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Surface Blasting

Version 1.1 I 2014

What every miner should know about

Surface Blasting

Wealth Unearthed
Surface Blasting Handbook

1. Foreword

The Surface Blasting Handbook has been used with great enthusiasm as a reference in mine
blasting training syllabi since it was first published. This new edition has been revised to
provide greater emphasis on the answers to critical questions that the Blaster encounters
both during his day to day blasting activities and during the unusual situations. This is a
practical reference guide for blasting on surface mining operations.

This booklet compiled by AEL Mining Optimisation, is the first in our new series of What
every Miner should know. Based on practical experience, this answers most of the questions
a miner might ask on the use and application of AEL Mining Services range of explosives and
initiating systems for Civil, Quarrying and Surface Mining blasting operations.

Advice on the most appropriate explosive and initiating products and their application in the
specific mining area should be obtained from the AEL Mining Services Office, sales support
and technical teams and/or the website.


Any recommendations given by AEL Mining Services Limited, AEL, in respect of this document are given in good faith
based on information provided. AEL does not however warrant that particular results or effects will be achieved if
the recommendations are implemented, due to potentially unknown aspects and/or conditions. AEL further does not
accept liability for any losses or damages that may be suffered, as a result of the customer acting, or failing to act, on
the recommendations given.

Surface Blasting Handbook

Table of Contents
1. Foreword 1

2. Glossary 4

3. Geometric Formulae 6

4. Conversion Table 8

5. Volume of rock (m3) per metre of blast hole 10

5.1 Volume of rock blasted (m3) 10

6. Linear Charge Mass for Bulk Explosives (kg/m) 11

7. Average weight of various material blasted (Density of rock type) 12

7.1 Mass of Rock (t) 12

8. Typical cup densities to achieve average in hole density of Bulk Explosive

at a given hole depth 13

8.1 Relative Effective Energy (REE) or Relative Weight Strength (RWS) 14

8.2 Relative Bulk Strength (RBS) 14

9. Recommended booster sizes 15

10. Wet vs. Dry drill holes and Bottom pumping vs. Top hole auger/pump 15

11. Surface Blast Design 16

11.1 Terminology and Nomenclature 17

11.2 Management and prediction of fragmentation 17
11.3 Technical Powder Factor, Kt (kg/m3) 19
11.4 Spacing to Burden ratio, a (No units) 20
11.5 Spacing, S (m) 21
11.6 Burden, B (m) 21
11.7 Charge length above grade, L (m) 22
11.8 Stemming length, T (m) 22
11.8.1 Rule of Thumb 22
11.8.2 Formulae 24
11.9 Linear charge density, Mc (kg/m) 25
11.9.1 Bulk/Pumpable explosive 25

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.9.2 Soft, Packaged explosives 25

11.10 Angled Blast holes 26
11.11 Actual Powder factor, Ka (kg/m3) 27
11.12 Pre-split 27

12. Blasting Geometry (Rules of Thumb) 28

12.1 UK Stiffness ratio 29

13. Timing examples 30

13.1 Line Blasting, row by row 31

13.2 Shallow V 31
13.3 Deep V 32
13.4 Shallow V4 Echelon 32
13.5 450 or V Echelon 33
13.6 Box cut design 33

14. Secondary Breaking 34

14.1 Drilled hole in boulder Popping 34

14.2 Mud blasting 34

15. Priming / Decking 35

15.1 Priming 35
15.2 Decking 35

16. Airblast and Ground (Blasting) Vibrations 37

16.1 Suggested guidelines 38

16.2 Suggested controls for charge/delay when blasting adjacent
to private property PPV <25mm/s 39
16.3 Scaled distance 40
16.4 Minimising ground vibrations 40
16.5 Predicting of ground vibrations 41
16.6 Sources and influences of airblast 41
16.7 Suggested guidelines 43
16.8 Controls of airblast 44
16.9 Prediction of airblast 45
16.10 Estimation of flyrock risk zone (Lundborg) 46

17. Mitigating Flyrock risk 47

Surface Blasting Handbook

2. Glossary

Term Description
Airblast Shock wave travelling through the air resulting from the
detonation of explosives
Back break Rock broken beyond the limits of the last row and design
Borehole pressure The pressure which the gasses of detonation exert on the
borehole wall
Booster Also known as Pentolite Primer. Explosive unit, link between
the small low energy detonator and the massive but relatively
insensitive explosive charge. Core purpose of the primer is to
deliver a sufficiently energetic impulse to launch full detonation
Burden Distance between two adjacent rows of drill holes
Where a free face is available and being used for the blast
design, the distance between the toe position of the first or front
line of drill holes and the free face
Charge mass The amount of explosive charge in kilograms
Clean crushed stone Crushed stone supplied that is clean from fine material and of a
known mean size and size distribution
Column charge Length of an explosive charge including any portion of hole
drilled below the design grade
Critical diameter The minimum diameter the explosives will reliably initiate, for a
full column detonation
Cut-offs A portion of an explosive column that has failed to detonate due
to rock or ground movement
The initiation system has failed to propagate the whole blast
due to a cut-off in the system as a result of flyrock, ground
movement, or system failure
Decoupling The use of explosive products having smaller volume than the
volume of the blast hole it occupies
Delay blasting The use of delay detonators or connectors to separate charges
by a defined time
Density Mass per unit volume
Detonation pressure The pressure created in the reaction zone of a detonating
Drill cuttings Material found on bench surface, which usually results from the
drilling equipment

