Data Security in Mining and Aggregates: Keep Cybercriminals Locked Out


Think of any major company, and it has probably been a victim of a data breach. David McCandless provides an insightful and interactive map detailing global breaches, hacks and other data disasters spanning the past 13 years across multiple industries. It’s a scary sight to behold.

The mining and aggregates industries haven’t escaped the threat, and it’s easy to see why. Important data concerning politically sensitive agreements, environmental records and studies, and projects in the developmental pipeline are like gold to hackers and the commissioners of their services.

Here’s what site managers should know so they can put together a smarter data security plan.


The Scope

The data experts at Kroll Ontrack define a data breach as having sensitive, proprietary or confidential information “viewed, stolen or used by unauthorized third parties,” resulting in damage to property.

This is precisely what happened to Goldcorp Inc., one of Canada’s biggest mining companies, in April 2016. In the attack, the company had close to 15 GB of data compromised. Payroll information, budget documents, bank account details, employee passport scans and other important data were accessed.

Despite the amount of data compromised, Goldcorp CEO David Garofalo says the extent of the breach was “not of significant concern.” His team was lucky, but others haven’t been quite as fortunate.

One German steel mill was the victim of a cyber attack in December 2014 in which criminals seized control of operational procedures at the mill, thwarting processes and causing “massive damage,” according to a report from the German Federal Office for Information Security.

Pamela Cobb, writing about the incident for Security Intelligence, referred to “sophisticated social engineering and spear-phishing tactics” used to gain access to the mill’s office network. Cobb says the hacking fears portrayed in Hollywood blockbusters are materializing into reality.

And in June 2017, Maersk Group was attacked by cybercriminals, shutting down multiple business units and ships.


Bleak Figures

Looking at the numbers, it’s even worse than the case studies suggest. A PwC report from 2015 showed the rise in global cyberattacks from 3.4 million to 42.8 million between 2009 and 2014. The statistics reveal that more than a third of mining companies are at risk of being attacked.

Of the 35 mining companies surveyed in the report, only three attested to having advanced cybersecurity systems in place. The bulk cited having moderate systems in operation, which are two levels below advanced in terms of robustness. As many as 97 percent of the companies have been affected by malware.

The team at Crowell & Moring cite a report from Ernst & Young around the same time that suggested more than 40 percent of metals and mining companies surveyed had seen a rise in threats. While a 2016/17 report places cybersecurity at nine out of the top ten major risks facing the mining industry. Australian company Telstra’s Cyber Security 2016 issued a report that revealed business-interrupting security breaches were recorded twice as frequently as in 2014.

Part of the problem is the connectivity of new business. With the IoT (Internet of Things), remote access, multiple employee devices and centralized operational networks, the amount of critical data online is massive and growing.

At Computer Weekly, Bob Tarzey writes about four concerns facing IoT devices:

  • protection issues with devices transmitting sensitive data,
  • devices becoming entry points into IT infrastructure,
  • botnets using devices for denial of service (DoS) attacks,
  • and poorly defended IoT deployments.

The logic is simple: The more devices, the easier to get in.

Kevin Hua of AtlasTrend writes at Which-50 about how the IoT “effectively increases the ‘surface area’ available for breaches as more things are connected with each node becoming an entry point for attack.”

Mining and aggregates companies are under threat from a range of prospective cyberattackers, including foreign nation-states, service providers, and even environmental and political activists.

Another worrying source of attack, writes Richard Levick at Fast Company, is the “insider threat.”

Using the Bank of America’s $10 million loss in 2011 as an example, Levick laments how entire organizations can be held to account for one internal malefactor’s criminal acts.

Looming threats and the expansion of the IoT are serious causes for concern. So, what can be done to curb these crimes, and how ready are companies in the mining and aggregates industries to launch a defensive?


Battle Ready

A 2017 report from PwC states that of the 10,000 respondents surveyed from across multiple industries, more than half said “they actively monitor and analyze threat intelligence to help detect risks and incidents.” If mining and aggregates companies are sitting at similar figures, this leaves a big percentage sitting idly, waiting to become targets.

