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Geophysical Techniques

Applied to Blasting Design


L Vieira1 and J C Koppe2

ABSTRACT
One common problem for blasting in iron ore mines with significant weathering is the occurrence
of large blocks of hard rock mixed with softer material. This situation causes a problem for blasting
design and sometimes produces large boulders of rock that require a secondary blasting, as well as
excavation difficulties. To minimise this situation, geophysical techniques were used to identify the
hardest material amid the weathered material. To study the problem, seismic, ground penetrating
radar (GPR), electrical resistivity and induced polarisation (IP) methods were used in an intensely
weathered Brazilian iron ore deposit. The methods of GPR combined with IP, resistivity and
seismic showed to be effective in modelling the contrast among hard, friable materials and soil.
The results were used to improve the geological model and create more favourable conditions for
the subsequent blast design. The blast design based on geophysical/geological models resulted in
significant improvement in the fragmentation of the iron ore. This was achieved by the adoption of
a specific drilling pattern for a given geological situation. With the new specialised blasting design
the formation of boulders was eliminated.

INTRODUCTION
Brazil is one of the largest producers of iron ore. The Brazilian blastholes in the areas with the presence of boulders and hard
iron mines are basically banded iron formations intensively rocks surrounded by friable material.
weathered. The intensive weathering acting on banded iron The case study was performed at the Aboboras Mine,
formation produced deep soil profiles and extensive rock VALEs iron ore deposit located 40 km from Belo Horizonte,
alteration. In many cases, hard material was preserved from Minas Gerais central state of Brazil. The mine produces 21 Mt
the rock alteration process resulting in a mixture of boulders, annually of iron ore.
soil and soft rocky material.
One common problem for blasting in iron ore mines with GEOLOGICAL ASPECTS
significant weathering is the occurrence of large blocks of
hard rock mixed with softer material. This situation causes The Aboboras mine is located in the Quadriltero
a problem for blasting design and excavation difficulties. Ferrfero (QF) at the southern end of San Francisco Craton
Blasting in these areas usually produce oversize materials. (Almeida, 1977). The lithologies of the QF are characterised
Large boulders or blocks of rock require a secondary blasting by a metamorphic complex represented by supracrustal
and induce low excavation productivity. This is a typical sequences of volcano sedimentary rocks, clastic and chemical
situation in Brazilian iron ore deposits. sedimentary rocks, ultramafic, mafic and felsic bodies
especially intruded into the Archean lithologies (Chemale Jr,
The main objective of this work is to develop a methodology
Rosire and Endo, 1994; Alkmim and Marshak, 1998).
based on a geophysical survey to obtain a geological model
that can assist on specific blast design in case of occurrence of The iron ore (itabirite) occurs in the Minas Supergroup,
hard and friable materials in a mineral deposit. representing a Palaeoproterozoic sequence of chemical and
clastic metamorphic rocks, under conditions of green schist
The presence of large blocks of rock amid soil and weathered
facies. The rock sequence is intensely weathered showing a
rocks represents a challenge for blast design. To minimise
deep soil profile and intercalations of hard and soft itabirites.
this situation, geophysical techniques were used to identify
This situation favours the formation of large hard rock
where the boulders and hard material are located in such
boulders that mix with the soft material (Figure 1).
environment. Although geophysics is not a common practice
in mining operations, to study this problem, seismic, ground
penetrating radar (GPR), electrical resistivity and induced GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
polarisation (IP) methods were carried out. The geological To study the problem involving the occurrence of boulders
model generated by this methodology was compared with amid soil and weathered rocks were selected several
drill logs and results showed to be very promising. After that, geophysical methods including seismic, electrical and
a specific blast design was generated in order to add more electromagnetic methods. The main objectives were to

1. Master Engineer, VALE, Departamento de Planejamento de Ferrosos Gerncia Geral de Inovao e Desenvolvimento de Minerao, Av Ligaco, 3580, Mina de guas Claras, Prdio 4, Nova Lima,
MG CEP 34000-000, Brazil. Email: andre.luiz.vieira@vale.com
2. Professor, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Av Bento Gonalves 9500, setor 4, prdio 75, sala 102, Porto Alegre CEP 91509-900, Brazil. Email: jkoppe@ufrgs.br

11TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ROCK FRAGMENTATION BY BLASTING / SYDNEY, NSW, 2426 AUGUST 2015 289
L VIEIRA AND J C KOPPE

energy sources produce sudden pulses of short duration that


are reflected and detected by geophones. The signals from
each geophone are amplified, fed into sophisticated data
processing equipment and arranged to produce a seismic
reflection record, a method often known as reflection shooting.
In the refraction method the waves from the energy source
reach a bed of rock through which the sound waves move
faster they are then transmitted along it.For the acquisition of
data with seismic refraction method were used a seismograph
(OYO Corporation) with 24-channel module with geophones
of 14Hz. The seismic source used for seismic acquisition was
a 10 kg Slide Sledge.

