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Predicting rock size distribution in mine blasting using various novel soft computing models based on meta-heuristics and machine learning algorithms


Chengyu Xie, Hoang Nguyen, Xuan-Nam Bui, Yosoon Choi, Jian Zhou, Thao Nguyen-Trang

Source title: 
Geoscience Frontiers, 12: 101108, 2021 (ISI)
Academic year of acceptance: 

Blasting is well-known as an effective method for fragmenting or moving rock in open-pit mines. To evaluate the quality of blasting, the size of rock distribution is used as a critical criterion in blasting operations. A high percentage of oversized rocks generated by blasting operations can lead to economic and environmental damage. Therefore, this study proposed four novel intelligent models to predict the size of rock distribution in mine blasting in order to optimize blasting parameters, as well as the efficiency of blasting operation in open mines. Accordingly, a nature-inspired algorithm (i.e., firefly algorithm – FFA) and different machine learning algorithms (i.e., gradient boosting machine (GBM), support vector machine (SVM), Gaussian process (GP), and artificial neural network (ANN)) were combined for this aim, abbreviated as FFA-GBM, FFA-SVM, FFA-GP, and FFA-ANN, respectively. Subsequently, predicted results from the abovementioned models were compared with each other using three statistical indicators (e.g., mean absolute error, root-mean-squared error, and correlation coefficient) and color intensity method. For developing and simulating the size of rock in blasting operations, 136 blasting events with their images were collected and analyzed by the Split-Desktop software. In which, 111 events were randomly selected for the development and optimization of the models. Subsequently, the remaining 25 blasting events were applied to confirm the accuracy of the proposed models. Herein, blast design parameters were regarded as input variables to predict the size of rock in blasting operations. Finally, the obtained results revealed that the FFA is a robust optimization algorithm for estimating rock fragmentation in bench blasting. Among the models developed in this study, FFA-GBM provided the highest accuracy in predicting the size of fragmented rocks. The other techniques (i.e., FFA-SVM, FFA-GP, and FFA-ANN) yielded lower computational stability and efficiency. Hence, the FFA-GBM model can be used as a powerful and precise soft computing tool that can be applied to practical engineering cases aiming to improve the quality of blasting and rock fragmentation.