Posted on 06 Aug 2013
A Queensland, Australia, technology company has invented a simple, yet sophisticated, plastic ball that helps miners track down lost gold.
Brisbane-based Blast Movement Technologies produces blast-movement monitors (BMMs) — plastic balls that are installed near valuable mineral resources in dedicated drill holes before blasting and are easily located after a blast, enabling production teams to know exactly where ore and waste are so they can be separated.
The single-use balls are made of glass-reinforced nylon. They contain directional transmitters that are programmed and activated before a blast and located afterward with a portable detector.
Dedicated software is used to calculate the depth and precise 3-D movement vector of each BMM. That information is then used to quickly redefine ore boundaries to reflect the measured movement, enabling more precise selection of ore and waste after the blast.
Darren Thornton, director and principal consultant of Blast Movement Technologies, said that for a mine producing 500,000 ounces of gold a year, the typical loss of 5% is worth about $35m (€26.4m) a year. Most operations have greater ore loss than that and, in some cases, it has been measured to be as much as 20%.
Thornton said a $200,000 (€150,572) investment in the plastic balls will cover an entire year’s blast monitoring program and the benefits will be tens of millions of dollars.
Miners around the world searching for gold, copper, nickel, zinc and iron ore have already been kicking goals with the balls. About 70% of the 14,000 balls produced in Queensland this year have gone overseas to mines in Ghana, Tanzania, Canada and Peru.
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