Surface Blasting Handbook

Explosive Commercial explosives are chemicals and chemical mixtures

which, when properly initiated, are rapidly converted into
gases at high temperature and pressure. Unconfined, a litre
of explosive will expand to around 1000 litres in milliseconds.
Together with the shock wave of detonation, this results in
extremely high breaking stresses in rock.
Free face An unconfined opening located at an optimum distance from the
blasthole, enabling the explosive energy to perform the greatest
amount of work on the rock mass. A blast will be more efficient if
it has two free faces rather than one
Flyrock Rock that is propelled through air from a blast
Fragmentation Measure to describe the size of distribution of broken rock after
Ground vibration Ground movement caused by the stress waves emanating from
a blast
Initiation The act of detonating explosives by appropriate means
Line drilling A method of overbreak control which uses a series of closely
spaced holes that are not charged
Loading density The mass of explosives per metre of borehole
Maximum Instantaneous Mass of explosive detonating in some defined time period,
Charge or Mass per delay usually 8 milliseconds foe pyrotechnics, less for electronics
Overbreak Excessive breakage of rock beyond the desired excavation limit
Particle velocity The speed of movement in a given direction of a rock or soil
Pre-split A controlled blast in which decoupled charges are fired in holes
on the perimeter of the excavation prior to the main firing
Relative Bulk Strength The energy yield per unit volume of an explosive compared to
Relative Weight Strength The energy yield per unit mass of an explosive compared to
Spacing The distance between adjacent drill holes in the same row
Stemming Inert material used to confine the gasses generated during
Swell factor The ratio of the volume of broken rock to the volume of in-situ
Velocity of detonation The velocity at which a detonation progresses through an

Surface Blasting Handbook

3. Geometric Formulae

There are many geometric formulas and they relate height, width, length, or radius, etc. to
perimeter, area, surface area, or volume, etc. There are some basic formulas that you will
need to use:

Description Symbol
Diameter D
Radius r
Length L
Height h
Pi (Mathematical constant 3.1416)
Circumference of circle: = D = 2r
Area of circle: = D = r
Area of rectangle: = length x width
Area of triangle: = x base x height
Volume of wedge: = x area of base x height
Volume of cylinder: = DL = rL
Volume of cone: = rh

Surface Blasting Handbook

Confidence, Courage, Care

Wealth Unearthed
Surface Blasting Handbook

4. Conversion Table

This unit Multiplied by Converts to


metres m 3.280 feet ft.
39.370 inches in
millimetres mm 0.039 inches in
kilometres km 0.621 miles
kilogram kg 2.20 pound lb.
metric tonne t 1.10 short tons
grams g 0.035 avoirdupois oz.
grams g 0.032 Troy ounce oz.
grams g 16.67 grains
Joule J 0.24 calorie cal
Joule J 0.74 feet-pound ft-lb
calorie cal 3.09 feet-pound ft-lb
kilowatt kW 1.341 horsepower hp
cubic centimetres cm3 or cc 0.06 inches3 in3
cubic metres m3 1.31 yards3 yd3
cubic metres m3 33.33 cubic feet ft3
litres l 0.264 US gallon
cubic centimetres cm 3
0.034 ounces US fluid
Converts to Divided by This unit

Surface Blasting Handbook

This unit Multiplied by Converts to


kg/m3 0.062 lbs./ft3
g/cm3 (g/cc) 62.43 lbs./ft3
Powder Factor
kg/m3 0.752 lb./yd3
m/sec 3.28 ft./sec
mm/sec 0.039 in/sec
km/hour 0.62 miles/hour
kPa 0.145 pounds/square inch psi
atmosphere Atm 14.7 pounds/square inch psi
bar 14.5 pounds/square inch psi
kPa 0.010 bar
Fahrenheit (f) F (f-32) x 5/9 centigrade o
centigrade (c) o
C (c+32) x 9/5 Fahrenheit F
cm2 0.16 in2
m 2
1550.0 in2
m2 11.11 ft2

Converts to Divided by This unit


Surface Blasting Handbook

5. Volume of rock (m3) per metre blast hole

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
1 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1
- 4 - - - - - - - - - - - - - 2
- 6 9 - - - - - - - - - - - - 3
- - 12 16 - - - - - - - - - - - 4
- - - 20 25 - - - - - - - - - - 5

Spacing (m)
- - - 24 30 36 - - - - - - - - - 6
- - - - 35 42 49 - - - - - - - - 7
- - - - - 48 56 64 - - - - - - - 8
- - - - - 54 63 72 81 - - - - - - 9
- - - - - - 70 80 90 100 - - - - - 10
- - - - - - - 88 99 110 121 - - - - 11
- - - - - - - 96 108 120 132 144 - - - 12
- - - - - - - - 117 130 143 156 169 - - 13
- - - - - - - - - 140 154 168 182 196 - 14
- - - - - - - - - 150 165 180 195 210 225 15

Note: Table based on a spacing = a x burden using a value of a = 1.0 to 1.5. Where -, this could be
considered an unusual geometry or combination requiring the Blaster to review the pattern.

5.1 Volume of rock blasted (m3)

Per meter of hole = Burden Spacing

Per hole = Burden Spacing Bench height

Per blast = Burden Spacing Bench height No.of holes

Surface Blasting Handbook

6. Linear Charge Mass for Bulk Explosives (kg/m)

Hole Diameter Density of Explosives (g/cc)

