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Considerations on the Effect of

Blasting on Downstream Performance

Lyall Workman1 and Jack Eloranta2

In this paper results of drill to mill research are examined. It is found that several
descriptors of blasting results change when the powder factor is increased.
Fragmentation shifts toward a finer distribution. The Bond work index decreases and the
product of the t10 model breakage parameters increases. Both of these indicate more
softening of fragments.

There is research that found large differences in bond work index and other studies that
find a much smaller decrease. Even at the lower decrease, however, some savings in
energy cost can accrue in hard ores ground to small size.

This paper examines what is known and how this affects drill to mill results. Future
research needs are discussed. The role of powder factor is discussed and needed
research in this area is suggested.

Drill to mill blasting is a sophisticated blasting process. A successful program will

require understanding of a multivariate system and exacting control of the process. Six
sigma is discussed as a philosophy and methodology for exacting control of processes
that lends itself well to drill to mill systems

1. Lyall Workman, Calder & Workman, Inc,

2. Jack Eloranta, Eloranta & Associates, Inc

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A previous paper by the authors (2003) discussed the effect of blasting on crushing and
grinding energy consumption. The analysis was based primarily on research conducted
by Nielsen and Kristiansen (1996). These researchers related changes to Bond Work
Index, Wi, to changes in explosive energy input in taconite ore. The authors estimated
powder factor from their results and related this to savings in energy consumption in
taconite crushing and grinding. Substantial savings were projected.

Recent research has further examined change in Bond work index with powder factor
(Katsabanis, et al, 2008). This research also looked at the t10 model and the breakage
parameters A and b, in the t10 equation, as reported by Napier-Munn, et al (1996). The
work by Katsabanis and co-workers also studied timing effects on breakage.

In this paper we discuss softening of ore fragments in light of the recent research. What
is needed to further characterize the relationship of powder factor, softening and
crushing and grinding performance is discussed. It is essential to continue to work to
understand these relationships and the best descriptors of change because this will
allow blasters to better design blasts that meet downstream goals.

It appears clear that meeting the goals of blasting designed to best prepare material for
downstream operations requires close control of blast design and implementation. A
high standard of quality control is appropriate. One approach that we believe relevant is
six sigma. This is discussed below.

Blasting Energy Input vs Fragment Characteristics

It appears clear that employing a higher powder factor leads to finer fragmentation.
Certainly, the work by Katsabanis, et al indicates this in three types of granite. This is
the “seen” part of fragmentation and is most readily measured. An exception may be
when geological structure is so closely spaced that it largely overrides the role of
blasting in fragmentation.

The fragmentation distribution is important to primary crushing throughput and energy

consumption. Given that the primary crushing product distribution is related to the feed
size, it may also be important in subsequent stages of crushing.

The second effect of blasting is internal softening of individual fragments. It has been
established, for example, that blasting can generate microfractures within particles.
These fractures are microscopic in size and can be postulated to still exist within small
feed particles. Additionally, remnants of macrofractures may survive size reductions in
the stages of crushing.

The softening of fragments by internal damage is important to crushing. This is

particularly true regarding throughput. By Bond’s third law of comminution, it will also
affect energy use, but not to the same extent as is possible in grinding, where the feed to
product size change is much greater.

Therefore, microfractures and macrofracture remnants are of great importance to

grinding results. When these are produced by blasting and result in reduction to Bond
work index, or other measures of softening, grinding throughput and energy use

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2009G Volume 2 - Considerations on the Effect of Blasting on Downstream Performance 2 of 14
reduction should accrue. The previous paper by the authors demonstrated substantial
reduction in energy use.

The early work by Nielsen and Kristiansen in taconite reported quite large changes in
work index as the blasting energy increased. This data leads to large savings in energy
cost, primarily in grinding. Figure 1 is a graph of work index as a function powder factor
that the authors derived from the data reported by Nielsen and Kristiansen. It is
important to understand that the powder factors we calculated are an approximation and
not exact.

