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Interview: Moshen Jena – Explosives Engineering and Blasting Specialist

Interview: Moshen Jena – Explosives Engineering and Blasting Specialist

Moshen Jena

Inside mining Zimbabwe (IMZ) this month sat down with a man popular in the mining circles for the splendid work he is doing. Moshen Jena (MJ) is an Explosives Engineering and Blasting Specialist currently working for the biggest explosives supplying company, AEL Intelligent Blasting Zimbabwe.

IMZ Good day Moshen Jena, a brief introduction of yourself.

MJ Thank you Mining Zimbabwe for having me. I am a results-oriented and innovative Explosives Engineering specialist with more than 10 years of cumulative experience in the industry. I have extensive knowledge of explosives, blast designing, blast planning, execution, post-blast analysis, blast technical support, and training, value-adding trials, explosives incidents investigations and management of big projects.

I am working for one of the biggest explosives supplying company, AEL Intelligent Blasting Zimbabwe, as the Explosives Manager for the Zimplats Project. I am a holder of an Honours Degree in Mining Engineering (UZ 2009), Explosives Engineering (AEL 2016) and Masters in Business Administration (MSU 2019). Currently, I am pursuing a Masters in Explosives Engineering with Missouri Science and Technology.  I am an active member of the International Society of Explosives Engineers (ISEE).

Though I am based at Zimplats, I have done work or been involved in Blasting Technical work for several mining and construction companies including Unki, Mimosa, KW Blasting, Trojan, Murowa Diamonds, Cam and Motor, Great Dyke Investments just but to name a few.

IMZ When is it decided that blasting is necessary at Mining level?

MJ Blasting is one of the key processes that one will encounter at a hard rock mining project. It is done to loosen or break consolidated material or hard rock. Blasting is called for as soon as you finish your free dig material (loose material that you can load with your loading machinery). In a typical mining, setup blasting can start right at the start of the project when construction work is done in trenching, digging foundations for infrastructure, overburden stripping, mine development work as well as blasting of the ore benches or stopes right through to demolition of the infrastructure.

IMZ What precautions are taken to ensure no lives are harmed during blasting?

MJ Every blast should be designed with care to manage environmental constraints such as fly rock, blast-induced ground vibrations, blasting fumes, noise, and air blast. Before taking the blast one needs to make sure that they have cleared the blast danger zone of all people and equipment.

IMZ Is it safe to blast underground operations or it’s just for open cast.

MJ With proper blast designing it’s safer to blast underground (my opinion). Almost all the underground mines are using drilling and blasting to break rock save for a few exceptional tunnelling projects that use tunnel boring machines.

IMZ How common is the Explosives Engineering profession and what would you say to those who are interested in becoming like Moshen Jena?

MJ Every Miner or Mining engineering professional is taught the basics of drilling and blasting. After completing a Learner Miners program at a mine and satisfying the requirements in terms of the number of shifts that are required, one is examined by a board set up by the Ministry of Mines and awarded with Full Blasting Licence (FBL). Whereas, for one to be an Explosives Engineer, one needs to go for specialised rigorous training offered by Explosives Manufacturing Companies such as AEL Intelligent Blasting and a few Universities abroad that offer the same course. In Zimbabwe, there are only a handful of qualified explosives Engineers that I know of and currently, I am the only registered member of the International Society of Explosives Engineer (ISEE). This is going to change soon, as we have already started grouping to register a Southern African Chapter of ISEE. This will help in advancing the science and art of explosives engineering.

IMZ What should one consider before buying explosives?

MJ Many different types of explosives exist on the market and they have different properties and applications. When choosing the type of explosive to use at a particular project one needs to have an understanding of the following:

  • Geology and rock mechanics of the rock.
  • Environmental factors of the area to be blasted.
  • Post handling processes (loading, hauling, crushing e.t.c)
  • Properties of the explosives to be used.
  • Blast performance expectations.

Only after understanding these, then one can choose the right type of explosives to use in a particular job.

