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Inaugural Blasting Seminar

On Tuesday, February 19 McCallum Rock Drilling held our first ever Drilling and Blasting Seminar in Portland, Oregon. More than 100 professionals from the construction, timber, and commercial quarry industries came from all over Oregon and Washington to learn more about drilling and blasting and how it impacts their day-to-day operations. We feel it is important for our customers to know exactly what we look for when we come to their job sites. If our customers know how we operate, we will have a better relationship and both parties can operate more efficiently and productively and this was the goal of our seminar.

The seminar began with Tyler McCallum’s discussion on drill and blast terminology, general rules of thumb, and some background information on McCallum Rock Drilling and McCallum Powder. After this, we covered what we look for when designing a blast. We reviewed the steps to designing a blast and common issues we deal with as well as ways to mitigate these issues. We explained different drill rig equipment benefits and limitations as well as various types of explosives products and how they apply to certain situations throughout our jobs.

Next up to speak was Heather Smith, a non-compliance member of MSHA based out of Albany, Oregon. Heather covered the important Part 46 training that is required for anyone who operates a surface mine. Many questions on jurisdiction have recently been raised in the industry and more people than ever before are getting their Part 46 training completed. Additionally, Heather covered the new Workplace Exam Rule that was rolled out recently by MSHA. This rule states that all facets of the work area must be inspected by a competent person prior to work each day at the mine site. This rule, like many of MSHA’s, has room for interpretation by each inspector, making it difficult at times for operators to abide by the rules. Heather’s role in MSHA is to try to help operators make better decisions to keep their employees safe and avoid citations.

Lloyd Hoots from Rockmore International spoke next about drill tools and bit wear. Lloyd explained the different designs of drill steel and bits and what the advantages and disadvantages are of each design. He also covered the main causes of bit wear. Bit wear is a fundamental issue for MRD considering we are constantly wearing down bits as we drill through rock. Different bits wear down in different ways which can make dealing with the wear challenging. Not only can bit wear slow down drilling production, but it can also lead to increased borehole deviation and a decrease in borehole diameter, which can both be detrimental to the performance of a blast.

In our afternoon session Steve Harris, the President of Austin Powder West, gave a detailed history of explosives and the Austin Powder brand. The history of explosives is always interesting considering the technological advancements that have been made throughout the years. Steve also explained in more technical terms the makeup of common explosive products used by McCallum Powder. Operators are often justifiably curious about explosive products. Although we try to avoid it inevitably there will be times when undetonated product is left in the ground after a blast, only to be dug out by the operator days or weeks later. It is critical that operators know what to look for when digging out a muckpile from a blast.

Dr. Cathy Aimone-Martin presented Air-Overpressure and Vibration Control. Dr. Aimone-Martin is an industry leader in vibration and air-overpressure caused by blasting and had some great technical information for attendees. Not all operators have to deal with neighbors or the general public when mining, however if they are ever faced with the need to drill and blast near structures or utilities they now know what is possible. With the technology we have available to us today we can control the impact drilling and blasting has on the surrounding environment.

Finally, Blake McMullin with Martin Marietta gave a presentation on why having a solid drilling and blasting program is so important to his company. Blake shared a few case studies showing how an improved and consistent drilling and blasting program has greatly increased production and efficiency in a number of Martin Marietta’s operations around the country.

We definitely learned a lot from this seminar, not only from the presentations but also from the attendees. MRD is a drilling and blasting company, not a seminar company. We will stick to our day job, however we learned a lot on what adjustments and changes will need to be made to have an even better seminar next year.

We are planning to hold a seminar again in 2020 and possibly broadening the scope of work we cover outside of just drilling and blasting in order to help more operators in our industry. If you are interested in attending next year’s seminar, please leave us a comment or email

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