Figure 1: Work Index as a function of Powder

Factor, after Nielsen and Kristiansen


Work In dex, kwh/ton


0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8
Powder Factor, Kg/ton

Figure 1: Bond Work Index vs Power Factor (After Nielsen and Kristiansen)

The recent work by Katsabanis, et al, in granite reports the same trend of reduction in
work index with powder factor, but the reductions are much smaller. Figure 2 is a plot of
work index as a function of powder factor for three granites from their data.

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Work Index vs Powder Factor for Different Granites


Wo rk Ind ex, Kwh/t




0.0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1.0 1.1 1.2
Powder Factor, Kg/Cubic Meter

Barre Stanstead Laurentian

Poly. (Stanstead) Poly. (Laurentian)

Figure 2: Work Index vs Powder Factor for Different Granite Formations

(After Katsabanis, et al)

The lines on the graph are trend lines . For Barre this is a freeform line. This line was
placed by inspection. It is quite similar to a 2nd order polynomial trend line, but does not
trend to increased work index at the highest power factors as does the polynomial. The
others are a 2nd order polynomial.

In examining these two graphs one observes that both show a trend of decreasing work
index with increasing powder factor. One also notes that the reduction is much less in
figure 2 than in figure 1. For both Barre and Standstead the reduction in Wi tapers off at
the higher powder factors. For Laurentian granite some further reduction may be
possible if the powder factor is increased more. However, this is not supported by the t10
results shown below.

Table 1 lists the energy consumption and energy cost in taconite for two different powder
factors. An eight percent reduction in the Bond work index is assumed at the higher

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powder factor. For the lower powder factor the published work index of 14.87 is

The explosive is a heavy ANFO producing 3.35 MJ/Kg (801 cal/gm). Initially a powder
factor of 0.26 kg/ton is assumed. An eighty percent passing product size of 40 cm from
blasting is considered a reasonable approximation. The feed size is considered to be
infinite, although, depending on geology a smaller initial block size is possible.

The powder factor is then increased by 1.75 times to 0.45 kg/ton. Examining the
fragmentation curves published by Katsabanis et al a twenty percent reduction in
product size to 30 cm appears reasonable.

Size reduction is obtained by blasting, two stages of crushing, and grinding to 80 percent
270 mesh. Using Bond to determine work input, $0.56/kg for the HANFO and power at
$0.07/Kwh the results in the table are obtained

Table 1: Energy Consumption and Energy Cost for Different Powder Factors

Operation Feed Size Product Size Work Input Energy Cost

cm cm Kwh/ton $/ton
0.26 Kg/T
Explosives ∞ 40 .24 0.148
Primary crushing 40 10.2 .22 0.015
Secondary crushing 10.2 1.91 0.61 0.043
Grinding 1.91 0.0053 19.29 1.350
Totals 20.36 $1.556
0.45 Kg/T
Explosives ∞ 30 0.27 0.252
Primary crushing 30 10.2 0.18 0.013
Secondary crushing 10.2 1.91 0.56 0.039
Grinding 1.91 0.0053 17.63 1.234
Totals 18.64 1.538

The results show that an eight percent reduction in work index yields 1.8 cents savings
for the higher powder factor. Approximately $720,000 can be saved annually for forty
million tons crushed. This is much less than calculated in the previous paper, but still a
significant sum

The results are sensitive to the cost of explosives and power. Higher power cost will
lead to more savings. Similarly reduction in explosive cost will increase savings. For
example, if the HANFO costs $0.45/Kg the savings at the higher powder factor are 3.6
cents per ton, or about double.

These calculations do not address other benefits from softening of the fragments like
throughput and reduced maintenance. Therefore, although the reduction in Bond work
index is not great there can still be appreciable benefit from changes in the
fragmentation distribution and the internal softening that does occur.

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Drop Weight Testing
Another approach to assessing the effect of different powder factors is to subject
individual fragments to a drop test as described by Napier-Munn et al (1996). This test
was applied by Katsabanis, et al (2008).