Inches mm 0.75 0.80 0.85 0.90 0.95 1.00 1.05 1.10 1.15 1.20 1.25 1.30

3 76 3.40 3.63 3.86 4.08 4.31 4.54 4.76 4.99 5.22 5.44 5.67 5.90

3 89 4.67 4.98 5.29 5.60 5.91 6.22 6.53 6.84 7.15 7.47 7.78 8.09

4 102 6.13 6.54 6.95 7.35 7.76 8.17 8.58 8.99 9.40 9.81 10.21 10.62

4 108 6.87 7.33 7.79 8.24 8.70 9.16 9.62 10.08 10.54 10.99 11.45 11.91

4 114 7.66 8.17 8.68 9.19 9.70 10.21 10.72 11.23 11.74 12.25 12.76 13.27

4 124 9.06 9.66 10.26 10.87 11.47 12.08 12.68 13.28 13.89 14.49 15.10 15.70

5 127 9.50 10.13 10.77 11.40 12.03 12.67 13.30 13.93 14.57 15.20 15.83 16.47

5 130 9.97 10.63 11.30 11.96 12.63 13.29 13.96 14.62 15.29 15.95 16.62 17.28

5 133 10.47 11.16 11.86 12.56 13.26 13.96 14.65 15.35 16.05 16.75 17.44 18.14

5 140 11.55 12.32 13.08 13.85 14.62 15.39 16.16 16.93 17.70 18.47 19.24 20.01

5 143 12.05 12.85 13.65 14.45 15.26 16.06 16.86 17.67 18.47 19.27 20.08 20.88

5 149 13.08 13.95 14.82 15.69 16.56 17.44 18.31 19.18 20.05 20.92 21.80 22.67

6 152 13.61 14.52 15.42 16.33 17.24 18.15 19.05 19.96 20.87 21.78 22.68 23.59

6 159 14.89 15.88 16.88 17.87 18.86 19.86 20.85 21.84 22.83 23.83 24.82 25.81

6 165 16.04 17.11 18.18 19.24 20.31 21.38 22.45 23.52 24.59 25.66 26.73 27.80

6 171 17.22 18.37 19.52 20.67 21.82 22.97 24.11 25.26 26.41 27.56 28.71 29.86

7 187 20.60 21.97 23.34 24.72 26.09 27.46 28.84 30.21 31.58 32.96 34.33 35.70

7 194 22.17 23.65 25.13 26.60 28.08 29.56 31.04 32.52 33.99 35.47 36.95 38.43

7 200 23.56 25.13 26.70 28.27 29.85 31.42 32.99 34.56 36.13 37.70 39.27 40.84

8 216 27.48 29.31 31.15 32.98 34.81 36.64 38.48 40.31 42.14 43.97 45.80 47.64

9 229 30.89 32.95 35.01 37.07 39.13 41.19 43.25 45.31 47.37 49.42 51.48 53.54

9 251 37.11 39.58 42.06 44.53 47.01 49.48 51.95 54.43 56.90 59.38 61.85 64.33

10 254 38.00 40.54 43.07 45.60 48.14 50.67 53.20 55.74 58.27 60.80 63.34 65.87

10 270 42.94 45.80 48.67 51.53 54.39 57.26 60.12 62.98 65.84 68.71 71.57 74.43

11 279 45.85 48.91 51.97 55.02 58.08 61.14 64.19 67.25 70.31 73.36 76.42 79.48

12 311 56.97 60.77 64.57 68.37 72.17 75.96 79.76 83.56 87.36 91.16 94.96 98.75

13 330 64.15 68.42 72.70 76.98 81.25 85.53 89.81 94.08 98.36 102.64 106.91 111.19

13 349 71.75 76.53 81.31 86.10 90.88 95.66 100.45 105.23 110.01 114.79 119.58 124.36

15 381 85.51 91.21 96.91 102.61 108.31 114.01 119.71 125.41 131.11 136.81 142.51 148.21

16 406 97.10 103.57 110.04 116.52 122.99 129.46 135.93 142.41 148.88 155.35 161.83 168.30

16 419 103.41 110.31 117.20 124.10 130.99 137.89 144.78 151.67 158.57 165.46 172.36 179.25

17 445 116.65 124.42 132.20 139.98 147.75 155.53 163.30 171.08 178.86 186.63 194.41 202.19

Red zone Desired zone Red zone

NOTE: All calculations are based on the metric drill bit sizes; The linear charge density of Bulk Explosives is determined by the final hole
diameter which is affected by the wear of the drill bit and the softness of the rock formation *Red zone - please consult your AEL office
for advice on the appropriate product. 11
Surface Blasting Handbook

7. Average weight of various material blasted (Density of rock type)

Material Relative Weight (Solid) Weight (Broken)

Density t/m3
m /t
t/m3 m3/t
Antracite (Coal) 1.3-1.8 1.60 0.63 1.04 0.96
Basalt 2.8-3.0 3.04 0.33 2.00 0.50
Bituminous Coal 1.2-1.5 1.36 0.74 0.88 1.14
Diabase 2.6-3.0 2.80 0.36 1.84 0.54
Diorite 2.8-3.0 2.96 0.34 1.92 0.52
Dolomite 2.8-2.9 2.88 0.35 1.84 0.54
Gneiss 2.6-2.9 2.88 0.35 1.84 0.54
Granite 2.6-2.9 2.72 0.37 1.76 0.57
Gypsum 2.3-3.3 2.88 0.35 1.84 0.54
Haematite (Iron Ore) 4.5-5.3 4.88 0.20 3.20 0.31
Limestone 2.4-2.9 2.64 0.38 1.68 0.60
Limonite (Iron Ore) 3.6-4.0 3.76 0.27 2.48 0.40
Magnesite 3.0-3.2 3.20 0.31 2.00 0.50
Magnetite (Iron Ore) 4.9-5.2 5.04 0.20 3.28 0.30
Marble 2.1-2.9 2.48 0.40 1.60 0.63
Mica-Schist 2.5-2.9 2.72 0.37 1.76 0.57
Porphyry 2.6-2.6 2.56 0.39 1.68 0.60
Quartzite 2.0-2.8 2.56 0.39 1.68 0.60
Rock Stalt 2.1-2.6 2.32 0.43 1.52 0.66
Sandstone 2.0-2.6 2.40 0.42 1.52 0.66
Shale 2.4-2.8 2.56 0.39 1.68 0.60
Silica Sand 2.2-2.8 2.56 0.39 1.68 0.60
Slate 2.5-2.8 2.72 0.37 1.76 0.57
Talc 2.6-2.8 2.64 0.38 1.76 0.57
Trap Rock 2.6-3.0 2.80 0.36 1.84 0.54
NOTE: Based on practical field experience

7.1 Mass of Rock (t)

Mass = Volume Density

Surface Blasting Handbook

8. Typical cup densities to achieve average in hole density of Bulk

Explosive at a given hole depth

AEL Mining Services manufacture a wide range of emulsion based explosives to optimise
blasting in soft to hard rock conditions, manage reactive and non-reactive rock types and
extreme conditions such as burning coal.

Cup sampes are taken at regular intervals during the charging process to enable a visual
confirmation that the product is being mixed correctly and where appropiate, is being gassed
to achieve the required average in hole density for the site specific blast design.

