Minimising Backbreak at the Dewan Cement Limestone Quarry Using an Artificial Neural Network

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Backbreak, defined as excessive breakage behind the last row of blastholes in blasting operations at a quarry, causes destabilisation of rock slopes, improper fragmentation, minimises drilling efficiency. In this paper an artificial neural network (ANN) is applied to predict backbreak, using 12 input parameters representing various controllable factors, such as the characteristics of explosives and geometrical blast design, at the Dewan Cement limestone quarry in Hattar, Pakistan. This ANN was trained with several model architectures. The 12-2-1 ANN model was selected as the simplest model yielding the best result, with a reported correlation coefficient of 0.98 and 0.97 in the training and validation phases, respectively. Sensitivity analysis of the model suggested that backbreak can be reduced most effectively by reducing powder factor, blasthole inclination, and burden. Field tests were subsequently carried out in which these sensitive parameters were varied accordingly; as a result, backbreak was controlled and reduced from 8 m to less than a metre. The resulting reduction in powder factor (kg of explosives used per m3 of blasted material) also reduced blasting costs.

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