IQ Scottish Branch - Advances in Blast Design

Technical event
14 December 2021



In recent years there have been significant advances in our understanding of rock mechanics, blast mechanics, ground motion and digital engineering. Despite these developments applying this knowledge to improve blast design and reduce full life cycle costs has remained a complex and largely unattainable task within the quarrying industry.

With the application of machine learning and expert understanding of the interplay between the aforementioned complex fields we can now take advantage of new techniques to optimise blast design and reduce production costs. With this enhanced insight we are now better positioned to start challenging increasingly onerous and often misguided ground vibration restrictions imposed upon the industry.

The presentation will commence with a critical review of the current vibration damage standards and questions the validity of the industry’s current approach to ground vibration prediction and control. We then discuss the latest theories of blast mechanics presented through a stress-strain analysis.

The presentation will then conclude with how these advancements are being applied to fragmentation optimisation coupled with a full life cost model in a newly developed Mine to Mill system.


Thomas Clifford, Technical Director of Gears Ltd

Thomas is a Chartered Engineer and Geologist who has spent his professional career studying the relationship between geology, quarry design, rock mechanics, blast design, vibration prediction and control for the extractive industries and major infrastructure projects.

Thomas is well known in the extractive industry having started his career as a Geologist then Geotechnical Specialist at Aggregate Industries. Following his time at Aggregate Industries he joined one of the largest engineering consultancies in the world, Atkins, where he eventually headed up the UK Extractive Industries team. Whilst at Atkins, Thomas worked with many clients including the EA, Mineral Planning Authorities, Network Rail, Horizon Nuclear Power, Reservoir Operators and Transport of Scotland.

Consulting for parties impacted by quarrying and major infrastructure projects enabled him to contribute to developing new methods and techniques for the design and management of blasting. In 2021 he joined Ground Engineering Applied Research Services (GEARS) as a Technical Director and has been developing the Mine to Mill system, which combines the latest advances in blast design, digital engineering, machine learning and full life cycle cost modelling for the quarrying industry.



Virtual Event
No Physical Venue