0.9625 0.8415 0.6865 0.6963 muckpiles, image capturing,
size (m), K100
processing and analysis techniques

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Drilling, Blasting & Breaking
Figs 3, 4, 5 and 6.
Fragment size
distribution curves for
blasts no. 1, 2, 3 and 4

were employed.The imaging statistically representative sample drilling and firing pattern for blast
technique has been used with for characterizing the no. 1 is shown in figure 2.The
respect to blasting and fragmentation in one blasted notation 0/100/125/150 in figure 2
fragmentation for the past two muckpile.This is as per the and table 3 signifies that the
decades.This technique can recommendations of Paley9, initiation point (IP) is represented
precisely quantify the geometric Exadyktlos and Tsourtrelis10, by digit ‘0’ and the subsequent
aspects of the broken fragments Panlagio and Franklin11 and Scott delay interval between the
using images in two dimensions6. et al.12. diagonal firing rows is 100ms,
The basis of this method is to For the purposes of processing 125ms and 150ms. Blast nos. 3
capture scaled images of the and analysing the captured and 4 were fired with greater
blasted muckpile using a images, Fragalyst Version 2.0 number of firing rows (15 and 14
camera in the field, and then to commercial software, developed respectively) in comparison to
digitize and measure the by Central Mining Research blast nos. 1 and 2 (11 and 12
delineated fragments to provide Institute, Nagpur Centre, in respectively). Barring these few
a measure of the particle size collaboration with Wavelet exceptions, which were almost
distributions7,8. Group, Pune, India, was used. inevitable under the field
In the present study, the Although a wide range of image- conditions, all the blasts have
blasted muckpile was analysis software is commercially been assumed to be more or less
documented with scaled available, ie Wipfrag, Split,Tucip equivalent from the viewpoint of
photographs captured from the etc, Fragalyst has been well blast geometry, rock and
front of the blasted bench by proven under Indian conditions. explosive parameters. Hence,
keeping a suitable scale at the comparative fragmentation
physically convenient locations on Results and study of the performance of the
the huge muckpiles. Obviously a discussion blasts, made on the basis of the
single photo can not evaluate a As is evident from the results obtained from image
large muckpile, hence a series of observations provided in table 3, analysis of the blasted material,
photographs was obtained two blasts with hole diameters of could adequately reveal the
periodically to cover the entire 269mm and two blasts with hole impact of stiffness ratio (H/Be)
excavation sequence of the diameters of 259mm were alone.
muckpile. studied. A perusal of table 3 Looking at table 3 for results of
A number of additional indicates that blast nos. 1, 2, 3 and fragment size and its distribution,
photographs were captured in the 4 were conducted at stiffness it is quite evident that with the
event of exceptional field ratios of 2.0, 2.6, 2.9 and 3.4, increase in the stiffness ratio,
situations, such as the occurrence respectively.The variation in the fragmentation inside the blasted
of large-size boulders or a large stiffness ratio could be studied in muckpile improves.The results in
amount of fines, evidence of the field because of variations in terms of cumulative fragment size
geological features etc.Typically the height of the same bench at distribution curves, as provided
200–250 broken rock fragments different locations. Furthermore, by the software, are illustrated in
could be easily captured in one all four blasts were drilled in a figures 3, 4, 5 and 6 for blast
image frame. Analysis of 20–25 straight rectangular pattern but numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4
photographs would yield a fired diagonally. A representative respectively. ®

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Drilling, Blasting & Breaking

Fig. 8. Poor fragmentation with boulders inside the muckpile (blast

Fig. 7. Presence of large collar boulder (blast 1) 1)

Fig. 10. Good fragmentation inside the muckpile with occasional

Fig. 9. Large boulders coming from the back rows (blast 2) boulders from the back rows (blast 3)

Fig. 11. Good fragmentation with good uniformity inside the

muckpile (blast 4) Fig. 12. Oversizes along the back rows (blast 4)

