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Valdez, Alaska Glacier Point Quarry One Shot / One Chance for Success

Mike Cammack, Gustavo Azpilcueta and Richard OMeara (ORICA, USA)

Billy Rosseau (Advanced Blasting Services, LLC)

Abstract

During the summer of 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) sought proposals to vastly
improve and expand the small boat harbor in Valdez, Alaska. It would be a multi-year project, and
construction was scheduled to begin in the spring of 2015. One aspect of the project was the
construction of a 3,100 feet (1000 m) rubble-mound breakwater to protect a mooring basin. An
estimated 208,500 tons (190,000 t) of rock, ranging in size from 160 to 3500 lbs (73 1600 kg), were
needed to build the breakwater. The Glacier Point Quarry was selected as the rock source due to its
proximity to the project and the quality of the rock meeting all of the USACE rock standards.
The Glacier Point Quarry presented many challenges. The most significant obstacle was having no
access to the top of the quarry. Therefore, a road had to be pioneered to the top and across the 160 feet
(49m) long face. Once a road was established to the top of the quarry, a drill pad / bench for the large
DTH drill had to be developed. It took nearly three months of clearing, grubbing, drilling and blasting
before production drilling could begin.
Once the drill was on the pad, the optimal drill pattern, hole locations, and hole angles were established
using laser profiling. Electronic detonators were chosen for this blast due to the precise and unusual
timing required to maximize recovery for the customer. Armor Rock weighing 1000 to 3500 lbs (450
1600 kg) was the targeted material size for this blast, with the smaller rock being a by-product.
Due to the inability to access the area after the initial blast, it was crucial that the material needed would
be produced in the one shot to ensure success.
This paper will discuss the challenges that were encountered and the solutions that were implemented,
including the technology and tools used to achieve a successful outcome.

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Background
In early 2015 the City of Valdez in Alaska
began a New Harbor Development
Project, proposed as a multiyear, multi-
phased project to build a new harbor basin
and upland facilities near the existing
port. The new harbor would include
docks/moorage capacity, a vehicle
parking lot, additional vessel launch
ramps, and support services. In addition
new access roads and pedestrian
walkways would be included to provide
increased waterfront accessibility. See
Figure 1 for location maps and the area of
the project.
The first phase of work was started in
spring 2015 with the expectation that the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would
provide the required dredging and the
building of breakwaters such that the
project would be complete in early 2018.
Once completed, benefits for the city are
expected to include:
Increased moorage capacity
Additional launch ramps
Greater waterfront access for boaters
and the non-boating public
Additional local economic activity
including the opportunity for service
industry development and support for the
fishing industry

Figure 1. Schematics showing the proposed New Harbor


Project and the location

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Breakwater Requirements
Advanced Blasting was contracted to do the blasting near the existing port to level some of the land
behind the proposed harbor, to provide space for utilities and the parking area. In addition they were
contracted to provide the Armor Rock and fill materials needed to create the breakwater that would
surround most of the new harbor.
The rock required in the contract fell into three classifications: Armor Rock, B Rock and Core rock
with the following gradation scales:

70,700 tons (64,000 t) of Armor Rock: 100% between 3500 and 1000 lbs (1600 and 450 kg) with
the average being 1500 lbs (680 kg). The breadth or thickness could not be less than 1/3rd the
length for any given rock
39,700 tons (37,000 t) of B Rock: 100% between 1000 and 75 lbs (450 and 34 kg) with 80%
averaging 150 lbs (68 kg). The same breadth to length criteria applied as for the Armor Rock
98,100 tons (89,000 t) of Core Rock: 100% less than 200lbs (91 kg), with the average being 15
to 50 lbs (7 and 23 kg).
Clearly this would require highly specialized blasting to create such a high volume of what most
quarrying or mining operations would consider oversize or boulders.
Glacier Point Quarry
The site selected for generating the breakwater materials was an old quarry about 8 miles (13 km) from
the City of Valdez that had not been in operation for many years. This site would become the borrow
pit for the materials. Complicating matters was the fact that it was really just a rock face on the side of
a hill, as the last blast had taken out the access ramps. See Figure 2.
Site surveys concluded that the characteristics of the granite found at Glacier Point would meet the US
Army Corp of Engineers specifications for breakwater material having very low friability and low
water absorption.

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Figure 2. Rock face and side of hill before pioneering.