Even for those that are prepared for a cyber onslaught, it is a battle to keep pace with the fast-evolving methods of attack. Slashed IT budgets and inadequate training mean expertise to fight the scourge is limited.

Telstra’s report said 62 percent of organizations cited a lack of experts to implement security strategies. Speaking with Mining Journal, Alan Hindes at Telstra says, “Security budgets were a big issue 18 months ago, but now the challenge is finding talent with the necessary security skills.”

Skills aside, another problem is the delegation of responsibility and decision-making. As migration to the cloud continues with pace, further risks arise. Telstra’s Director of Security, Neil Campbell, dubs this the “shadow IT” problem. Defenses weaken as other branches of an organization incorporate and manage services in the cloud without the necessary security protocols insisted on by IT.

The Telstra report recorded only 22 percent of companies across industries are equipped to deal with the risks involved in cloud-based service adoption. Hindes and Campbell suggest the BYOD (bring your own device) culture as a reason for every organization to treat cybersecurity as if it were a major bank protecting clients’ personal and businesses’ financial information.


A Question of Law

UK solicitor Jowanna Conboye writes how businesses only picked up digital communications in the 90s, and the laws have been even slower keeping pace. The EU’s Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC was passed in 1995 and applied in the UK as the Data Protection Act in 1998.

Change is coming, however. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (or GDPR) was passed in 2016 and takes effect in 2018.

The US, the Crowell team writes, has also been proactive. In 2015, President Barack Obama issued an executive order titled ‘Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities’ after calling cyberthreats a “national emergency.”

This allowed the U.S. Department of the Treasury to freeze assets and bar transactions of entities engaged in cyberattacks.

While the change in laws is essential to deal with this growing threat, it does not mean the process will be easy for mining and aggregates companies. There will be plenty to do to become compliant, as well as there being greater urgency to report data breaches timeously.


How to Stay Safe?

It almost feels counterintuitive given the innate competitiveness in business, but the advice from the experts is to share. An important part of generating awareness of cyberthreats and the means to defend data against them requires sharing intelligence.

The 2017 PwC report notes how sharing data “can provide actionable intelligence that enables organizations to gain visibility into their most relevant risks and more quickly detect and respond to incidents.”

But these processes need to be agile and “ingest data, analyze activity, classify and validate threats, and push alerts — all in real time”.

It’s important to think of cybersecurity as a business risk and cost rather than specifically an IT consideration. It needs to take center stage in budgeting considerations and training programs. Creating awareness among all employees at every level is a fundamental component of basic safety. There also has to be accountability records built into the processes.

Tim Cannon suggests companies invest in education. Writing at Wired about healthcare in particular, thought the lessons apply to all industries, Cannon talks about a “disconnect” in how IT firms hire talent. This leads to employers picking experience over education, which is not a good long-term strategy.

Cannon suggests partnerships with colleges and universities to train the next generation of security experts. Additionally, increased training is essential for existing staff to help bolster defenses.


Response Plan

All organizations need to have a response plan laid out in advance. There is no time to develop a strategy retroactively. The plan needs to include methods for detecting clients and partners who have had data accessed, how much of it has been compromised and how sensitive that data is.

Additionally, the plan needs to lay out how to notify those affected, briefing the press and minimizing damage. Production cannot be halted in the wake of an attack, and user systems and key servers need to be restorable from backups.

Cobb referenced the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Quarterly as a useful guide in the wake of the attack on the German steel mill. The report suggests organizations perform regular tests, implement secure design and development practices, and follow industry best practices for the IoT, as suggested by the Open Web Application Security Project.

As the IoT continues to integrate deeper into every aspect of modern life, we all become more connected. In many ways, this streamlines business processes and facilitates global cooperation. The downside is the remote reach of criminals lurking in cyber shadows ready to steal data, compromise security and disrupt operations.

Proper training of staff, good cyberhygiene and robust defense systems are essential to keep mining and aggregates companies safe. Should these defenses fail, they’ll need a fast-moving reaction plan to mitigate damage and keep up production.