The following graph gives an illustration that in order to maintain the average in hole density
for the required blast design, the operational cup density ranges are reduced with increasing
hole depth. If we are for example charging a 15m hole depth, then we would read horizontally
across the graph to where the line intersects the required average in-hole density line, say
1.20 and then vertically up to read the operational cup density of 1.08.

A site specific charging table can then be produced by the AEL operational team based on
the chosen explosive being used and the blast design requirements on site to manage the
operational cup densities to produce the required average in hole density.

Operational Cup Density (0.02)

0.90 0.95 1.00 1.05 1.10 1.15 1.20 1.25
Stemming Stemming Stemming


15 Average in hole density (1.15 0.02)

Hole Depth (m)

Average in hole density (1.20 0.02)

20 Average in hole density (1.25 0.02)




NOTE: Not exceeding maximum recommended toe density

Surface Blasting Handbook

8.1 Relative Effective Energy (REE) or Relative Weight Strength (RWS)

Effective Energy (EE) is calculated as the total energy released by the explosive gasses
as they expand and do useful work from the initial detonation pressure down to a cut-off
pressure of 20 Mpa.

NOTE: Where EE = Effective Energy @ 20MPa (MJ/kg)

8.2 Relative Bulk Strength (RBS)

NOTE: Where p = Relative density

Surface Blasting Handbook

9. Recommended booster sizes

Boosters have been developed to initiate the range of AEL Mining Services bulk explosives
and as a result of their high density (approximately 1.65g/cm3) and very high velocity of
detonation, VoD, around 7000m/s, these primers, despite their small size, develop extremely
high peak pressures during detonation. They are typically cylindrical in shape and will
completely enclose all the AEL range of detonators and have been developed for use with
detonating cord.

AEL advocates use of boosters in the surface mining application as both emulsion packaged
cartridge explosives, at a starting VoD ~3700m/s and run up to 4500-5000m/s and watergel
packaged cartridges explosives, 3500-3700m/s, tend not to have enough kick to get the bulk
emulsion reliably started.

Hole diameter (mm)

Increasing hole

64 76 89 102 115 150 200 300


>35m 800g

10. Wet vs. Dry drill holes and Bottom pumping vs. Top hole auger/

A wet hole is defined as where the depth of water in the hole exceeds 5% of the hole depth.

Top load emulsions in dry hole >120mm

Bridging of product in hole
Hole depth <10m

76 102 120 165 200 250 270 311

Pump <165mm Auger >165mm

Emulsion + AN prill AN prill + Fuel Oil + Emulsion and Anfex

Pump <250mm Wet Holes

Pump when depth of water > 2m and/or > 5% hole depth is water

Surface Blasting Handbook

11. Surface Blast Design

Blast pattern design is primarily governed by the objectives of blasting, which is inevitably
to deliver a good broken (fragmented) rock result at acceptable cost. The fixed parameters
are usually the rock type, the production rate, the bench height, the drilling and loading
equipment, and the range of explosives.

The required blast design must accommodate these limitations by specifying the drilling
pattern, loading instructions and initiation design. Of overriding importance in arriving at
these requirements, are the combination of hole diameter and blasting powder factor, which
not only control the blasting effects, but also determine the overall explosive and drilling

There are a variety of approaches to deriving blasting patterns, but in the end, the relationship
between the mass of explosive used and the volume of ground broken, for a particular
breaking effect, is the one of most interest to all parties.

The following process will enable a blaster to arrive at a robust design to enable the rock to
be successfully broken. The design can then be adjusted to align the require fragmentation
and/or muckpile movement to control dilution and/or Load and Haul.

The figure illustrates the various aspects of blast design and the relevant terminology
applied to them.

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.1 Terminology and Nomenclature

Description Symbol Units

Rock factor A -
Spacing to Burden ratio a -
Burden B m
% Coupling C -
Explosive diameter d mm
Hole diameter D mm
Relative Weight Strength RWS -
Relative Effective Energy REE -
Bench height H m
Actual Powder Factor Ka kg/m3
Technical Powder Factor Kt kg/m3
Explosive column above grade L m
Linear charge density Mc kg/m
Relative density of explosive p -
Spacing S m
Stemming length T m
Sub drill length U m
Mass per delay E kg/delay

11.2 Management and prediction of fragmentation

The primary purpose of blasting is to fragment rock and there are significant rewards for
delivering a fragmentation size range which is not only well suited to the mining system it
feeds, but also minimises un-saleable fractions and enhances the value of what can be sold.
Fragmentation is controlled by a combination of the following factors:

Understand the influence of the Rock type, Geology and Rock Properties
Explosive Type
oo Control shape of S curve
Explosive Mass/Powder factor
oo Control mean size of muckpile
oo Hole diameter & Bench heights
oo Influence oversize
Surface Blasting Handbook

Rock Breaking process

oo Drilling & Crush zone
oo Influence fines
Electronic Initiation
oo Control Uniformity of muckpile, reduces oversize and fines

The fragmentation size can be predicted from the following formulae:

X = Means size (cm) 50% passing

A = Rock factor, varying between 0.8 to 22 depending on hardness and
structure (See Technical Powder Factor)
= 8 for soft rocks and 14 for hard rocks
Kt = Technical powder factor (excluding sub-drill) (kg/m3)
Q = Mass of explosive in blast hole (excluding sub-drill) (kg)
RWS = Relative Weight Strength of the explosive (115 being RWS of TNT)

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.3 Technical Powder Factor, Kt (kg/m3)

Kt = Mass of explosives above grade

Volume of rock broken

Blasting Rock Type Technical Rock Factor UCS

Category Powder (MPa)
Hard Andesite
Granite 0.70 - 0.90 12-14 >250
Medium Dolomite
Quartzite 0.40 - 0.50 10-11 100 - 250
Soft Sandstone
0.25 - 0.35 8-9 50 - 100
Very Soft Coal 0.15 - 0.25 6 < 50

* These rock types are soft in terms of physical strength but have other characteristics requiring
heavier charging than might be expected

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.4 Spacing to Burden ratio, a (No units)

Range a
General 1.0 - 1.5
Square pattern 1.0
Staggered pattern 1.15
Armour Stone (Rip-rap) Large rocks 0.7 - 1.0

Staggered rows of holes deliver better distribution of the explosive than rows arranged in
ranks with a rectangular pattern, as shown in the figure 2. This means that for the same
powder factor, the fragmentation will be more uniform for staggered patterns.

