Blast

Alternative explosives

Challenge

For over 60 years, ammonium nitrate (AN) based commercial explosives have been unchallenged and while highly effective, they have drawbacks. They don’t always detonate efficiently due to a number of uncontrollable and complex factors. This can lead to the generation of harmful nitrogen oxide fumes (NOx) which pose serious health risks to workers and the environment.

Furthermore, it causes significant production delays in both surface and underground operations. Currently, only basic engineering and administrative controls exist to minimise the risk of NOx fumes.

Technology Overview

Mining3 and the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering at the University of Queensland are testing a new alternative explosive formulation which removes the nitrogen component and replaces it with hydrogen peroxide as the main oxidising agent. Hydrogen peroxide is a simple compound predominately made up of water and therefore not harmful to humans or the environment. By removing the nitrogen component of the explosive formulation, it completely eliminates any NOx fumes generated after blasting.

The simple gel formula can be prepared on site and preliminary tests in over 200 unconfined detonations have demonstrated its ability to match the rock breakage capability of current explosives.

Alternative sources of biodegradable compounds have also been incorporated to further enhance the safety and manufacturing costs of this revolutionary new technology.

Benefits

  • Less impact on the environment
  • Reduced environmental compliance costs
  • Readily available oxidiser in large quantities and cost effective
  • Use of sustainable and renewable fuels in explosive formulations
  • Simple, scalable and less energy intensive manufacturing system
  • Flexible manufacturing allowing operations to self-supply explosives
  • Lower cost of units delivery
  • Simplicity and flexibility make it amenable to tele remote or full automation of process
  • Reduced public risk with less blasting agents being transported on public roads
  • Decreased requirements for storage and transport
  • Improved risk control

Status

Mining3 is currently in discussion with ACARP and potential mining partners to launch the next stage of the project and secure trial sites.

Partners

School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, University of Queensland