Images by: Joshua Sortino, Koushik C, Markus Spiske

Women in Mining and Aggregates: 17 Leaders to Follow

It’s not a big secret that mining and aggregates tend to be male-dominated industries. Women are especially underrepresented in STEM fields.

And yet study after study after study has found a positive correlation between company performance and gender diversity, especially when women are fairly represented in positions of leadership.

So, we feel it’s necessary to take a moment to celebrate the women who are currently shaping the mining and aggregates industries with their knowledge, skills and hard work.

Their stories are especially important for any girls and young women reading right now. To those readers, know that there is a place for you in mining, in aggregates and in any industry where people show up to work with a hard hat.

Here are 17 women who have found success in such industries.


Dr. Kathy Altman, Roscoe Postle Associates

Kathy Altman, P.E., Ph.D., is RPA’s director of metallurgy and mineral processing as well as the company’s principal metallurgist, a role to which she brings more than 30 years of industry experience. That experience includes work as a consultant and in academia — Dr. Altman was an associate at the University of Nevada, Reno from 2005 to 2009.


Lynda Bloom, Analytical Solutions Ltd.

Lynda Bloom has been the president of consultancy Analytical Solutions Ltd. for more than 30 years, which makes her one of the foremost experts in Canada and around the world in mineral and geochemical exploration. She is one of the mining industry’s go-to people in Canada when a company needs guidance with the NI 43-101 standards of disclosure regulation compliance.


Laurie Brlas, Calpine Corporation

Laurie Brlas joined the board of directors at Calpine in August 2016, and she is a member of the corporation’s audit committee. Prior to that, she spent a decade and a half in executive-level roles at Newmont Mining Corporation, Cliffs Natural Resources and STERIS, the latter a healthcare products company.


Wanda Burget, Accord Resource Solutions

Wanda Burget is the owner and principal at Accord Resource Solutions, a consultancy that helps clients with a variety of challenges related to developing, conserving or using natural resources. Burget herself brings more than 35 years of experience with data management, mineral leasing at the federal level, compliance and policy, and sustainable development.


Ann Carpenter, Remote Energy Solutions

Ann Carpenter is the president and CEO at Remote Energy Solutions, a firm that helps its clients with questions related to energy supply, land use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the mining and extractive industries.

She is also founder, president, CEO and director at Osgood Mountains Gold, which explores and develops gold mining sites in Nevada.


Kristin Gaines, Millennium Bulk Terminals

Kristin Gaines joined Millennium Bulk Terminals in early 2011 and currently serves as the company’s vice president of environmental planning and services, which means she is the go-to person for compliance, permitting and remediation. She brings more than 25 years of experience to that role in remediation, environmental management and brownfield redevelopment, among others.


Dr. Diane Garrett, Oceana Gold

Diane R. Garrett, Ph.D., was appointed to Oceana Gold’s board in 2015 after more than 20 years in senior management and financial roles in the natural resources sector, including president and CEO of Romarco Minerals and vice president of corporate development at Dayton Mining Corporation.

Shortly after her appointment at Oceana Gold, she was also appointed president, CEO and director at Canadian mining company Wellgreen Platinum Ltd.


Dr. Sarah Gordon, Satarla

Sarah Gordon is the founder and CEO of risk management consultancy Satarla, which has offices in London and Johannesburg. Before founding her consultancy, Dr. Gordon — whose doctorate-level research explored the composition of primitive meteorites — worked with AngloAmerican at sites and offices in Europe, Africa and South America.


Katie Jeremiah, Aggregate Resource Industries Inc.

Katie Jeremiah is a co-owner and the vice president at Aggregate Resource Industries Inc., a family company in Springfield, Oregon. Her background is actually in construction law, but she recently joined the company her father founded alongside her brother, Kris. Katie is the company’s legal counsel, and she handles business operations plus regulatory compliance.