A very important consideration in narrow blasts is that a square pattern is efficient for
maintaining straight sides, whereas staggered patterns either require extra holes, or leave
a zigzag edge.

Square patterns also give more efficient drilling. The drill rig can work back from the free
face in a straight line, instead of having to skew between the rows. This is partially overcome
by moving drills down rows parallel to the face, but a further complication arises when tying
in the blast for initiation. With square patterns, it is easier to determine how to tie in the
blast, especially when the pattern is close and the ground surface is uneven.

In general, square patterns are desirable for smaller blastholes and in any situation where
a tight, straight edge is required for the blast. The larger the block of ground being blasted
and the larger the blasthole diameter, the more the benefit of using a staggered pattern.

Surface Blasting Handbook

Increased number of
rows vs. backbreak

Staggered pattern:
more efficient, but
a) harder to drill,
b) ragged ends.

Increasing backbreak with depth of

blast (Number of rows)
Square pattern:
less efficient, but
a) easier to drill,
b) straight ends.

More overlap between rows

Less cover between rows

Figure 2. Comparison of efficiency of drilling patterns

11.5 Spacing, S (m)


11.6 Burden, B (m)

Rearranging equation (1) and substituting for S

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.7 Charge length above grade, L (m)

L = Bench height-Stemming length


11.8 Stemming length, T (m)

11.8.1 Rule of Thumb

Rock type Normal Controlled Stemming
(Number x hole diameters)
Hard (competent) 20 30 Crushed stone1
Hard (competent) 30 40 Drill cuttings2
Medium (weathered) 25 35 Crushed stone3
Drill cuttings
Soft 15 25 Drill cuttings4

Normal for general blasting where the risk or impact of an event is low
Controlled for sensitive blasting where the risk or impact of an event is high
Clean crushed stone, with a mean size of the stemming material > 1/10th of the hole
diameter. e.g. For blast hole diameters in the range 50 to 130 mm, angular crushed rock
in the approximate size range of 6 to 13 mm makes a very effective stemming material

Drill cuttings, material usually found on bench surface from drilling equipment

Crushed stone, tests have shown that it is not as effective as we move from medium to
soft rock types, we also experience an increase risk in the potential for flyrock

Columns shorter than 20D generally cause a higher risk of noise, airblast, flyrock and

The optimum stemming length depends very largely on rock properties and degree of
confinement and can vary from 20 to 60D

Surface Blasting Handbook

Stemming length is influenced by:

Rock conditions
Hole diameter
Bench height
Explosive Strength
Explosive Density
Charge length
Flyrock control
Airblast Limitations

Clearly, determination of a safe and efficient design length of stemming requires both
good judgement and a period of cautious testing.

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.8.2 Formulae

The following equation uses the principles of cratering to derive an initial estimate of
stemming height rather than using the rules of thumb. As this is not strict cratering, 8
charge diameters are used to derive active charge mass at the top, rather than 6. Note
that if the bench height is less than the indicated stemming length plus 8 diameters,
then the hole diameter is excessive for that bench height and an iterative design
method is needed.

There is no allowance for rock hardness or burden in the equation since hard rock
leaves more gas energy for ejecting stemming, but has generally smaller burdens,
which counters the reduced gas energy but larger burdens of weaker rocks. Local
judgement and experiment is key in homing in on the right level of stemming for control
of fragmentation and flyrock.

Where: Description Units

T Stemming length: Metres (m)
Z Flyrock factor Normal blasting = 1.0
Contained blasting = 1.5
W Mass of explosives in 8 kilograms (kg)
charge diameters, or in
column length if this is less
REE Relative Effective Energy of ANFO taken as 100
the explosive
D Hole Diameter mm
NOTE: Bench height must be more than T+ 8 charge diameters.

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.9 Linear charge density, Mc (kg/m)

Mass of explosives contained in one meter of charge length

11.9.1 Bulk/Pumpable explosive

11.9.2 Soft, Packaged explosives

Need to assess the degree of rupture that occurs when the cartridges are
dropped down the hole and whether the hole is wet or dry.

Surface Blasting Handbook

As a guide, typically a range of 80 to 85% coupling in a dry hole and 65% in a wet

As a starting point, depending on the availability of suitable sized cartridges, the

cartridge size would be of the hole diameter, to prevent damage to the initiating
system and to allow the displacement of any water in the blast hole.

11.10 Angled Blast holes

If the angle of the blast hole is (measured from the horizontal e.g. vertical hole = 90o)

Surface Blasting Handbook

11.11 Actual Powder factor, Ka (kg/m3) (Vertical holes)

The actual powder factor can be calculated by including the sub-drill in the charge length

11.12 Pre-split

Spacing = Hole diameter x 12

oo Range 10 (Soft) to 15 (Hard)
Burden = 0.5 x production blast burden (B)
Uncharged length at top = 10 x D
Powder factor = 0.5kg per square metre of face
oo Range 0.3 (Soft) to 0.8 (Hard) kg/m2
Do not stem holes
Fire all holes on the same delay, or in groups of 5 holes
Any water in the blast hole will couple the explosives to the sidewalls of the
blasthole and impact on the effectiveness of the result

Surface Blasting Handbook

12. Blasting Geometry (Rules of Thumb)

Blast design should always be approached from theoretical principles to ensure sound
economic designs, to achieve the desired results and to manage the critical issues such as
airblast, ground vibrations, noise and flyrock.

A rule of thumb is a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate
or reliable for every situation. It is, however, easily learned and an easily applied procedure
for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination on

The following rules of thumb are shared as a quick reference as to whether a practise on
bench is sound and will yield the desired results, or as a warning that the robustness of the
blast design may need to be further questioned.