METHODOLOGY
The area selected for testing was close to a workbench
FIG 1 Oversize material (boulders and blocks) of hard itabirite preserved (Figure2), thus allowing for direct observation of the geology
after regular blasting. The boulders are amid soil and highly altered rocks. on the face of the bench. There, alternate hard or compact
and friable itabirite, and soil. After selecting the area, the
differentiate the friable from the compact itabirites and geophysical survey was carried out considering 14 sections
identify the location of the boulders in the soil with the focus covering an area of 15 000 m2 (150 100 m). The following
of helping the blasting design. methods were applied: seismic, electro resistivity, IP and GPR.
Geophysical methods are applied when there are physical The data obtained were compared and integrated to generate
contrasts among the rocks that will be surveyed. Geophysical the geological/geophysical model. After the geophysical
methods can be grouped in those that measure natural fields survey a drilling campaign was performed to validate the
(magnetic and gravity, alpha and gamma radiation, electrical) model. Figure 3 shows a general layout describing the
and those that the response of the terrain to some stimulus methodology of this study.
is observed (electrical and electromagnetic methods, seismic
and downhole methods). Considering the properties of the
rock types and soil four methods were selected to be used in
this research: seismic, electro resistivity, induced polarisation
and ground penetrating radar.
The resistivity is a geophysical method based on determining
the electrical resistivity of the material. The method employs
a direct electrical current based on the artificial emission
introduced into the ground through two current electrodes
in order to measure the potential generated in the other two
potential electrodes near the current flow. This makes it
possible to identify regions in the subsurface that have higher
or lower resistivity. Common electrode arrays are: Wenner,
Schulumberger, dipole-dipole and gradient (Milsom, 1995).
The geoelectrical method of induced polarisation (IP) is based
on the measurement of voltage variations as a function of time
or frequency (Telford, Geldart and Sheriff, 1990). InIP time
domain to apply a difference in potential through current
electrodes fixed on the ground surface, there is a ground bias. FIG 2 Working bench at Aboboras iron mine.
This primary potential difference does not settle or is cancelled Harditabirite is mixed with friable itabirite.
instantaneously when the current is output and cut into
successive pulses. It varies with time. The range of variation is
directly related to greater or lesser capacity that the terrain has
to polarise, forming the basis of the method. The equipment
used was the SuperSting R8/IP (Advanced Geosciences, Inc)
with 84-channel architecture.
The GPR is a non-invasive geophysical method that uses
electromagnetic waves with frequencies from 102500 MHz
for mapping geological features, soil pollutants and
anthropogenic structures. The analysis with GPR is based
on emission and propagation of electromagnetic waves in a
physical medium, with the subsequent reception of reflected
signals in discontinuities of that medium. The system consists
of a source of electrical pulses of high frequency, a transmitting
antenna, a receiving antenna and a data storage unit. The
equipment used was the SIR3000, GSSI, with 80MHz antenna
type multi low frequency (MLF) in static mode.
Seismic methods dominate the oil industry and are
comparatively infrequently used in mineral exploration or in FIG 3 Methodology for developing a geological model to
mining. In seismic reflection surveying, explosives or other help blasting design based on geophysical methods.

290 11TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ROCK FRAGMENTATION BY BLASTING / SYDNEY, NSW, 2426 AUGUST 2015
GEOPHYSICAL TECHNIQUES APPLIED TO BLASTING DESIGN

RESULTS Ground penetrating radar


The interpretation of GPR profiles sought track reflectors
Electro resistivity endings to define compartments formed by different
The analysis of geophysical sections considered the differences materials. Sections reached a depth of approximately 10 m.
in the profiles on the basis of magnitude in high apparent Reflectors generally presented plans, semi-continuous in
resistivity zones (ZAR) whose values are above 50 000 ohm.m, the surface near horizons and inclined and semi-continuous
and areas of low apparent resistivity (ZBR) whose values are profile next to the base (Figure 6).
below 2600 ohm.m. The electric profiles allowed observing at
depths ranging 3 to 30 m. The data were fairly consistent in the Seismic
differentiation of high and low resistivity anomalies. The interpretations of the material type takes into account the
average seismic velocity obtained in the profiles. This average
A typical section obtained in this method is shown in
rate may vary depending on the size of sections since the
Figure 4. The predominance of intermediate and low
velocity takes into account the geometry of the layer. In the
resistivity values areas with occasional ZAR is observed in
studied site were acquired 20 geophysical lines by shallow
this section (L-18).
seismic refraction method. Two different horizons based on
average seismic velocity were defined. The first presents seismic
Induced polarisation velocity between 3023 to 3417 m/s. The second records speeds
The IP analyses considered differences in the profiles on the between 3234 and 3724 m/s. It is not possible visualise the base
basis of magnitude in high chargeability apparent zones of this layer as the refraction occurs in the upper interface and
(ZAC) whose values are above 60 ms and low chargeability was not displayed other material below this with higher density.
apparent zones (ZBC) whose values are below 10 ms. The
geophysical sections showed a heterogeneous behaviour in Geophysical data integration
relation to distribution of chargeability values, as can be seen The integration of the profiles obtained from geoelectric,
in Figure 5. electromagnetic and seismic methods allows us to determine