Veronica Nyhan Jones, International Finance Corporation

Veronica Nyhan Jones is the global head of International Finance Corporation’s sustainable business advisory, where her team focuses on infrastructure and natural resource development. Before taking on this role, Jones had worked for the World Bank, at the White House and in the U.S Dept. for Health and Human Services.


Zayaan Kahn, Rio Tinto

Zayaan Kahn heads up Rio Tinto Copper and Coal’s marketing intelligence team in Singapore, a role to which she brings more than a decade of experience in mining and public policy. Kahn is also the founder of WIMAR SG, Singapore’s chapter of the Women in Mining and Resources Network.


Debbie Laney, Nalco

Debbie Laney, P.E. is the R&D manager at Nalco’s Global Mining & Metals Research Group, where she and her team develop flotation chemicals for the mining industry. Laney brings to the team extensive experience as a chief metallurgist, superintendent and project manager in several different mining companies. She has also served as president of the Women’s Mining Coalition, where she now sits on the advisory board.


Dr. Angelique Lasseigne, Generation 2 Materials Technology

Dr. Angelique Lasseigne is the founder and CTO at Generation 2 Materials Technology, which is developing new sets of non-destructive evaluation tools for better understand the properties of materials used in industry. Dr. Lasseigne brings to the team a Ph.D. in metallurgical engineering, 80-plus publications, and a special expertise and understanding of how hydrogen interacts with metals.


Julie Lucas, Cliffs Natural Resources

Julie Lucas is the environmental manager at Hibbing Taconite, a company owned by Cliffs Natural Resources. For more than six years, she has overseen the waste management, wetland sustainability, and air and water quality compliance aspects — among others — of an environmental management system at an iron ore facility in Minnesota that employs more than 700 people.


Dr. Priscilla Nelson, Colorado School of Mines

Dr. Priscilla Nelson is the head of the Colorado School of Mines Department of Mining Engineering, a position she has held since 2014. She is also the creator of the site, which finds and curates collections of children’s books about engineering to make them easily accessible for K-4 students interested in engineering and STEM fields.


Shastri Ramnath, Orix Geoscience

Shastri Ramnath is the founder, president and principal geologist at Orix Geoscience, Inc. in Canada, a role to which she brings more than 15 years of experience in global exploration, resource estimation and modelling, and project evaluation. Ramnath founded Orix in 2012 to provide three-dimensional geological consulting services to exploration and mining companies.


Debra W. Struhsacker, Pershing Gold Corporation

Debra Struhsacker is a senior vice president at Pershing Gold Corporation, where she brings 30-plus years of experience in working with environmental and public land regulations. She is responsible for the company’s environmental permitting, regulatory and compliance issues, and government relations, and she brings extensive experience in working with policymakers in Washington on behalf of mineral exploration and mine development companies.


Safe Sites: New Site Regulations Area Managers Should Be Aware of in 2017

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female hand signing contract.

Due to shifting regulations, 2017 is shaping up to be a year of real uncertainty in the mining and construction industries. For executives and area managers who are simply trying to do their jobs, this uncertainty can be concerning.

We’re going to take a look at four regulations to keep your eyes on so you can stay on the right side of the law in 2017.


How to Navigate the MSHA’s Examination of Working Places Rule

On May 23, the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s new rule on examining workplaces will take effect. This will allow the MHSA to

  • conduct workplace examinations before work begins,
  • give notification to miners who are affected by hazardous conditions, and
  • have access to records of when and where examinations were carried out, as well as what conditions were found.

That all sounds fairly straightforward, but a couple of issues remain. First of all, will examinations conducted before someone’s work begins create new challenges?

“Currently, safety examinations must occur sometime during a shift, which could mean at the end of a shift when workers have already spent hours exposed to an undetected hazard,” Kristen Beckman writes at

“The new rule specifies that examinations must occur before work begins in an area, but that requirement prompts questions such as how mines that operate multiple or overlapping shifts will schedule examinations.”

The bigger issue, however, is one that will come up a few more times below — will the Trump administration change all of these policies drastically?