In order to create a production bench that could be used to drill and blast the breakwater rock, an access
ramp had to be pioneered into the side of the hill and the rock face.
For over 10 weeks the drill and blast team performed forward blasting into the vertical wall. See Figure
3. Horizontal holes 10 to 12 feet (3 to 4 m) deep and 3.5 inches (90 mm) in diameter were drilled with a
crawler drill mounted on caterpillar tracks. These were blasted using packaged emulsion and dynamite
products and timed with electronic detonators, with the resultant muckpile dozed into shape to build the
ramp to take the drill up to the next level of open face.
Blasting took place daily with ramp building operations taking place at night. See Figure 4 for a view
back down the access ramp.
Once the ramp reached an elevation of over 200 feet (61 m), a 160 feet (49 m) long by 100 feet (30 m)
wide bench was established and cleared out so that the production drill rig could be brought up and set
to work. See Figure 5 for a picture of the final access ramp up to the production bench that is shown in
Figure 6.

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Figure 3. Pioneering the access ramp drilling horizontal holes into the rock face.

Figure 4. Looking back down from the pioneering development work

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Figure 5. The face before blasting showing the access ramp up the right side

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Figure 6. The Production Bench

Production Blast Design


Given the challenging nature of building the access to the production bench the difficulties of clearing,
grubbing, forward drilling and blasting - meant that it took much longer than originally planned before
production drilling could start. This meant that there was only a limited amount of time until the
breakwater rock was going to be needed. It was clear that taking the rock out in a series of lifts, as
originally planned, was going to be uneconomical and would not meet the project schedule.
It was recognized that an unconventional, one time, blast design was going to be needed to blast over
250,000 cubic yards (191,000 cu m) of rock and bring that volume down in such a way as to create
mainly oversize, boulders with a weight between 200 and 3500 lbs (91 and 1590 kg).
Many decades ago a common drill and blast technique for creating rip rap, or fill material, from borrow
pits was Coyote blasting. In this technique a tunnel is bored into the base of a rock face with
crosscuts either side that are then loaded with explosives. Blowing out the base of the rock face would
then allow gravity to bring down the rock from above. See Figure 7. Blasting this method used a powder

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factor of around 1 lb per cubic yard (0.5 kg per cubic meter), but requires specialized tunneling
techniques, otherwise it can be very dangerous. For this reason modern quarrying and construction
operations refrain from coyote blasting, even though in specialized circumstances it can be very
economical.

Figure 7. Coyote Blast diagrams (original print noted in references)

The design for the blast required at the Glacier Point Quarry effectively updated this archaic technique
and entailed drilling five to six rows of vertical 6 inch (170 mm) holes on a 17 by 20 (5 m by 6 m)
pattern to almost 150 feet (45 m) in depth. These holes would then be heavily loaded with emulsion
explosive at the base of each hole with a lower powder factor column of Anfo, and each row shot on a

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single delay. The expectation was for the lower charge of explosives to push out at the base of the face
and for the natural seams in the granite to then generate the majority of the fragmentation. This would
result in the high volume of large material required, with the gas energy from the Anfo acting to
promote the heave or movement of the rock away from the face to create a diggable muckpile.
Using the above considerations, the actual blast design resulted in a powder factor of 0.96 lb per cubic
yard (0.48 kg per cubic meter), almost exactly that specified for a coyote blast.
A drill pattern of this depth, especially in fractured and seamy granite would require a powerful down
hole hammer drill, to ensure that not too much drill hole deviation was created. The drill selected was a
Furukawa DCR20 Down-Hole Hammer and it was a challenge getting this nearly 25 ton (13 t) rig up the
access slope calling on the drills ability to manage 25% grades. However, having got it in place, a
second issue that was found was the amount of broken, fractured, material on the bench that needed to
be drilled through. In order to maintain the high air pressures needed to drill 150 feet (45 m) holes,
drilling mud was carried up to the production bench using a dump bed tracked vehicle. The mud
effectively sheened the top part of the holes, filling in the cracks in the broken rock to mitigate the loss
of air pressure and drilling ability.
Once drilled, each hole was finished with a length of cardboard Sonotube in order to case the hole and
prevent broken material or mud sloughing down and filling in or blocking the hole.
Another challenge to the blast design, given the depth of holes required, was the fact that close to floor
level the face burdens, measured using a 2D Laser Profiler, were between 30 and 100 feet (10 and 33 m)
see Figure 8. While high burdens would help generate the larger rocks, too much would impede face
movement and potentially cause the rock mass to hang up with no safe or easy way for remediation.

Figure 8. Example plot from 2D Laser Profiling

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For this reason the front row hole design had to be adjusted to allow three angled or looker holes to be
drilled in front of the first vertical hole. The 2D profiles were consulted for each hole and the angles
designed to allow 18-20 feet (5.5 and 6 m) of burden between the steepest angled hole and the free face
and then 18 feet (5.5 m) between subsequent angled holes. This resulted in holes averaging 60 degrees,
then 70 and then 80 degrees from horizontal. See Figure 9.

