Mine Tunneling

The mining industry is expansive with many different approaches depending on the needs of each project. It may not seem obvious, but the general public requires many kinds of materials, minerals, and other components derived from the Earth for everyday living. One example might be zinc which is frequently used in household items, cosmetics, and more. Depending on the types of material mined, there are various methods for extraction. Mine tunneling is one such method and one that dates back centuries. 

For mine tunneling, American Mine Services provides construction, direction, engineering, and procurement. Find our most recent projects or contact us today to learn more about our expertise. 

mine tunnel engineering and construction

Different Types Of Mining

Mining operations are essential due in part to the many variant products we require for everyday use. Mining, without a doubt, is a key component of our lives. But how do mining operations work and what are the different types of mining

Mining methods include:

  • Surface mining
  • Underground mining
  • Placer mining
  • In-situ mining

When we talk about underground mining, operations may also include more specific approaches such as Room and Pillar Mining, Block Cave Mining, and Longwall Mining. 

Tunneling Systems Used In Mining

Mining tunnels are essential to access, extract and transport underground ores. What are underground ores? Ores are just another way of framing materials that are naturally occurring solid materials. Some of the more important ore deposits include copper, silver, and iron. Underground mining is focused on finding the ore through cost-effective measures and increasing efficiencies that would otherwise be offset by open pit sources.

It’s important that material extraction also has as little waste as possible. In order to access underground mines, entryways are created through horizontal and vertical tunnels, sometimes referred to as:

  • Adit – entrance to underground mine
  • Shaft – vertical access hole that stretches down to the location of an ore
  • Decline – can sometimes be a spiral tunnel that helps to access ores

Mine tunnels are used to help access deeply buried ores in a more effective manner than surface or open-pit mines techniques. 

Mining Techniques For Tunnel Construction

The most crucial aspect of mine tunneling is its use and ability to properly function. It requires attention to construction and engineering to ensure safety measures are taken at every step of mine development. Not only are mine tunnels needed to extract materials and even precious metals, but their access points require keeping equipment and, most especially, miners safe. 

Excavating earth materials and dirt in order to construct a mine tunnel underground means dealing with unstable materials. As with most mine operations, there is some level of danger. In fact, in August 2022, 10 miners in a Mexican mine operation were trapped in a mine tunnel for three days underground due to flash flooding. 

how mine tunneling works

What Keeps Tunnels from Collapsing?

Earth materials are inherently compressive. Moving materials for mine tunneling is no easy feat and requires sound planning and execution. Everything must be taken into consideration including the weight of the soil and rock being moved. Building a tunnel through ground materials disrupts how these sediments exist naturally. For mine construction, this means replacing existing support with an alternative. For this reason, mine tunneling uses materials such as concrete and steel to ensure reinforcement for the newly constructed tunnel. 

The shape of the tunnel also matters as it can help distribute equilibrium to ensure that the tunnel does not collapse. For the engineers working with tunnels, much of their techniques and approaches don’t differ all that widely from budget engineering. They consider statics which is used to describe how the following forces can interact and distribute equilibrium. This considers all of the following:

  • Tension – used to describe the expansion and pulling on existing materials
  • Compression – used to describe how materials are shortened and squeezed
  • Shearing – causes part of the materials to slide past one another in different directions
  • Torsion – twisting of material 

As mentioned, mine tunnels should consider reinforcement materials such as masonry, steel, iron, and concrete.

Mine tunneling must also consider how to withstand loads placed on them. 

Mine Tunneling & Construction

Depending on where a tunnel is built, mine experts must consider the types of materials that the tunnel will pass through. For example, mine tunneling through software will require a different technique compared with tunneling through rocks like shale, chalk, and even sandstone.

Planning for mine tunneling is critical. Engineers and mine service providers should conduct a thorough analysis, research, and other items to determine how a tunnel project will be put together. Assessment for risks should always be conducted. Engineers and mine tunneling experts should consider many different factors including:

  • Soil and rock types
  • Weak beds and zones, including faults and shear zones
  • Groundwater helps to reveal flow patterns and even pressure
  • Hazardous items such as heat, gas, and fault lines

More importantly, mining construction companies should consider the fact that a tunnel may very well pass through multiple types of material and encounter hazardous zones. With mine tunnel planning can help decrease risks of delay and other liabilities that can occur after a project is already underway.

After the planning phase, mine tunneling experts should then focus on excavation plans and construction to ensure the proper execution of mine tunnels. Tunnels are constructed through a very particular process that involves blasting, boring, and even digging by hand.

what is mine tunneling

Future Of Mine Tunneling

As mining operations become more complex and advance with new tools, engineers continue to approach tunnels that are both larger and longer. Advanced imaging technology can help mine construction companies more reliably scan products inside the earth by computing sound waves traveling through the ground. These types of tools can help clarify a tunnel’s potential environment by giving a better picture of rock and soil types and other faults or fissures that may interfere with the production of a mine tunnel. 

Rather than use concrete or steel to reinforce exclusive, there are new ways of creating concrete using resin and other polymers. 

AMS Mine Construction Company

Now that the tunnel has been secured and is stable, you can then begin the next explosion of the process. Additional calculations and measurements must be made in order to ensure the safe and effective construction of mine tunnels. For underground mining development information go here.

AMS has over 50 years of experience in evaluating, designing, and constructing mines and tunnels for a variety of construction needs nationwide. Some projects that we’ve recently been awarded are the Crystal Creek dam improvement project and the Fort Dodge Wall structure solicitation. Contact us with any inquiries.