Of particular interest is the percent passing one-tenth the initial mean particle size. This
value is related to the impact energy using the following equation.

t10 = A 1 − e − bEcs )
Where: t10 = Percent passing one tenth the initial size
A, b = Breakage parameters
Ecs = Specific impact energy, Kwh/t

The product Ab is of particular interest as it is the initial slope of the curve relating t10 and
Ecs. It is therefore considered to be a good measure of softening. Increased Ab means
greater softening

The work by Katsabanis et al demonstrated that Ab increased as the powder factor

increased. Figure 3, derived from their data, shows this.

The trend is clear on this graph. The product Ab increases as the powder factor is
increased, indicating more softening. The magnitude of the change is declining as more
explosive is used. This is seen in figure 4 where the percent change is plotted as a
function of powder factor.

Ab as a Function of Powder Factor









0.00 0.50 1.00 1.50
Powder Factor, Kg/Cubic Meter

Barre Stanstead Laurentain

Figure 3: Ab Versus Powder Factor in Different Granites

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Percent Change in Ab with Increasing PF









0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1 1.1 1.2 1.3
Powder Factor, Kg/Cubic Meter

Barre Stanstead Laurentian

Figure 4: Percent Change in Ab as the Powder Factor Increases

The trends in Ab and the work index in figure 2 correspond. Since there is a relationship
between Ab and Wi, this is expected.

Napier-Munn et al have claimed that change in Ab correlates well with SAG mill results.
However, there appears to be limited published work on this. A study that measures Ab
and also measures SAG mill performance with regard to throughput and energy
consumption is needed.

In a study of this type the work index, Wi should also be carefully measured. Given the
results of investigations to this point there appears to be a question as to whether the
Bond work index is the best descriptor of drill to mill results, or whether t10 and the
product of Ab may be a better measure.

Role of Powder Factor

The trend typically seen is finer fragmentation and more softening of particles as the
powder factor is increased. In general terms, this is expected to result from additional
energy imparted to the surrounding rock mass.

Powder factor can be increased by the use of an explosive of higher density on the
same pattern or by decreasing the burden and spacing with the same explosive. One
can also use a combination of these two choices.

To increase the powder factor by adjusting the blast pattern, the burden and spacing are
reduced accordingly. For any spatial arrangement of holes the point furthest from a
blasthole is less than before.

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To increase the powder factor by using a more dense explosive, the pattern remains the
same or nearly so. The point furthest from a blasthole is the same as before.

A stress is imparted to the ground upon detonation that is related to the borehole
pressure generated. This stress will decay as the square of the distance from the

The velocity of detonation of an explosive is related to density, increasing as the density

increases. The borehole pressure is a direct function of both the density and the square
of the detonation velocity. Therefore the detonation pressure will increase with
increased density in most cases. The borehole pressure can be approximated as one-
half the detonation pressure. Thus larger stress is imparted to the ground.

Assuming millisecond delay timing does not interfere with the magnitude of the stress,
the fragmentation at the furthest point from a blasthole may improve (as would the size
distribution back toward the borehole). Similarly, there may be more internal softening of
fragments formed due to the higher stresses.

When the powder factor is adjusted by closing up the pattern the initial stress will remain
the same, but the furthest distance to a blasthole is decreased by the geometric
arrangement. Thus, it may be expected that fragmentation distribution and softening will
improve at distance from the nearest holes.

It will be of interest to perform a study that carefully locates blastholes prior to detonation
and subsequently locates them in the resultant blast. Determining the location of the
holes after blasting is more challenging. However, while difficult, with laser profile
equipment high speed cameras and gps systems a reasonable location should be
possible in a well designed blast that displaces in an orderly fashion.

Then, using image analysis systems, such as WipFrag, the changes in fragmentation
distribution at various distances from the nearest holes can be measured. Bond work
index and the t10 model parameters can also be examined. This may provide us
additional insight into the role of powder factor.

Field Results
Drill to mill optimization of blasting programs has been developing for several years now.
There are reports of substantial benefit deriving from the implementation of this

Early work by Eloranta (2002) showed this. He increased powder factors in taconite ore.
This led to significant increase in the life of rods in the rod mill, indicating softening of the
feed fragments.
Paley and Kojovic (2001) reported on the results of implementing drill to mill techniques
at the Red Dog mine. These authors reported savings that exceeded $30 million
annually. These are total savings, not energy savings alone. They also indicated that
there was potential for additional improvement.