“The industry now, with the change in administration, will be in a wait-and-see approach to see what happens,” Jason Nutzman, a partner at Dinsmore & Shohl L.L.P., tells Beckman. “There is plenty of time for the Trump administration to pull it back, but it may not be high on their radar, so it may slip through the cracks.”

construction site at sunset

OSHA Enforcement Will Likely Change Under Trump

One organization that probably will not slip through the cracks is OSHA, which in October proposed 18 changes to its construction, recordkeeping, maritime and general industry standards.

The team at ConstructConnect has an excellent overview of what these changes would entail. Among 15 other changes, these would:

  • update the Mine Safety Health Administration’s standards on using diesel-powered equipment used underground,
  • require managers to ensure that cell phones can contact 911 effectively on the worksite,
  • and revise criteria for ascertaining whether a person’s hearing loss was work-related.

Legal experts, however, believe Trump administration plans for OSHA (which could include funding cuts) will reposition it as an organization that focuses more on compliance assistance and cooperation, not enforcement, Safety+Health’s Tom Musick writes.

Further, Justin M. Reese, assistant VP and senior risk consultant at HUB International, predicts that a 2015 rule allowing OSHA penalties to increase annually to essentially keep pace with inflation might get overturned, or at least undercut in power.

At state and city levels of government, regulatory measures continue to move forward. As Sally Goldenberg and Gloria Pazmino report at Politico, New York’s city council is in the process of introducing several bills that “would require additional safety training, mandate an apprenticeship program, address how fatalities are reported by the Department of Buildings and create a minority workforce task force.”


Where the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Directive Stands

An executive order from President Obama signed in 2014, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule was slated for repeal under President Trump.

That rule would have required contractors bidding on federal projects “to attest to whether they have had violations of the covered labor laws resulting in any ‘administrative merits determinations, civil judgments, or arbitral awards or decisions’ issued within the preceding three years,” the legal team at Littler Mendelson wrote in August. “It has been left to the [Department of Labor] to define the scope of such reportable violations or ‘labor law decisions.’”

Beginning this year, that EO would have required federal contractors and subcontractors to provide wage statements to employees and disclose any violations of 14 specific federal laws from the previous year, attorney Erik Dullea writes at The Contractor’s Perspective. In 2016, a federal district court in Texas hampered the order’s implementation, but now Congress is in a position to do away with it outright.

At the end of January, however, House Republicans introduced a resolution to overturn that EO, the Mechanical Contractors Association of America reports, and on February 2 the House voted 236-187 to overturn the resolution, which means it only now awaits President Trump’s signature for the congressional veto to become enacted.

two workers and quarry in background

Where the Directive Requiring Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors Stands

Another EO from the Obama Administration that Republicans are targeting is the Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors order, which would have granted some 1.2 million people access to paid sick leave, AFCEA International says.

“The action arguably will improve the overall health and performance of the work force,” the organization writes. “Those who drag themselves to work coughing and sneezing — and infecting others — now can recuperate at home. The rule also brings the benefits packages of these workers in line with other companies, ensuring that federal contractors remain competitive employers.”

But Joe Davidson at The Washington Post reports President Trump intends to roll back that order, among several others. Those others, Davidson reports, include:

  • establishment of a $10.10 hourly minimum wage,
  • prohibitions against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity,
  • and a directive “to maintain Federal leadership in sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reductions.”

During any administrative turnovers in the White House, there is always some uncertainty in what laws apply and how they will be enforced. During the year, the dust will begin to settle, and some clarity will emerge.

In the meantime, decision-makers in our industry will have their hands full keeping up to date with what rules apply to them.

images by: ©nonwarit/123RF Stock Photo, ©sondem/123RF Stock Photo, ©wawritto/123RF Stock Photo

What We’re Looking Forward to at the 2017 CONEXPO-CON/AGG Convention

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Because it only takes place once every three years, the CONEXPO-CON/AGG expo is a huge event for the construction, aggregates and ready-mixed concrete industries.

The 2017 expo will take place in March 7–11 in Las Vegas, at the convention center. The numbers for this year are pretty staggering: 2,500-plus exhibitions, 150 education sessions, and 2.5 million sq. ft. of space needed to host everyone.