IMZ What would you say is a successful blasting?

MJ A successful blast is one that is safe and all the quality expectations are met. No injuries or damage to equipment and all the blasting KPIs such as fragmentation, advance, grade, perimeter control, etc. are met.

IMZ You are managing Explosives at one of Zimbabwe’s biggest and most progressive mines what would you say has been your biggest challenge at Zimplats.

MJ Zimplats is a demanding customer. Its operations are world-class and at the forefront of cutting edge technology. On the other hand, AEL Intelligent Blasting offers a holistic approach to help its customers on their unique journey to optimal blast outcomes through IntelliBlast™, a model which brings out the superlative way AEL has always operated. With the help of our differentiated products and services, we partner with the mine on their journey to optimal blast outcomes, perfecting every step of the way.

IMZ What would you say is your greatest achievement in blasting?

MJ I have done so many value-adding projects in the explosives industry but one stands out for me. The project was entitled, Perimeter control in the incompetent ground. The project was on perimeter control in bad ground that I submitted as part of my Explosives Engineering course. The project was voted to be the best in 2017 and matched the standard that had been set by my friend and fellow Explosives Engineer, Vincent Tsoriyo. The project opened many avenues for me and I ended up being invited to present at the ISEE conference in 2018 in San Antonio.

IMZ More small scale miners are using explosives. Are they doing it right? What’s your advice on correct blasting?

MJ True, there is a huge market for explosives in the small scale mining sector and everyone agrees that this is a sector not to be ignored. My only worry is on training and technology adoption. If you look at the people who are handling explosives and conducting blasting operations you will notice that there is a big training gap and they continue to use the same blasting technology that has been passed to them by their predecessors. With proper training and the correct selection of explosives, the sector will notice an improvement in safety and productivity.

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IMZ Many professionals in big mining organisations are of the notion that ASM are a bunch that are trying too hard but does not have the expertise but the truth of the matter is they are here to stay. Let’s say we get together people like yourself, the likes of Patrick Takaedza, Maison Phiri, just to mention a few to conduct workshops with organisations like ZMF. Can we not see an improvement in the ASM industry?

MJ I tell you Zimbabwe is well endowed with both natural and human resources to take it to the top. The only problem, is we are not singing from the same hymn. It’s up to the organisations like ZMF to pull together the different mining and processing professionals and have them work towards a common good.  Only last month, I presented at a training workshop organised by ZMF and the Zimbabwe School of Mines targeting the small to medium scale miners. The conference brought together various specialists in the mining industry together with academia.  The response from the Miners was overwhelming and I am convinced if such efforts are continued we will witness bigger things coming from the sector.

IMZ We once ran an article of you shining at the International Society of Explosives Engineer conference in America, in 2018. What has happened since then?

MJ That was an eye-opening opportunity and I am very grateful to my employers (AEL) for the exposure to an international audience. I got two more international invites in 2019, that I turned down to concentrate on my MBA Degree. However locally I have been very active, conducting public lectures at institutions like the University of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe School of Mines and various mining houses. Now that I have finished the MBA, please reserve a column in your magazine because there is a lot on the cards.

IMZ If there anything you can change regarding the policy on blasting what would it be?

MJ The mining industry is moving with technology, but if you look at our policies they have remained stagnant and slowly becoming irrelevant. There is a need for a review of the Explosives Act and regulations. I am glad to be one of the chosen to participate in the review of the act and the regulations.

IMZ Off work how do you spend your time?

MJ Moshen Jena is a family man, farmer and devout member of the ZAOGA FIF. I spend most of my time with my family, at the farm in Marondera or at Church in Redcliff where I stay.

IMZ Thank you Moshen Jena for giving us the opportunity and taking your time to talk to us. I hope our readers have learnt much from this conversation.

Moshen Jena Thank you very much for the wonderful work that you guys are doing.

This article first appeared in the March 2020 issue of the Mining Zimbabwe Magazine

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