Rule of thumb
Burden B 25 to 35 times the hole diameter
Bench height H 2 to 4.5 times burden
Blast hole diameter (D) in mm / 15
Spacing S 1 to 1.5 times burden
Should not be greater than one-half the
depth of the borehole
Charge length L > 20 D
Stemming T 0.7 to 1.2 times burden
Subdrill (if necessary) U 0.2 and 0.5 of burden
oo 0.3 is a good starting position
(8 to 12) x D

Surface Blasting Handbook

12.1 UK Stiffness ratio

This ratio gives an indication of blast geometry and the affects of Bench Height/Burden

Stiffness Ratio 1 2 3 4
Fragmentation Poor Fair Good Excellent
Airblast Severe Fair Good Excellent
Flyrock Severe Fair Good Excellent
Ground Severe Fair Good Excellent
Comments Severe back Redesign if Good No increased
break & toe possible control and benefit by
problems. fragmentation increasing
Do not blast stiffness ratio
REDESIGN! above 4

Surface Blasting Handbook

13. Timing examples

The result of any multiple-hole production blast is critically dependent on interactions

between blastholes. The sequence in which blastholes are initiated and the time interval
between successive detonations has a major influence on overall blast performance.
A poor blast design (up to the point of initiation design) cannot be rectified by good
initiation design. A good blast can however be enhanced with appropriate initiation design.
The performance of production blasts can only be optimised when blasthole charges are
detonated in a controlled sequence at suitable discrete but closely spaced time intervals.
Firing the same number of blastholes individually or at random cannot duplicate the result
of a well-designed multi-hole blast.

Equation 3: General Intervals for Blast Timing

TH = Intra-row interval
TH = 3 (hard rock) to 6 (soft rock) ms/m of Burden
TR = Inter-hole interval
TR = 10 (hard rock) to 30 (soft rock) ms/m of Burden

The following timing layouts are designed to give a blaster a practical starting point in terms
of the control of the direction of movement, muckpile shape and fragmentation. With the use
of both the AEL Mining Services pyrotechnic and electronic initiation systems please consult
your local sales office for the design and use of the systems using our latest software to
model the desired outcomes.

Surface Blasting Handbook

13.1 Line Blasting, row by row

Produces lowest muckpile height

Muckpile thrown furthest
Broken rock very loose and easy to
Requires highest powder factor to
get good fragmentation
Long row delays

In-situ Rock
Plan view, not to scale
Initiation point
75ms Blasted
500ms in-hole Muckpile

13.2 Shallow V

Produces results in-between those

described in examples 13.1 and
Good profile for Front End Loader
Muckpile below cab height, Safety
Material is loose
Moderate row delays (Shallow V)

In-situ Rock
Plan view, not to scale
Initiation point
75ms Blasted
500ms in-hole Muckpile

Surface Blasting Handbook

13.3 Deep V

Produces highest muckpile height

Muckpile will produce highest
heave and it will always be above
the bench
Muckpile will be thrown the least
Broken rock could be very tight and
difficult to dig, but will generally
achieve the best fragmentation
Small row delays (Deep V)

Plan view, not to scale

Initiation point
25ms Blasted
500ms in-hole In-situ Rock Muckpile

13.4 Shallow V4 Echelon

Smaller effective burdens

provide more relief and
material will be thrown
further out
Muckpile expected to be
below bench
(Muckpile profile 13.1 to 13.2)
Reduced damage to highwall

Initiation point
500ms in-hole

Plan view, not to scale

Surface Blasting Handbook

13.5 45o or V Echelon

Control and reduced damage

to highwall
Muckpile above/below bench
depending on powder factor
(Muckpile profile 13.2 to 13.3)
Material thrown less than
example 13.4
Good fragmentation,
particularly when cutting
across major, well defined,
perpendicular joint planes

Initiation point

500ms in-hole
Plan view, not to scale

13.6 Box cut design

Blasting material where there

is no free face or no
movement is required
Muckpile high with minimal
forward displacement of
Produces good fragmentation,
with higher powder factor but
a high potential for flyrock and
requires more stemming than

Initiation point
Free Face Bench surface only 500ms in-hole

Plan view, not to scale

Surface Blasting Handbook

14. Secondary Breaking

14.1 Drilled hole in boulder Popping

Rock thickness Hole length (m) Boulder (m3) Boulder
(m) Exposed Embedded
Mass of explosives (kg)
0.50 0.30 0.13 0.01 0.03
0.75 0.45 0.42 0.04 0.08
1.00 0.60 1.00 0.10 0.20
1.25 0.75 1.95 0.20 0.39
1.50 0.90 3.38 0.34 0.68
1.75 1.05 5.36 0.54 1.07
2.00 1.20 8.00 0.80 1.60
2.25 1.35 11.39 1.14 2.28
2.50 1.50 15.63 1.56 3.13
Note: Boulder/rock exposed on bench floor/muckpile +/- 100g of explosives/m3 ; Boulder/rock embedded in the
ground this may increase to +/- 200g of explosives/m3; Not recommended for boulders < 0.5m3 Where explosive
cartridges are to be used, the size of the cartridges and number per hole will be determined by the hole diameter
used and consideration for stemming/tamping of the blasthole

14.2 Mud blasting
Rock thickness (m) Charge mass (kg) Powder factor (kg/m3)
0.30 0.125 4.63
0.50 0.250 2.00
0.75 0.500 1.19
1.00 1.000 1.00
1.25 1.500 0.77
1.50 2.000 0.59
1.75 2.500 0.47
2.00 3.000 0.38
2.25 3.500 0.31
2.50 4.000 0.26
Note: The geology and rock properties will limit the breaking success at a rock thickness >1.50m For optimum
results, the charges should be covered in not less than 10x their mass in mud, at least 100 to 150mm in thickness
over the charge. The mud must be free of stones, which could result in flyrock hazard.

Surface Blasting Handbook

15. Priming / Decking 15.1 Priming refers to the use of one, two or
more boosters and initiating systems in the
blast hole to ensure the safe and reliable
initiation of the explosives column, it should
Initiating system
not be confused with decking.

