Having a [mining] blast – by Kelly Grinsteinner (Hibbing Daily Tribune – October 30, 2013)


EVELETH — Do not call mine blasting an art. Mike Indihar will tell you that it’s not, and give you several reasons why.
“The public thinks that what we do today is the same way we did it 30 years ago, but that’s not true,” said Indihar, senior mine engineer at Cliffs Natural Resources’ United Taconite in Eveleth. “It is so different today.”

And he’d know.

Indihar has been in the mining industry since 1979, and worked in various capacities within both operations and engineering. He’s been at United Taconite since 2006, and from that time on has focused solely on drilling and blasting.
The 56 year old calls himself a geek, and admits the job is still fun.

“I’m still challenged every day, and that’s what makes it exciting,” said Indihar. For those who like status quo, mining isn’t the ideal industry. “What’s really fun in engineering in mining is that it’s always changing,” he said. “You do a blast, and then it’s gone. Now you do a different one. You build a road, mine it down and then move on to build a new road. Things change all the time.”

Indihar likes the changes, and the challenges.

“The most difficult part of the job is finding enough time to accomplish what you want to accomplish,” he said. “There are so many things we want to do, but there are no clones yet.”

And by clones he means someone who thinks and acts like him, one that will act without question or hesitancy. They just “do.”

“The science is all there, and if I don’t understand it, I know where to get that understanding,” he said. “But you only want to take baby steps, small steps, otherwise you get yourself off on a tangent. You can’t optimize a bad design. You have to start with a good design.”

Today’s technology and how it’s changed the game in blasting also keeps Indihar intrigued.

“Years ago people referred to blasting as an art form, but it really isn’t today,” he said. “… The challenge today is to make sure we have a good business plan for the money that’s spent.”

And in terms of blasting, that means knowing your geology, or the qualities of the rock being blasted, doing your homework by tapping and sharing successes with industry leaders, and testing the patterns and products to determine the best bang for the buck.

“Trying this and that, not wanting to give up what works, always trying something else and not knowing what you will get, that’s an art form,” said Indihar. “We work from the other standpoint of really building on the science that comes into it so that way we can determine what’s going to happen next, and that’s worked well for us.”

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