We’re going to be at Booth B91804 in the Bronze Hall; stop in and say hello! And here are 14 of the other companies, speakers and events we’re especially excited about.


GeoSonics/Vibra-Tech (Booth C30973)

GeoSonics/Vibra-Tech has offered blasting and vibration consulting services to mine operators for years. At the expo, the company will be showing off its new Re:mote Monitoring Technology, which automatically collects continuous data on vibration, noise levels, dust and other environmental concerns, then delivers that data to either a web browser or the smartphone app.


Zeecrane (Booth G1412)

Zeecrane tends to turn heads on the exhibition floor with its zero-emissions cranes, one with a 9,000-pound lifting capacity and a second with an 18,000-pound capacity. Most importantly, these cranes produce zero operational waste (and make very little noise) because they have all-electric operating systems powered by a maintenance-free battery.


Metso (Booth C31061)

Finland’s Metso has promised to unveil some truly revolutionary crushing technology at the expo, though the company has kept a tight lid on details. What we do know is this new technology is said to increase uptime and reduce operational costs.


Liebherr (Outdoor Booth G4637)

Liebherr’s outdoor booth is going to be huge: The surface area will cover 50,000 sq. ft. and feature 25 different hydraulic excavators, tower cranes, wheel loaders and other heavy equipment the company manufactures. Additionally, its tower cranes team will have a virtual reality app that will let users get a feel for what it’s like to operate one of those giant cranes in real time.

TII Group (Booth G1723)

The TII Group will have several models from its Highway line of transport vehicles (pictured above), including some self-propelled models. One model the company is excited about is the SCHEUERLE SPMT Light, which it says is perfect for moving up to 220 tons in enclosed facilities such as plants.


McCloskey International (Booth S5115)

McCloskey International has a new wash plant called the Sandstorm that it will be launching at CONEXPO-CON/AGG. That first product will also signal the launch of a new division within the company, McCloskey Washing Systems. Other new products on display will include a lineup of screening equipment and a 100-foot telescoping stacker.


Raimondi Cranes (Booth S5035)

Italian crane-maker Raimondi is making its first-ever appearance at the expo in a move to get its products in front of prospective North American buyers. As such, the company is bringing its entire executive team out to Las Vegas. “We are signalling to the markets of Canada and the United States that we are looking to cultivate strong, new relationships, while simultaneously developing upon cooperative efforts with our existing client base,” technical director Domenico Ciano says.


Maeda (Booth G4017)

Maeda USA has a new mini-crawler crane, the CC1485, that the company is excited to show off. It’s the only small crawler sold in North America with a telescopic boom (that boom has a capacity of 6.6 tons, too).


Sandvik (S5128)

Sandvik Construction is going to have a pretty big display at the expo where it will feature its CS550 cone crusher, its brand-new QJ341+ mobile jaw crusher, its electrically driven UI310+ wheeled impact crusher, and its self-contained DT912D jumbo drill rig, among others.

Session: Tapping into New Technologies at the Tappan Zee Bridge Project (T14)

John Glinski, owner of Crane Training and Safety Consultants, will host one of three very promising sessions on Tuesday. Glinski will give an overview of the ongoing reconstruction to New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge and what innovative technologies are being employed on that project.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., March 7


Session: The Next Generation Job Site: Drones (T19)

Concurrent with the session above, Andres Vargas, kinematic integrations and applications engineer at RIEGL USA, will discuss various applications of drones in the construction industry: From estimating and surveying to giving potential clients aerial views of projects to structural inspection.

Vargas will also go over how contractors can find the right drones for their needs, what regulations they should be aware of, and what insurance or liability issues exist with drone deployment.

When: 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., March 7


Session: OSHA Compliance: How to Avoid Fines (T28)

Bruce Mosier, VP at Prins Insurance in Iowa and certified OSHA Outreach Trainer, will lead a session for contractors that will specifically address new laws governing OSHA (including its power to raise fines as of August 2016) and how contractors should interact with that organization.