McKinstry (2004) reported increased throughput and cost savings from a drill to mill
implementation at the Barrick Goldstrike mine. This work included the use of electronic
delays for precise firing times.

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These and other studies indicate clear benefits from a blasting paradigm that looks well
beyond the diggability of the material. These “end user” reports are important because,
regardless of the state of theoretical understanding at this time, there is evidence that
implementing a drill to mill strategy does lead to important gains in productivity and cost

Examination of the research shows that there is typically a trend to finer fragmentation
and softening of fragments from heavier blasting. One can expect changes in crusher
and mill throughput associated with this change. However, the magnitude of the change
is not clear. Part of this is very likely due to variations between rock types. There is also
the question of the best descriptor of change, or whether studying more than one
measure of fragment softening is needed.

Study of the effect of powder factor on the Bond work index shows mixed results. One
study discussed herein found large changes in Wi with increases in powder factor in
taconite. Another study recorded only small changes in Wi for increased powder factor
in different granites.

The difference may be associated with the fact that different rocks are involved. Grain
size and other factors can impact the degree to which Bond work index is affected by
blasting energy input. To the extent this is true, it suggests that the effect of blasting on
Wi is specific to the rock under investigation and needs to be evaluated on a case by
case basis.

There is also the question of the utility of the work index as the descriptor of downstream
results from blasting change. It is a useful parameter in the sense that Wi has been
measured for many rocks. In addition Bond had the advantage of being able to compare
laboratory scale measurements with much industrial grinding data and thereby
rationalize laboratory results.

However, the Bond index is an empirically derived result. As such, it is most useful
within the range where measurement was made. Also, it is less connected to basic
theory than would be an expression derived from first principles. Such an expression
has not been definitively forthcoming although studies reported by K. S. Free, et al
(2004) have attempted to move in that direction. The Bond work index is likely best
viewed as a first approximation of what occurs as a result of different levels of blasting

Finally, a Russian study (Mertz, et al) showed continued improvement at very high
powder factors. Blast energy was varied from 0.8 kg/m^3 up to as high as 20kg/m^3.
Findings were published up to 5.5 kg/m^3 (3.9 lbs/T).

Power consumption in crushing fell by 40% when the powder factor rose from 0.25 Kg/T
to 1.43 Kg/T. Magnetic separation was used to recover magnetite in the operation
studied. The liberation of the ore was also improved due to micro-cracks between
mineral boundaries formed during blasting. The study found an increasing number of
cracks at higher powder factors.

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Mertz, et al did not relate the hardness of the fragments to work index. However, it is of
interest to note that these authors found benefit at considerably higher powder factors
than are normally considered in optimization programs.

Increased stress at points away from the borehole can help explain why improved
results were seen, even at unusually high powder factors.

Another approach to measuring the results of changes to blasting is the t10 model. This
model was originally developed by JKMRC (Narayanan and Whiten, 1988). A modified
form of the equation was developed at the Utah Comminution Center and reported by
Milin (1994)The product of the breakage parameters A and b is said to be a good
measure of the softening of particles. The recent research by Katsabanis, et al has
shown that the product Ab is higher when the powder factor is increased and this
indicates more softening.

A study is needed that measures Ab for rock in blasts having different powder factors.
The throughput and power consumption of SAG mills processing this ore should also be
measured. This will help establish the relationship of the t10 model to actual mill results.

At the same time Bond work index can be measured. With Bond, the t10 results and
SAG mill performance, more clarity about the best descriptors of the effects of blasting
on downstream processes can be gained.

With research of this sort it will be possible to better understand where gains from
blasting can be best made. Is in throughput, in stages of crushing, in grinding, etc? At
this point the answer is not entirely clear and may in fact differ for different projects.

One cannot discount the results of actual drill to mill implementations. There is ample
evidence that mines have improved results by designing blasts intended to affect
operations much further downstream than traditionally considered. Therefore, operators
should not be discouraged from attempting drill to mill implementations by the state of
the theoretical understanding.