Field photographs (figs 7, 8 and reveal good fragmentation inside from the relationship exhibited in
9) reveal the occurrence of collar the muckpile with good figure 13, which reveals that with
boulders from the back rows and uniformity. Nevertheless, boulders an increase in the stiffness ratio
Fig. 13. Graph showing
boulders inside the muckpile for were observed along the back there is a significant reduction in
the relationship
between stiffness ratio
blast nos. 1 and 2, whereas the rows of these blasts the fragment size. Furthermore, it
and screen size for photographs captured on the (figs 11and 12). also reveals that there is a drastic
blast nos. 1, 2, 3 and muckpile of blast nos. 3 and 4 The impact of a change in the reduction in the fragment size
4 (figs 10, 11 and 12) by and large stiffness ratio is clearly evident when the stiffness ratio increases
from 2.5 to 3. Beyond a stiffness
ratio of 3, the curve is observed
to be almost flat.The findings are
in line with earlier work reported
by Konya3.
Smith13 also reported that an
increase in bench height for a
given burden makes the bench
more flexible, giving better
fragmentation. Lundborg et al.1
mentioned that a smaller
stiffness ratio implies greater
stiffness, which, in turn, offers
greater resistance to breakage
in bench blasts.The poor
breakage along the collar region
may be attributed to the
increased bench stiffness5.

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Drilling, Blasting & Breaking
Sarathy14 also reported that a References rock fabric’, Ph.D. thesis, Dept. of
bench height-to-burden ratio of Earth Sciences, Univ. of Waterloo,
2.5 to 3 provides the ideal 1990.
PETERSON, A.L., and R.
situation for fragmentation as 9. PALEY, N.L.: ‘Image-based
HOLMBERG: ‘Keeping a lid on
fragmentation assessment’, M.Sc.
smaller values than this result in a flyrock in open-pit blasting’,
thesis,The Univ. of Qld, Brisbane,
‘cratering’ effect, which generates Engrg. & Min. Jour., 1975, May
flyrock, airblast, vibrations and issue.
10. EXADAKTYLOS, G.E., and C.E.
oversizes. 2. OUCHTERLONY, F.: ‘Review of
TSOUTRELIS: ‘Fragmentation
rock blasting and explosives
engineering research at Sve De analysis using the photographic
Conclusion method’, Int. Jour. of Sur. Min. &
Based on this case study, it can be Fo’, Procs. Explo-95, Brisbane,
1995, pp133–146. Reclamation, 1991, vol. 5, pp55–64.
concluded that for moderately 11. PALANGIO,T.C., and J.A.
3. KONYA, C.J.: Blast Design, pub. by
hard, medium-to-fine-grained Intercontinental Development FRANKLIN: ‘Practical guidelines
sandstone benches, stiffness ratio Corporation, Ohio 44064, USA, for lighting and photography’,
exerts considerable impact on 1995. Procs. Fragblast 5, Montreal,
fragmentation. 4. SARATHY, M.O.: ‘Optimum Canada, 1996, pp111–114.
For such benches the fragment blasting in surface mines – Major 12. SCOTT, A., COCKER, A.,
issues’, Procs. Sem. on Blasting DJORDJEVIC, N., HIGGINS, M.,
size first decreases and then
Objectives and Risk Management, LA ROSA, D., SARMA, K.S., and R.
increases with an increase in WEDMAIER: ‘Open-pit blast-
Hyderabad, 13–14 July 2000,
stiffness ratio.The point of design analysis and optimisation’,
inflexion corresponds to a 5. RAI, P.: ‘Evaluation of the effects JKMRC monograph series in
magnitude of almost 3, which of some blast design parameters Mining and Mineral Processing,
means that for moderately high, on fragmentation in opencast Eds. A. Scott and T.J. Napier, Munn,
medium-to-fine-grained sandstone mines’, Ph.D. thesis, 2002. 1996.
benches, optimum results in 6. JIMENO, C.L., JIMENO, E.L., and 13. SMITH, N.S.: ‘Burden rock
terms of fragment size and F.J.A. CARCEDO: Drilling and stiffness and its effects on
Blasting of Rocks, A. A. Balkema, fragmentation in bench blasting’,
distribution are obtained at
Rotterdam,The Netherlands, Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Missouri,
stiffness ratio of almost 3. USA, 1976.
Acknowledgements 7. MAERZ, N.H., FRANKLIN, J.A., 14. SARATHY, M.O.: ‘Delay blasting –
ROTHENBURG, L., and D.L. An inexpensive tool for reduced
The authors would like to
COURSEN: ‘Measurement of rock total mining costs’, The Ind. Min. &
express their gratitude for the fragmentation by digital photo Engrg. Jour., 1991, Oct. issue,
assistance and co-operation of analysis’, 5th Int. Congr. Int. Soc. pp51–58.
staff, officers and management of Rock Mech., 1987, pp687–692.
Northern Coalfields Ltd. T 8. MAERZ, N.H.: ‘Photo analysis of

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