Key points will include preparation for an inspection, a rundown of your rights as a contractor, communication with OSHA inspectors, and an overview of fines and penalties.

When: 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. March 7


The Tech Experience

Organizers this year have a Tech Experience exhibit that, frankly, is going to be really cool. The showcase will be 75,000 square feet and feature some immersive technology, have solar-powered runways and include a 3D printed excavator, among other things.

Plus, the Tech Experience speakers list is outstanding. It includes NASA astronauts Captain Mark Kelly and Captain Scott Kelly, as well as Bruce Upbin from Hyperloop One. Look for some interesting talks on connected jobsites, the maker movement, SMART highways and high-tech protective equipment.


NSSGA 2017 Convention

The National Stone Sand and Gravel Association will hold its own annual convention in the days just before CONEXPO-CON/AGG, on March 3–7. Besides the networking opportunities and a scheduled Blue Man Group performance, there are some very good reasons for anyone in the industry to get to Las Vegas five days early.

On March 6 and 7, that convention will host educational sessions that will touch on strategic sales and basic supervisory skills. Also, the NSSGA announced at the beginning of the year that Ken Schmidt, former director of communications strategy at Harley-Davidson Motor Co., will close the general session.

For anyone who works in mining or with quarries, March offers an excellent opportunity to double up on conventions, make the most of those networking opportunities and maybe take in a trip to the Grand Canyon that Sunday.
images by: ©welcomia/123RF Stock Photo, TII Group, ©kasto/123RF Stock Photo

Blast Overpressure Versus Noise

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People often confuse blast overpressure and noise. An over-simplistic comparison is that noise is what the human ear can hear. Blast overpressure, however, is often below the range of human hearing.

The typical range of human hearing is from 20 Hz to 20 KHz. This range can of course vary significantly between individuals. Blast overpressure may often be very low in frequency, 2 Hz or less. By definition, blast overpressure is the pressure generated by a blast that is over and above atmospheric pressure.

Although blast overpressure is often below the range of human hearing, it can cause structural response that is quite noticeable to those inside a structure. It is not possible to gauge the amount of blast overpressure by what is heard outside. How many times have you been outside near a blast, heard virtually nothing, and yet still received a complaint call that was overpressure related?

There are generally five sources of blast-generated overpressure (from the ISEE Blasters’ Handbook 18th Edition):

Air Pressure Pulse – Low frequency pressure caused by rock displacement at the face (piston-like movement or bulking of the rock mass).
Gas Release Pulse – High frequency pressure caused by gases venting through the face.
Stemming Release Pulse – High frequency pressure caused by gases venting through the stemming.
Rock Pressure Pulse – Typically insignificant air pressure generated by the ground vibration.
Noise – High frequency energy from detonating cord or surface delays.


Taken from White Seismology’s newsletter

Written by Randy Wheeler, President of White Industrial Seismology


Effect of Blasting Air Overpressure on Residential Structures

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A Summary of U.S. Bureau of Mines Research

When explosives are used to break rock in a mine or construction project, the blast produces both ground vibration and air overpressure (noise).  In most cases the atmosphere selectively absorbs the higher frequencies from a blast, leaving relatively low Read more

A Neighbor’s Guide to Understanding the Effects From Nearby Blasting Operations

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Let’s address some issues that come up frequently in conversations with neighbors concerned with the effects of blasting at nearby mining operations. San Antonio and our neighboring cities along the I-35 corridor lie on the Balcones fault line, a major limestone deposit which provides limestone materials to communities lying to the east, including major cities like Houston and Corpus Christi. Quarries in this area mine the rock, crush it into various sizes and send it to areas that cannot mine it themselves locally.

The vibrations produced by quarry blasting have been a source of concern and frustration for neighboring communities as long as people have occupied homes or businesses near these active aggregate producing operations. In order to ensure that the environmental impact from blasting on neighbors and businesses is not negative, instruments called seismographs are set in the field to record the intensity of energy that is felt wherever the instrument is located. Using data from these seismographs, or seismometers, we have learned much about the effects from blasting.

