The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

Summary of Surface Blasting and Damages with Analysis of Two Mitigation Techniques – Presplit and Smooth Blasting

1.0 - Introduction

Explosives have been used by humans as an effective tool since ancient times, typically in the art of war.  Blasting, however, utilizes explosives in a constructive way by focusing the vast energy produced by the explosion towards breaking rock masses into more manageable fragment sizes, while simultaneously mitigating the damages caused by the explosions to other structures or permanent rock masses.  Rock blasting has been used in mining for hundreds of years and continues up to this day, but other uses, like excavation of rock slopes for highways through mountains or the preparation of rock for the foundations of buildings, has grown considerably within the last century. 

As blasting has become more extensive, the damages caused have grown as well.  For the extent of this paper, the discussion of damages will be limited to a general sense and two specific case histories, the Ekati Mine in Canada and the excavation of high rock slopes in China.  Damages can be considered loss of strength to the remaining rock mass in which the blasting occurs.  Like many procedures that are centuries old, blasting was once simply done by intuition and experience.  As the use of blasting progressed, however, how to blast became better documented in manuals and textbooks to move blasting away from rules of thumb into a more scientific method, and with this progression, ways to limit the extent of damage by using certain techniques, such as presplit and smooth blasting.

Understanding of the damages resulting from blasting must stem from knowledge of blasting itself.  Therefore, preceding the discussion on blast mitigation is a general overview of surface blasting.  The mechanics of rock blasting and the uses of blasting, some of which were listed previously, will be discussed.  Additionally, the typical terms and components of a blast will be outlined.  Finally, the damages associated with blasting will be summarized before the specific case histories are evaluated.

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