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Autonomous Digital Mining Application – Blast Hole Sampling

This week, we continue our series of posts on the topic of Blast Hole Sampling and Analysis in Ore Grade Control in Mining and today we are talking about IMA Engineering’s Methods, Equipment and Results for Blast Hole Sampling. This article and the attached white paper are the continuation of our previous article that you can read here.


Download the white paper and learn more about the IMA methods, equipment and results for blast hole sampling.

Moving towards automated sampling and analysis with autonomous drilling in mine.

Last week we asked ourselves the question “Why do we get biased samples in sample collection from the chips cones”. We discussed the challenges and the root causes of bias in a previous study. Now that we understand this challenge in more detail, the next is to discuss and propose a viable technical solution.

Figure1: Percussive Drill Sampler-Analyzer (PDSA) in two different applications, on left in arctic on blast hole bench with standard cyclone, on the right with R/C and splitter setup in a tropical mine

Figure1: Percussive Drill Sampler-Analyzer (PDSA) in two different applications, on left in arctic on blast hole bench with standard cyclone, on the right with R/C and splitter setup in a tropical mine

When the research and engineering work was started the challenge was divided in two parts, which had to be practical and not too different from conventional mining practises in use (in sampling). First the aim was to solve the two main big challenges:

a) how to get representative samples and how to verify them, and
b) how to analyse these samples on-line in real mining environment

Testing the first on-line prototype in Gold and in Nickel mines

The first prototype was on-line XRF conveyor analyser installed on a trailer. The idea and concept is clear and simple – take all drill cuttings as a sample from the hole and analyse it by continuous scanning method from the measuring conveyor belt while the hole is drilled. This method I called Analyse While Drilling (AWD).

Figure 2: “MOA” in FQML Kevitsa Ni-Cu and in AE Kittilä mine, R/C setup blows chips via pipe into Cyclone, splitter and to on-line real-time XRF analysis

Figure 2: “MOA” in FQML Kevitsa Ni-Cu and in AE Kittilä mine, R/C setup blows chips via pipe into Cyclone, splitter and to on-line real-time XRF analysis

First a riffle splitter was used to collect samples every meter from tens of holes for lab analysis to verify the performance of the analysis accuracy. Later when the concept performance was verified, samples for lab analysis were further taken at each 20 meter of drilled material for QC/QA purpose.

The first application was a new surface gold mine. Naturally being a gold application, the drill (Atlas Copco D65) was equipped for R/C drilling to enable best possible sample representativeness.

Assays were calculated at every 15 sec. to 20 sec. time frames resulting in three to four analysis by meter drilled. To ensure best possible lab samples after each meter a new sample bag was taken and the splitter riffle was cleaned by air.

When the test benches were ready, the prototype mobile on-line drill cuttings (“MOA”) XRF-analyzer performance was compared with collected samples, which were analyzed in the laboratory (As% and Au ppm). The gold ore in this mine’s is Arsenopyrite, and the gold is in this mineral lattice, so there is a strong correlation with Arsenic, which was used as the main proxy for gold.

Figure 3: Prototype MOA Sampler-Analyzer had control unit, industrial computer and graphical user interface inside the steel enclosure. One set of samples collected from holes (typically between 10m to 30m length).

Figure 3: Prototype MOA Sampler-Analyzer had control unit, industrial computer and graphical user interface inside the steel enclosure. One set of samples collected from holes (typically between 10m to 30m length).

Table 1: Calibration comparison of MOA prototype on-line Sampler-Analyser with laboratory samples

Table 1: Calibration comparison of MOA prototype on-line Sampler-Analyser with laboratory samples

Comparing strict acceptance criteria with collected laboratory samples (totally about 2000pcs), 85% of the on-line analysis values from real testing met the criteria. The first ever on-line drill cuttings Sampler-Analyzer managed well on the first field test in arctic conditions.

Second test site was in a nickel-copper mine. The total number of collected meters and samples was about 200pcs. Here, the on-line XRF data was compared with the laboratory analysis with excellent results too.

Table 2. Performance comparison with the prototype analyser with laboratory gave excellent results.

Table 2. Performance comparison with the prototype analyser with laboratory gave excellent results.

This nickel mine application was done with D65 drill rig and again with R/C equipment to get samples to the laboratory.

In our white paper, we answer in detail the questions below and furthermore give practical examples on how to integrate the IMA Sampler-Analyzer on big rotary drill rigs.

What happens with the major problems in sampling from chips cones?

  1. How to get samples from the first part of the hole when the chips are disappearing in the cracks of the rock? What about the sample from the subdrill?
  2. What to do with the problem of drill chips volume varying from different levels? Some material may disappear in the cracks anywhere in the hole. Samples from different levels from the hole have different volumes, isn’t this making analysis weight averages different?
  3. Is it possible to avoid chips contamination from hole walls while chips travel up from the hole? During blasthole drilling, drill cuttings may collect contamination between hole and drill pipe. Can this be avoided?
  4. Why and how to collect MWD data?

Another topic covered in detail in our white paper is mine planning with 3D block models.

Figure 4: A final 2.5m*2.5m*2.5m block diagram of the same bench as in Figure 4. Here the analysis is from on-line frequent data collected and analysed by Sampler-Analyser.

Figure 4: A final 2.5m*2.5m*2.5m block diagram of the same bench as in Figure 4. Here the analysis is from on-line frequent data collected and analysed by Sampler-Analyser.

Next week, we discuss the potential benefits in using the Sampler-Analyser technology including cost savings and value creation, environmental and sustainable matters.

What is IMA Engineering?

IMA Engineering has used on-line sensors for analyzing ore and waste rock in mining for more than 25 years. Today IMA on-line sensors are used in various stages of the mining process including on-line analysis of drill cores, drill chips, ore and waste in loader bucket, ROM ore analysis on belt conveyor belt and in bulk ore sorting and in slurry analysis in concentrators.

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