Typically two or more boosters are used


Hole depths > 25m

The risk/ consequences and cost of a
blast failure is non-negotiable
Stemming Influence of geological structure on
charge dislocation (cut-off initiating
systems and/or explosives column
resulting in potential blast failure)
oo Extreme conditions where there
Booster may be mud, water or debris filled

The potential to control the sequence of the

firing of the two or more boosters in the
hole is a combination of the inherent timing
scatter of the initiating system being used,
the velocity of detonation of the explosive
column and distance between the boosters
Explosive positions.

15.2 Deck charging refers to the practice

of placing two or more, separate and
isolated columns of explosives within a
Booster single blasthole. Decks of explosives may
be isolated from one another using drill
Proposed cuttings, air or any other inert material.
Each explosives deck charge must contain a
Floor primer. The primer is normally located near
the centre of each explosives deck.
(Weight) A good starting point for the length of
the decking is in the range 15 to 20 hole
diameters. (The deck length should be
greater than 10 hole diameters to avoid
sympathetic detonation.)

Surface Blasting Handbook

Inert decks between explosives charges may consist of drill cuttings, crushed stone in the
size range 6 mm to 13 mm, coarse sand, concrete or prefabricated blocks, air voids or bags.
The most effective materials will be those that either lock solid under pressure and prevent
communication of explosives effects, or crushable materials that absorb and dissipate
explosives shock energy.

Water saturated materials tend to conduct shock waves readily and the inert deck length
needs to be increased to avoid problems in such cases. The length of inert deck required in
these circumstances can only be determined by trial.

Drill cuttings are typically problematic to load in wet holes as the material tends to form
a thick muddy soup situation and NOT effective stemming. As a starting point the timing
between decks should be greater than 25ms but less than 100ms.

Initiating system(s) per deck

Weak zone


Surface Blasting Handbook

16. Airblast and Ground (Blasting) Vibrations

Blasting Vibration is a general term for the diverse physical waves (manifesting as airblast
and ground vibration) that arise from blasting, and impact on structures, raising concern in
the public.
With the steady encroachment of residential areas onto quarrying and mining operations
there has been a corresponding increase in the number of complaints about blasting
operations and legal claims for damage. It is important to grasp whether these complaints
Related to real damage, or
More a matter of human alarm at the noise and rumble of blasting, although
vibration levels are well below the damage thresholds, or
Opportunistic claims.

Much of the foundational research into airblast, ground vibration and consequential damage
was underway from the 1950s by the now defunct US Bureau of Mines (USBM) and continues
worldwide. The USBM work is still widely accepted and is introduced here as background.
In 1983 the USA OSMRE (Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement) issued
regulations based on the USBM work, modified in the light of consultation. These make good
sense and form the base for AELs recommendations.

Maximum Allowable Particle Velocity (mm/s)


USBM RI 8507 Far

USBM RI 8507 Near Response of Structures to

Far Drywall, gypsum board interiors everyday activities (After Stagg 1984)
Near Plaster finish, Wattle
Daily environmental changes
(Temperature & Humidity)
30.0 to 76.0mm/s
Pounding nails 22.4mm/s

10 Door slams12.7mm/s

Lower frequencies
means lower vibration
10 100 1000
Blast Vibration Frequency (Hz)

Based on this work the suggested guidelines (>50Hz) are as follows.

Surface Blasting Handbook

More recently, with the increasing emphasis on human comfort levels and extreme caution
with sensitive situations, guidelines are often more conservative, and it is important to
consult widely with affected parties and the authorities involved.

It is to the blasters advantage to understand that many complaints and legal claims received
as the result of blasting could have been avoided if thought and effort had been given to:
Good public relations by ensuring both production personnel and the local
community have an understanding of the nature of airblast and ground vibration
Good blast design that minimises the generation of high amplitude, low frequency
air and ground waves
Correct use and emplacement of equipment to monitor and measure disturbance,
with impartial analysis and archiving of records
Conducting pre-blast surveys so as to minimise false claims and facilitate rapid
resolution of situations

16.1 Suggested guidelines

Blasting Situation Maximum

PPV (mm/s)
Heavily reinforced concrete structures 120
Property owned by the concern performing blasting operations where 84
minor plaster cracks are acceptable
Strong masonry walls not affected by public concern 50
Commercial property in reasonable repair where public concern is not an 25
important consideration
Private property if public concern is to be taken into account or if blasting 10
is conducted on a regular and frequent basis

Where there has been no suitable monitoring or test work, in AELs experience acceptable
vibration levels have always been obtained when using the following table. Unusual geological
conditions could however result in unexpected concentration or transmissions of ground
vibrations especially in waterlogged ground and the table CANNOT therefore be viewed as
infallible. If an entirely safe table for all possible conditions is required, the equation given
by the USBM is applicable.

Surface Blasting Handbook

16.2 Suggested controls for charge/delay when blasting adjacent to commercial

property PPV <25mm/s

Distance to nearest Maximum charge Distance to nearest Maximum charge

structure (m) mass/delay (kg) structure (m) mass/delay (kg)
1 0.05 50 30
2 0.2 60 39
3 0.4 70 49
4 0.6 80 60
5 0.9 90 71
6 1.2 100 83
7 1.5 125 116
8 1.9 160 150
9 2.2 175 188
10 2.5 200 240
16 4.5 250 330
20 7.0 300 430
25 10 400 670
30 13 500 930
35 17 1000 2640
40 21 1500 4800
45 25 2000 7400

Surface Blasting Handbook

16.3 Scaled distance

The formulae is used as a safe and very conservative means of controlling ground
vibration particularly in very public or sensitive areas of concern (PPV @ 5 mm/s)

Distance D, Mass of explosives per Delay - E

NOTE: If in doubt always conduct tests

The following table shows some values based on this formula:

Distance to nearest Maximum charge Distance to nearest Maximum charge

structure (m) mass/delay (kg) structure (m) mass/delay (kg)
98 10 693 500
219 50 693 500
310 100 980 100
438 200 1200 1500