Greater theoretical understanding is important, however, to maximizing the benefit of drill

to mill blasting programs. The more understanding there is at the basic level the more
effective the drill to mill process will be. Thus, research in this field is very important and
must continue.

Exacting control of the blasting process is required

Drill to mill optimization will only be successful if the blasting is a carefully controlled
process. When changes to Bond work index or other measures of softening are not
large, poor quality control will produce inconsistent results.

If a large degree of softening is achieved, it will mask losses due to poor design and
implementation. Therefore, production and economic benefit that could have been
achieved will be lost.

Six sigma is a management and quality control approach that lends itself to the drill to
mill process. Six sigma is a system of management intended to achieve world-class
results. It sets a goal of near perfection and provides a framework of statistical analysis

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to measure and improve the performance of a process. Therefore six sigma can be
thought of as a philosophy, but also as a systematic method of measurement and

Sigma is the Greek letter representing the standard deviation of a population. For a
normal distribution, 34 percent of observations are between the mean and sigma. Six
sigma, as used in the six sigma management method, refers to six standard deviations
to each side of the mean (Pande, Neuman, and Cavanagh, 2000). This very exacting
standard of performance means 99.9997 percent of occurrences are between the mean
and six sigma.

For example, suppose we have set a standard that drill holes must not be more than 1
foot away from the designed hole location. Then 99.9997 percent of drill holes must fall
between the designed location and one foot away. This is a challenging standard.

The six sigma problem solving process involves five steps. Define, measure, analyze,
improve and control. This process is known by the acronym DMAIC. Six sigma lends
itself very well to drill to mill projects because the model is very much in line with what
one is attempting to do.

Consequently, this approach provides both a model for achieving process improvement
and an exacting standard of quality control that must be met. Some of the variables that
can be subjected to six sigma quality standards include:

• Geology interpretation
• Blast design
• Drilling accuracy (burden, spacing and depth)
• Explosive selection
• Explosive loading
• Explosives quality
• Stemming quality and quantity
• Delay timing design
• Delay timing accuracy
• Front row hole placement
• Blast site preparation and laying out the blastholes
• Fragmentation distribution

Therefore, optimizing blasting for downstream operations is a multivariate problem and

challenging to understand and control. Success will depend on having a highly
controlled process in place that can repeatedly meet goals.

The question does arise as to the meaning of six sigma in a less controlled environment
than is represented by a manufacturing process for example. Some components such
as drilling accuracy and explosive quality are highly controllable. Others like geological
understanding and fragmentation distribution may be more difficult to control to the same
degree at acceptable cost.

In part, the problem of dealing with Mother Nature may be dealt with by the allowed
variance chosen. It should always be remembered that six sigma is both a philosophy
and a method. The philosophy of high standards of control should always stand.

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2009G Volume 2 - Considerations on the Effect of Blasting on Downstream Performance 11 of 14
However, the quantitative methods may need to take into account the nature of the
process being improved.

What is certain is that without a control process that is exacting, in a realistic way, it is
not likely that the benefits of drill to mill will be consistently achieved. Therefore, it is
necessary to consider design and control of these blasting programs differently than has
often been the case in the past. The goal is challenging but the evidence indicates that
the reward is substantial.

Research has shown that Bond work index and t10 model parameters change when the
powder factor is varied. These measures show softening of fragments at higher powder
factor. Studies also demonstrate that fragmentation curves shift to finer fragmentation
for higher powder factor.

Different studies have shown significant variation in the magnitude of change of the
work index. This is almost certainly due in part to differences between rock types. It
may also be partly caused by differences in experimental procedure. The empirical
nature of the parameter may also lead to differences.

The analysis in this paper indicates that a decrease in Bond work index of at least eight
percent is required to produce grinding energy savings in taconite ore.

The t10 model is also useful to measure softening and has a relation to work index.
Therefore, it appears to also be a useful measure of the effect of blasting on subsequent
fragment behavior.

The best descriptor of downstream benefit from heavier blasting is unclear. More likely,
a combination of Bond work index and the t10 breakage parameters will provide the best
estimates. More work is needed relating the t10 breakage parameters to actual SAG mill
performance. Increased understanding of the amount of change needed in the
measures of material hardness to impact downstream operations will be beneficial.

