Customers in the underground mining industry can look forward to safer, efficient and more productive development blasting as early as the end of 2021, as Orica and Epiroc commence commissioning on Avatel, the first-of-its-kind, industry-driven explosives delivery system in coming weeks.

A sought-after technology by customers in the underground hard rock mining sector, Avatel will deliver a completely new way of approaching development blasting operations by eliminating charge crew exposure at the face.

The solution provides safe access for an operator in cab to execute the development cycle while reducing the reliance on costly, time-consuming and at-times ineffective controls put in place to manage the risks to personnel working in one of the highest risk areas of an underground mine.

Angus Melbourne, Orica’s Chief Commercial and Technology Officer said: “The mining industry is moving rapidly toward a digitally integrated and automated future, and Avatel will fulfil our shared vision of developing safer and more productive blasting solutions.

“Achieving this significant development milestone, despite COVID-19 disruptions, shows the strength of our collaboration with Epiroc and our collective ability to deliver the future of mining.”

Epiroc’s Sami Niiranen, President with Underground division at Epiroc said: “With this partnership, we continue to raise the safety bar by combining world leading technologies that will make a difference in underground mines.”

”The Avatel prototype represents the first step towards autonomous charging – a vital step in the journey toward safer and more productive blasting operations underground,” continued Niiranen. “We are looking forward to bringing this ground-breaking solution to customers worldwide.”

Built on the foundation of Epiroc’s proven Boomer M2 carrier and integrated with Orica’s latest explosives technology, Avatel is a twin boom, semi-autonomous and fully mechanized development charging solution that allows a single operator to complete the entire charging cycle from the safety of Epiroc’s enclosed ROPS and FOPS certified cabin.

Avatel is equipped with the most sophisticated version of Epiroc’s acclaimed Rig Control System (version 5), through its intuitive interface with a large touchscreen and dual multifunctional joysticks, combined with Epiroc´s computer assisted boom positioning features, it will be easily handled. Integrated with Orica’s Load plus, charge plans and important data will be communicated between the systems.

The advanced and robust feed design of Avatel builds on Epiroc’s solid application design experience, further adapted to match conditions this new solution will face. Future developments can be extended to other Epiroc carriers including battery driveline. Other key advantages include flexibility at the face through Epiroc´s dual diesel/electric plug in power solution.

A key enabling technology of Avatel and Orica’s automation vision is WebGen, the world’s first fully wireless initiation system. When combined with Orica’s LOADPlus smart control system, specifically designed onboard storage, assembly, digital encoding capability and Subtek Control bulk emulsion, Avatel provides customers with complete and repeatable control over blast energy from design through to execution.

The convergence of these technologies ultimately ensures that the right explosives will be safely delivered into the right holes and given the right timing to achieve optimal efficiencies and the desired outcomes.

Extensive trials of Avatel will take place throughout 2021, before the first commercially available systems are expected to enter service.

Epiroc announced in November 2019 that it had entered a partnership with Orica to develop a semi-automated explosives delivery system.