It is important to begin by explaining that what people living near a quarry may feel is a combination of ground vibration and air over pressure. In a perfect world, 100% of the energy produced by explosives loaded into the ground would go in to breaking the rock. If that were the case, no energy would be felt by anyone immediately outside the quarry. However, this is not possible. That being said, a well executed blast uses as much energy as possible in the fracturing of the rock, and leaves very little to escape into the surrounding environment. It is this escaping energy that is the topic of much neighborhood conversation and concern.

Energy that isn’t used for breaking rock travels either through the remaining rock, or through the air. A seismograph records the intensity of escaping energy using a microphone to measure changes in air overpressure (that is, over normal atmospheric pressure), and a transducer to measure ground vibration.

Escaping energy from a blast that travels through the air produces a temporary increase in air pressure much like a clap of thunder or a jet engine from aircraft traveling overhead. This increase in air pressure, called air overpressure, is measured in decibals. Air overpressure travels in a wave form and much like a wind, pushes on anything in its path. However, this pulse comes and goes much more quickly than a gust of wind. It is this wave that is “caught” temporarily by surfaces in its path, like the sides of structures, before it is quickly released. Air pressure can be an annoyance even at low levels and once it reaches very high levels, can produce the potential for damage to structures. The criteria for safe blasting levels of air overpressure have been established and are well published after extensive testing and research by the United States Bureau of Mines. Air overpressure is produced where energy escapes through fractured rock and primarily travels in the direction that the rock being blasted moves. In this image below you can see the movement of rock at detonation. Air pressure increases in proportion to the amount of energy released between the fractured and moving pieces of rock. Therefore, changes in air overpressure are more discernable along this path and can sometimes be perceived miles away. There are several factors that make controlling and predicting air overpressure more difficult than ground vibration. Some of these factors include atmospheric conditions that change constantly, such as wind speed and direction, or thermoclines. These invisible thermoclines separate air with different temperatures or air traveling at different speeds. Because of this, it is universally considered optimum conditions for blasting when there is a clear cloudless sky with no wind. However, weather conditions can change very quickly and conditions that were perfect only moments before, can degrade, resulting in undesirable changes in air pressure for neighbors.

Ground vibration is produced by energy escaping through the remaining solid rock, so it tends to be more discernable behind the blast. Unlike air overpressure, the intensity of ground vibration tends to be more predictable since it travels through a more solid medium.

The human body is a very sensitive seismograph, but many people are confused by what they feel, misjudging air overpressure to be vibration, and vice versa. Because energy travels through the ground more quickly than it does through the air, seismographs and neighbors alike will perceive the vibration before the air overpressure. The greater the distance from the blast, the larger the gap in time between the arrival of the two. That is why some neighbors correctly describe feeling “two blasts”. They first perceive the ground moving, then the air moving.

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Neighbors who are unfamiliar with these dynamics of blasting cannot understand why what they feel tends to be different from one blast to another. It is not uncommon for a neighbor to feel very little on one blast, and then find another blast significantly more intense. The most obvious conclusion that can be reached is that a larger amount of explosive energy was used whenever the blasts are more perceptible. In fact, the amount of explosive energy used by rock producers is tightly controlled and selected as a result of much research. Seismic data collected from each blast is analyzed, and offers valuable information to ensure that the impact on neighbors is minimized. Despite this, factors like the weather and the orientation of the blast to neighbors, make predicting the effects difficult. That’s why conscientious operations have a blast monitoring program which offers them immediate feedback on every blast and protects them from overlooking variables that can produce undesirable results.

J.R. Heck
CEO, Firmatek Seismic, LLC

Stockpile Time Machine

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This video was produced to help a Firmatek client see the changes in her inventories between measurements. With unexpected discrepancies in her accounting of a specific product, this video and the accompanying inspection by our technicians was all she needed to accept Firmatek’s measurements as the truth, make the necessary adjustments to the books and verify the true source of the discrepancy. Our client was armed with the truth.

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