Field research that examines the effect of powder factor at different distances from
detonated blastholes will be beneficial to understanding powder factor effects in the field
environment, which is likely to be impacted by a variety of factors such as structural

Exacting control of blasting is necessary to obtain all the gains of the drill to mill process.
The six sigma approach lends itself to such control, both as a philosophy and a
methodology. Mines contemplating drill to mill blasting need to decide how they will
achieve and maintain very high quality standards.

The question arises as to where the greatest benefit actually occurs. There is little
question at this time that throughput can be enhanced. The effect of powder factor on
the magnitude of change in Bond work index is less clear. Future work will help to clarify
whether the greatest benefit comes in stages of crushing, in grinding, and whether
throughput or energy saving is the greatest benefit. It is probable that different projects
will experience a different benefit set.

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2009G Volume 2 - Considerations on the Effect of Blasting on Downstream Performance 12 of 14
There is ample evidence at this point in time that drill to mill process does lead to major
improvements in throughput and costs. Therefore mines should be considering how to
blast, not just for diggability but also to best accommodate all related downstream unit
operations. Ultimately, what should be done is an economic decision based on
decreasing the total cost of mining and milling.

Bond, F. C., (1952) The Third Theory of Comminution, Mining Engineering, May pp 484-

Eloranta, J., (2002) The Role of Blast Operations in Metal Mining, Proc of the 28th
Annual Conference on Explosives and Blasting Technique, Feb., pp 45-54

Free, K. S.M. McCarter, M. K., and King, R. P., (2004) Evaluation of a New Method For
Work Index Evaluation Using Single Particle Impact Tests, SME Annual Meeting, Feb,
Denver, CO

Nielsen, K., and Kristiansen, J., (1996), Blasting-Crushing-Grinding: Optimisation of an

Integrated Comminution System. Proc. Of FRAGBLAST 5, Fragmentation by Blasting,
Montreal, Canada, August 25-29, pp 269-277.

P. D. Katsabanis, S. Kim. A. Tawadrous and J. Sigler, (2008) Effect of Powder Factor

and Timing on the Impact Breakage of Rocks, Proc of 34th Annual Conference on
Explosives and Blasting Technique, Jan., New Orleans

McKinstry, R., Bolles, T. & Ranta, M., (2004) Implementation of Electronic Detonators at
Barrick Goldstrike Mines, Inc., Proc of the 30th Annual Conference on Explosives and
Blasting Technique, Feb., New Orleans, LA

Mertz, U. S., Shvarzer, V. Ya., Gontarenko, P. A., and Galich, T. N., The Effect of
Intensive Explosive Impacts on the Technological Properties of Ferrous Quartzites, UDK

Napier-Munn, et al, (1996), Mineral Comminution Circuits, JKMRC Monograph Series in

Mining and Mineral Processing, JKMRC

Milin, L., 1994, Incomplete Beta Function Modeling of the t10 Procedure.
Internal Report, Comminution Center, University of Utah, pp. 43.

Narayanan, S.S., and Whiten, W. J., (1988), Determination of Comminution

Characteristics from Single-particle Breakage Tests and its Application
to Ball-mill Scale-up, Trans. Inst. Min. Metall., Sec. C, Vol. 97,

Paley, N., and Kojovic, T., (2001), Adjusting Blasting to Increase SAG Mill Throughput at
the Red Dog Mine, Proc of 27th Annual Conf. On Explosives and Blasting Research,
Orlando, FL.

Pande, Peter S., Neuman, Robert P., and Cavanagh, Roland R. (2000). The Six Sigma
Way, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, pp 11-12 and pp 25-27.

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2009G Volume 2 - Considerations on the Effect of Blasting on Downstream Performance 13 of 14
Workman, Lyall and Eloranta, Jack (2003), The Effects of Blasting on Crushing and
Grinding Efficiency and Energy Consumption, Proc of the 29th Annual Conference on
Explosives and Blasting Technique, Feb., Nashville, TN

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