Figure 9. Front row cross section showing looker holes

The fact that three holes are fanned out meant that the explosives loading had to be adjusted as well, to
ensure that the powder factor was not allowed to become excessive. Again the 2D profiles were
consulted and the explosives loading calculated such that the front, 60 degree hole, had about 60 feet (19
m) of stemming with the other two angled holes loaded to hold about 50 feet (15 m) of stemming.
As mentioned five to six rows of holes were planned. The final row was designed with half the spacing
between holes to act as a pusher row that would leave a clean final wall as well as ensure that the
broken rock was indeed pushed well away from the high wall, to allow safe digging of the resultant
muckpile.
In order to mimic the coyote blast design, the rest of the vertical holes in the pattern were held at either
20 or 40 feet (6 or 12 m) of stemming alternating hole to hole along each row. See Figure 10 for a plan
view of the hole layout.

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Figure 10. Plan view of blast pattern and timing plan

Explosives Loading
It took more than a week to load this blast with over 215,000 lbs (98,000 kg) of explosives using shot
bags of high energy water proof emulsion and lower energy WR (Water Resistant) Anfo from.
The loading process required that after measuring both the hole depth and the depth of static water, each
hole first be dewatered (using a 220V well pump that was hauled up the access ramp by hand). The shot
bags were loaded to the depth of the static water and then the WR Anfo poured down.
Up to electronic detonators were used to prime up to four boosters in each hole in order to have a very
dependable initiation that could be tested before firing. See Figure 11. Multiple primers were used to
ensure that any shifting of the rock during detonation would not leave explosives without an initiation
point a safety measure required because access to misfired explosives would be extremely difficult
given the one time nature of the blast. Electronic detonators were selected as they can be tested to
ensure that proper timing identification and communication can be achieved with each detonator during
each step of the loading process: before and after loading down the hole, before the adding the stemming
and finally before initiating the blast.

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Figure 11. Example hole loading diagram

As noted earlier each row was to be shot on the same delay, to foster the propagation of cracks between
holes as is done in a pre-split. However a relatively (from a quarrying perspective) long delay of
between 200 ms and 500 ms was allowed between rows to allow the rock to start to move forward and
then fall away, and not impede the movement of the following row. See Figure 12 for the initiation
pattern and the timing contours showing how each hole in each row effectively shot on the same timing.

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Figure 12. Initiation design and timing contours

It was obvious that this method of blasting would generate relatively high vibration levels and airblast,
but given there were no neighbors or occupied dwellings in the immediate vicinity - the nearest structure
of concern was over 2.5 miles (4 km) from the blast site - this would be acceptable. Figure 13 shows the
results of one of the seismographs, this one located 1.6 miles (2.6 km) from the blast. The maximum
PPV was about 1 in/s (25 mm/s) with an airblast reading of 135dB.

Figure 13. Seismograph results at 1.6 miles from blast

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Blasting Results
The initial multiple level blasting process and financial estimates for this contract were based on an
expected minimum yield of 25% of usable material.
However after the single blast, once the muckpile had been loaded out and processed, it actually
generated over 45% usable material, leaving the project with a valuable stockpile of Armor Rock, B
Rock and Core Rock for future endeavors. See Figure 14.

Figure 14. Side view of the muckpile showing the large amount of usable material
Conclusion
The highly productive outcome of this One shot One chance for success blast showcases the art of
the possible that can be achieved by some lateral thinking and thoughtful coordination between the
explosives provider and the project owner. In order to meet the contractual deadline for production of
the breakwater material, the explosives team was left with a very short timeline to deliver more rock in
one blast than some quarries shoot in a year. Pushing the capabilities of a down-the-hole hammer drill to
its limits in order to drill 150 feet (45 m) deep holes in hard granite, bringing up drilling mud to maintain
adequate drilling pressures, using laser profiling to generate accurate burden tables, designing an
unconventional pattern to mimic a bygone blasting technique and then timing the shot with the most
accurate, and testable, electronic detonators available, resulted in a blast that proved to be both safe and
effective - resulting in a higher yield of usable rock than would have been possible using more
conventional, slower, methods.
Acknowledgements
Orica USA would like to thank the Advanced Blasting Team for collaborating on this paper and for
selecting Orica products for the project.

References
Technical Marketing Services (1968). CIL Blaster's Handbook. pp 331-339

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