Tarun Sinha is President – Technical Ammonium Nitrate (TAN) and is primarily responsible for P&L Management, including Strategy Development & Execution, and managing Strategic Alliances for the TAN Business. He has over 30 years of combined experience in the mining and steel industries, with a proven track record of working at international locations.
India is endowed with significant resources of metallic and non-metallic minerals. The mining industry in India is one of the core industries of the economy. The potential of the Mining Industry to contribute positively to economic growth as well as Sustainable Development is immense. India’s aspiration to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement Goals is not only critical for India but also for the success of climate actions globally.
Significant economic reforms have been undertaken in the Mining Industry, some of which are 100% Foreign Direct Investment, the Opening of Coal mining (which was hitherto under Government control) to the Private Sector through Commercial Coal mining, Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) amended to enable Improved Transparency, Production Output & Ease of Doing Business. With the thrust on economic development, Government and private Sector Mining Industry stakeholders are also factoring Sustainability in Mining as a core principle in their business operations.
Taking the example of Coal India Limited (CIL) – the largest Coal Mining and coal Producer in India, CIL has recognized the need for sustainable development and inclusive growth through a Sustainable Development Policy. This policy encompasses three components: Environmental Sustainability, Socio-cultural Sustainability, and Economic Sustainability. One of the main tenets of the policy is to adopt world-class and eco-friendly mining technologies.
Similarly, the Ministry of Mines has developed a Sustainable Development Framework, One of the key tenets of the same is to use the mineral resources optimally.
All the thrust & impetus on economic and infrastructure development for the country’s growth necessitates the adoption of superior & advanced technologies that enable sustainable mining operations and consumption of raw materials. Therefore, in current times, thrust and emphasis have shifted to responsible mining practices that are environmentally sustainable and resource-efficient (i.e., generate more output per unit of resource consumed) through the use of advanced technologies. Economic development needs Stone aggregates from Quarry operations, Cement manufactured from Limestone mining, Steel manufactured from Iron Ore mining, and Power generated from Coal mining in addition to other constituents. Therefore, sustainability in mining is very much dependent on the sustainable practices undertaken during the extraction of these minerals & stone aggregates, which are extracted through blasting, using commercial explosives.
Technical Ammonium Nitrate (TAN) is a chemical and the principal ingredient of most commercial explosives required for mineral and rock blasting. TAN is a white inorganic salt that has the chemical formula: NH4NO3. It is an “oxidizer” that contains approximately 60% oxygen and, therefore, supports combustion. TAN is not an explosive by itself. Commercial explosives are produced by mixing TAN with fuel and sensitizer. These commercial explosives, when used with other blasting agents like detonators and boosters, are rapidly converted into gases at high temperatures and pressure in a confined state in the rock, leading to the breaking of the rock/mineral.
Role of Technical Ammonium Nitrate (TAN) in Driving Sustainability Initiative
Mineral extraction either through mining or quarrying follows a typical value chain. The mining operation can be defined as ‘upstream’ in which production inputs are used and ‘downstream’ in which broken rock/mineral is handled and processed.
Blasting activity has a significant impact on the downstream value chain in the mineral and rock production and extraction process. Improvement in Blasting efficiency has a multiplier effect on the downstream process and hence, has a significant impact on becoming resource efficient through generating more output per unit of resource consumed. Blasting efficiency is a factor of the type of explosives used (based on the rock/mineral and associated geological conditions), and deployment of advanced technologies such as Blast Design, real-time measurement of blast outcomes e.g., rock fragmentation (correct sizes of blasted rock output enables faster excavation and also aids in improving crusher throughput), control in dilution (purity factor), vibration and noise control, blasted material profile aimed at minimizing fuel consumption, etc. Drones and Artificial Intelligence are used to accurately analyze, simulate, and predict the results for improved safety and productivity so that the yield is maximized for the consumables used. The use of the latest technology, which includes Artificial Intelligence/Machine learning tools and software, ensures accurate monitoring, and measurement of results and helps in predictive modelling aimed at optimization of resources with minimum environmental hazards, thus contributing towards sustainable mining and construction practices.
Ammonium Nitrate-Fuel Oil (ANFO) explosives is a widely used explosives which is manufactured through the use of ~94% of Porous Prilled TAN and ~6% Fuel Oil such as Diesel. ANFO explosives have a higher share of gas energy, which leads to better fragmentation of broken mineral/stone aggregates thereby leading to lesser use of secondary rock breaking (impact: reduced energy consumption), reduced excavation and transport cost of minerals/stone aggregates (impact: reduced fuel consumption in excavation & transport, lesser number of trips required to move mineral/stone aggregates), improved productivity of heavy earth moving machinery (impact: efficient use of resource), reduced crusher power consumption and reduced wear and tear of the crusher. Additionally, ANFO can also be manufactured using recycled lubricating oil/hydraulic oil which otherwise would have been incinerated or destroyed thereby ensuring efficient & sustainable uses of resources. Moreover, the use of advanced technologies such as Blast Design, Drones, and artificial Intelligence enable blasting outcomes to be well within the environmental control norms set towards ground vibration, fly rock, noise, etc. as many of the construction activities increasingly are being undertaken closer to villages & cities.
Today, government institutions, and mining, construction & infrastructure development companies have a critical mandate to improve their ESG performance. ANFO explosives coupled with the use of advanced technologies mentioned above lead to increased output of minerals/stone aggregates and at the same time has a relatively low adverse impact on the environment besides delivering cost savings.
Coal India Limited – the country’s premier coal mining & coal production company has recognized the benefits of ANFO in delivering superior output (measured through Powder Factor-which is a measure of the output of broken rock and the input explosives consumed to break the rock). Additionally, CIL has also recognized the additional benefits of fragmentation (which enables productivity improvement in the mining processes downstream of blasting operations) and reduction of blast vibrations and air-over pressure.
India’s demand for infrastructure development and therefore the need for minerals, power, and rock aggregates is set to grow at a faster rate with the increasing population and the improving standards of living. At the same time, India is a signatory to global sustainability initiatives (such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP27, Sustainable Development Goals) which aims to improve sustainability standards. TAN as a Mining Chemical will continue to play a vital role in enabling India’s infrastructure development aspiration and at the same time with the use of the latest tools and technology deliver improved sustainability standards matching the best practices globally, which would be integral to supporting India’s sustainable economic growth in the decades to come.