Following our physical return to the Hillhead quarry in June and the opportunities we had to discover more, ‘in-person’, about the course our industry is heading in, Onsite touched base with Explosive Engineer Dan Richards, fresh from the EPC Hillhead stand. Dan gave us his view on digitized drilling & blasting’s progressive direction, and highlighted some of the dynamic employment opportunities that are available in our futuristic field: 

The future is bright

“Being back in the quarry at Hillhead this year was terrific,” Dan says. “It’s the perfect event to see tomorrow’s drilling & blasting world today, and recognise that in terms of digitization, EPC-UK is leading the field. For me, the outlook of drilling & blasting lies in the progression of two key areas: new technology and data management. Through the advancement and adoption of new technology we have already seen the way bulk explosives and, more recently, drone technologies have both transformed the industry. There is no doubt in my mind that this will only increase further, and that it won’t be long before we see more game changing technologies incorporated into the drill & blast process. Innovation, safety and passion, key components of the EPC-UK SPIRIT values, are essential in driving this technological change, which has come a long way in a short amount of time and shows no signs of slowing down!” 

Progressive capabilities

“By applying our team’s expertise, initiatives that are currently leading the field in modern blasting, from 3D imaging and high-speed video analysis to full-duplex wireless communication systems, will further advance – ensuring safety continuously evolves as a result. The efficacy of drone mapping, modelling services and fixed remote monitoring stations for environmental compliance is also set to progress, providing customers with access to the information, tools and support needed to optimise performance, meet planning requirements and improve overall operations.”

Tomorrow’s technologies today

“The predicted progression I’m referencing will be made possible in the immediate term because of ground-breaking software packages such as Vertex which allow drilling & blasting teams to store all blast parameters planned and delivered in the field, ready for assessment and incremental changes in blast design to be made. We showcased the Vertex drilling & blasting software on our stand at Hillhead this year. The package, which combines all three of EPC’s digitized operating platforms – Expertir, Expertab and ExplOre – is a game changer, as it’s bringing technologies that are fit for the future straight to the quarrying environment, right now.”  

Data utilisation

“Applying data management expertise using software such as Vertex will be critical to the technological advancement of not only the drill & blast sector, but the extractives industry as a whole. The industry already collects a vast amount of data across all its processes, but only a small percentage of that is consciously analysed to increase efficiencies and performance. As we prepare for the future, the drive will increase across the industry to put systems in place that can capture and effectively utilise greater quantities of data from the mine-to-mill process. This in turn will encourage a holistic approach to ascertaining more optimisation opportunities within drill & blast practices.” 

Cutting edge career opportunities

At EPC-UK we invest in our teams and offer different routes for people to pursue specialist career paths within our drilling & blasting field. The level of success we experience in the future will be dependent on the talent we nurture now. By drawing on our company’s SPIRIT values, we work as a passionate, innovative, respectful and safety focused team.  Here, both explosive engineers and shotfirers perform multifaceted roles which combine technical design with ‘hands-on’ site operations: 

“With digitization fast-advancing, it’s never been a more exciting time to work in the drilling & blasting field,” Dan says. “Our team is encouraged to develop the skills to perform and build professional confidence and expertise, so qualified blast engineers interested in working for EPC-UK should certainly get in touch. We work with a variety of customers in different locations and can add significant value to large capital projects. For individuals who aren’t afraid of hard work, are keen to embrace technological developments, and harness the right level of passion and enthusiasm, there could be an exciting role ahead.” 

When Dan joined EPC-UK in 2018, he already had a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering, further enhanced with a Masters in Mining Engineering and previous experience within the field. However, whilst working for EPC, he has gained both his profiling and shotfiring vocational certifications and also become a qualified multi rotor drone pilot. 

“I was supported by EPC-UK to achieve additional certifications and skills, the attainment of which has led to both a promotion and the knowledge to pass my Explosive Supervisors Exam. As a result, I have gone on to join and help develop our independent EPC Metrics company, taking my skills and experience from strength to strength.”

Dan drew on an academic background to fast-track his additional qualification achievements, however at EPC-UK we believe in the value of employee training to help individuals pursue associated field positions too. We are currently expanding our shotfiring team and offer an apprenticeship programme for passionate, safety focused individuals who harness a positive work ethic. Those who have an analytical mindset, fascination with the drilling & blasting industry and good problem-solving abilities can be supported by us to acquire the certifications and experience needed for the role. 

For further information about explosive engineering careers with EPC-UK, or the shotfirer position; its role responsibilities and apprenticeship programme, contact: Julie.Wootton@epc-groupe.co.uk