16.4 Minimising ground vibrations

The Blaster can manage the following to assist in the minimising of ground vibrations:

Optimise delay timing

Reduce charge mass per delay
Avoid overburden
Major cause of ground vibration
Optimise sub-drill
Increase total blast duration

Surface Blasting Handbook

16.5 Predicting of ground vibrations

Whilst good measurement and understanding of the data is the key to control the following
formulae allows a prediction to be made:

D = Distance
E = Mass per delay
a & b site characteristics
oo Note b is a negative value

As a starting point until the site values have been determined from measurement, the
USBM gives a = 1140 and b = -1.65

16.6 Sources and influences of airblast

There are five main sources of airblast:

1. The chosen initiating system in use e.g. detonating cord compared to shock tube

2. Air pressure pulse (APP)



Face Motion Explosives

Blast hole

Surface Blasting Handbook

3. Rock pressure pulse (RPP)

Blast hole

4. Gas release pulse (GRP)

Gas Profile
Fractured Zone

Blast hole

5. Stemming release pulse (SRP)

Ejection Profile

Blast hole

Surface Blasting Handbook

The airblast is also influenced by:

Topography or Surface layout

oo Increase Airblast by +5 db
oo Atmospheric conditions
Inversion layer
oo Wind, direction

16.7 Suggested guidelines

Audible noise lies in the range of the frequency spectrum from 20 to 20 000 Hz. Airblast
includes audible noise, plus frequencies below 20 Hz which cannot be heard by the human
ear but can sometimes be felt by the body. Both noise and airblast decay with increasing
distance. However because low frequencies attenuate less rapidly, it is possible to have
significant airblast with minimal noise at appreciable distances from the blast. Airblast
without noise will cause buildings to vibrate, and may result in complaints of excessive
vibration at distances many kilometres from the blast site.

Overpressure is commonly recorded in decibels (dB) on a linear scale which measures all
frequency components such that:


L = airblast level (dB)

P = measured overpressure (kPa)
P0 = reference pressure (2 x 10-8 kPa)

Recording options on industrial sound measuring instruments sometimes include the

weighted scales A, B and C. These three common weighting scales discriminate against
and ignore the low frequencies below the audible range for humans and are intended for
human comfort and not structural damage levels. The airblast level should therefore not
be confused with the guidelines of a maximum noise level in South Africa of 85dB(A) over 8

Surface Blasting Handbook

The following has been developed to help guide the Blaster and put the levels for concern
into perspective (since air pressure is measured using a logarithmic scale):

100dB (0.002kPa) - Barely noticeable

110dB (0.006kPa) - Readily acceptable
oo Rattling of loose windows/Doors/Ceiling panels
128dB (0.050kPa)
oo Currently accepted by South African authorities as being a reasonable level
for public concern. (No more than 10% of measurements should exceed this
134dB (0.100kPa)
oo Limit is 133 dB if lower frequency limit of the instrument is 2 Hz
oo Currently accepted by South African authorities that damage will not occur
below this level. (No measurements should exceed this value outside of the
mining boundaries.)
Good Highveld thunderstorm
140dB (0.200kPa)
oo Exceeded by strong wind gusts
oo Poorly mounted pictures, rattling of objects on shelves/display units, potential
for these to fall
170dB (6.3kPa)
oo Will break a well mounted window

Note: dB, decibels on a linear scale

16.8 Controls of airblast

Create earth mounds + 3 m between mine and areas of concern

oo Plant indigenous trees, grasses, bush etc. to create screen
oo Blasting when low dense cloud base (< 2000 m) forms cover of > 50%
oo Wind blowing > 10 km/h towards areas of concern
oo Early or late in the day
Use electronic detonators
Single hole firing
Depth of blast
oo Reduce number of rows

Surface Blasting Handbook

16.9 Prediction of airblast

Whilst good measurement and understanding of the data is the key to control the following
formulae allows a prediction to be made:

L = Airblast level dB, decibel

D = Distance from blast (m)
E = Mass of explosive per delay (kg)
a = Confined blasts, a = 16520 and Unconfined blasts, a = 195
b = Decay factor 24

Parameters a & b are influenced by the following factors and may be calibrated to some
extent by field measurements:

Charge mass/delay
Delay intervals
Drilling pattern
Stemming length
Direction of initiation
Type of initiation system

Surface Blasting Handbook

16.10 Estimation of flyrock risk zone (Lundborg)

This is an estimation of the flyrock risk zone using the calculated predicted mean size of
the blasted rock and gives us safe distance from the blast. The risk is the same as being
struck by lightning but it does not suggest that a piece of flyrock may not travel further
than the calculated risk zone.

If we take the mean size of the blasted rock to be 0.3m and read up from the x-axis to the
curve representing our hole diameter, in this case 76mm, then read horizontally to the
y-axis, our risk zone would be 500m for these blast parameters.


Throw distance, L (m)



2.5 5.1 12.7 25 51 76 127 254 Hole diameter, d (mm)


0.001 0.01 0.1 1 10
Predicted mean size of blasted rock, (m)

Surface Blasting Handbook

17. Mitigating Flyrock risk - Field guide

Understanding Operational Blasting

location/terrain Issues parameters

Control of charging, Responsibilities Powder factor

Explosive mass

On the bench
Bench Hole diameter
Stemming practises preparation
Rock properties
Firing sequence Face shape (Bench height)
Environmental (Actual tie up &
(Wind) Initiating systems) Drilling deviations Burden (Over/

Size & determination Stemming length

of hazard area
Blasthole charging
Blast cover &
Mine site

shielding of blaster
Depth (No. of rows)
Signage Blast area Managed
secure Timing sequence


Working Poor No
Warning (Alarm)
negligence design review

Operational Design Good

failure failure design

Natural anomaly Controlled Human influence


Blasting flyrock

Surface Blasting Handbook


AEL Mining Services
1 Platinum Drive
Longmeadow Business Estate North
Modderfontein, 1645

Tel: +27 11 606 0000

Fax: +27 11 605 0000