FIG 4 Electro resistivity section L-18. There is a predominance of intermediate (green and yellow) to
low(blue)resistivity value areas with occasional high apparent resistivity zones (ZAR) (red colours).

FIG 5 IP L-18 section. Low chargeability apparent zones (ZBC) (blue colours) dominant in the upper central zone.

11TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ROCK FRAGMENTATION BY BLASTING / SYDNEY, NSW, 2426 AUGUST 2015 291
L VIEIRA AND J C KOPPE

FIG 6 Ground penetrating radar section L-18.

the position of the geological features, with the volume of boulders of itabirite. The generated model was validated
each geological package and its geographic coordinate. using ten drill exploratory holes. Only one drill hole resulted
The analysis of what information is taken from each of unsatisfactory in relation to geophysical interpretation model.
the methodologies and inserted into the integrated model
depends on the geophysical/geological analysis, describing BLASTING DESIGN BASED ON
the deficiencies noted and correlated them.
GEOLOGICAL MODEL
The geophysical data were integrated to obtain the 3D
The normal blast pattern (burden spacing) at the Aboboras
geological model (Figure 7). The interpretative geophysical
mine is 3 7 m, bench of 10 m high and powder factor of 150to
model showed the areas with dominant hard itabirite and
200 g/t. A large number of oversize material results from this
blast design. To improve this situation, a new blast design was
proposed. This new blast design is based on the geological
A model developed following the steps described before.
Essentially the change was done in the sense of increasing the
number of blastholes in areas where boulders or hard itabirite
were located and decreasing the number of blastholes in areas
of friable itabirite. The blasting test was performed in the area
where the geophysical survey was carried out (Figure 7). The
results of the blasting test were very good. During loading
and hauling no oversize material was identified after blasting.
Figure 8 shows the visible results.

FIG 7 Interpretative 3D geological model integrating seismic,


ground penetrating radar, induced polarisation and electro resistivity
surveys. (A) The model including the sections selected for the FIG 8 Fragmentation resulting from the first test carried out
geophysical survey; (B) the model representing the hard itabirite after adopting the blast design based on the geological model.
and boulders of itabirite and the exploratory drill holes. Oversize material was not observed in the muck pile.

292 11TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ROCK FRAGMENTATION BY BLASTING / SYDNEY, NSW, 2426 AUGUST 2015
GEOPHYSICAL TECHNIQUES APPLIED TO BLASTING DESIGN

CONCLUSIONS REFERENCES
The methods of GPR combined with IP, resistivity and seismic Alkmim, F F and Marshak, S, 1998. Transamazonian orogeny in
showed to be effective in modelling the contrast among hard, the Southern So Francisco Craton region, Minas Gerais, Brazil:
friable materials and soil. evidence for Palaeoproterozoic collision and collapse in the
Quadriltero Ferrfero, Precambrian Research, 90:2958.
The blast design based on geophysical/geological models
Almeida, F F M, 1977. O Craton do So Francisco, Revista Brasileira de
resulted in significant improvement in the fragmentation of
Geocincias, 7(4):349364.
the iron ore at the Aboboras mine. This was achieved by the
adoption of a specific drilling pattern for a given geological Chemale Jr, F, Rosire, C A and Endo, I, 1994. The tectonic evolution
situation. With the new specialised blasting design the of the Quadriltero Ferrfero, Minas Gerais, Brazil, Precambrian
Research, 65:2564.
formation of boulders was eliminated.
Milsom, J, 1995. Geophysical methods, in Introduction to Mineral
Exploration (ed: A M Evans), pp 113137 (Blackwell Science Ltd:
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Malden).
The authors would like to thank VALE SA, for permission to Telford, W M, Geldart, L and Sheriff, R A, 1990. Applied Geophysics,
publish the results of this study and ITV-VALE for supporting second edition, 792 p (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge).
the research.

11TH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON ROCK FRAGMENTATION BY BLASTING / SYDNEY, NSW, 2426 AUGUST 2015 293