Careys has been contracted by Sirius Minerals to serve as principal contractor for the beginning phases of the Woodsmith Mine project in Whitby, Yorkshire. Due to be completed in late 2021, this approximately £3bn venture – which is located in a pristine national park set more than 200m above the north-eastern coast of England – will be the largest mining operation in the UK.

Woodsmith Mine will capitalise upon the world’s largest and richest vein of polyhalite, a mineral fast gaining traction across the globe as a viable fertiliser. Even though the first deposits of polyhalite  are not scheduled to be drawn from the mine until 2021, many significant orders have already been placed for the mineral.

Once Woodsmith Mine is up and running, surveys suggest that it will yield enough polyhalite to last for at least 100 years.

How the polyhalite will be mined and transported

Woodsmith Mine’s valuable mineral will be extracted from a 1,530m-deep production shaft, which will be maintained by a nearby service shaft of the same depth. To get a sense of how deep the mineral deposit lies, the UK’s tallest skyscraper, the Shard in London, soars to 306m high – fully five times less than the eventual depth of these two shafts. 

Once it’s been harvested from far below the surface of the earth, the polyhalite will be moved to a material transport system (MTS) tunnel, via an MTS shaft. It will then be transferred 37km, through the 4.3m-wide, 360m-deep MTS tunnel, to the Wilton International port at Teeside. From there, the mineral will be ready for export to the multiple destinations overseas where it is in high demand.

Careys expertise and innovation helps create the UK’s first large-scale mining operation in decades

Woodsmith Mine represents the first significant mining venture in the UK since the 1980s. Due to factors, such as the extreme depth of the mineral deposit and the mine’s location in a protected national park location, this project presented a number of unique challenges. We called upon our trademark Careys innovation to devise certain value engineering solutions and sustainability measures to help ensure that every element and phase of the work would run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.  

Careys is responsible for carrying out and managing the excavation and construction of several of the crucial components of the Woodsmith Mine project, the MTS, production and service shaft foreshafts. We are deploying a variety of excavation techniques and equipment – some of which we have modified to suit the specific requirements of the topography, timeline and conditions – to build the various shafts at Woodsmith Mine.

To ensure that each phase of the works goes according to plan as much as possible, we have taken advantage of the construction engineering expertise and state-of-the-art BIM techniques supplied by Carey Group company, Careys Design Team. We have used 3D and 4D modelling to help trial key elements of our operations at Woodsmith Mine – including, not only mine shaft excavation and construction, but also health and safety, productivity and sustainability. This approach has enabled us to forecast potential contingencies, helping us to mitigate risk and create a realistic and effective construction plan and programme.

Watch this space to find out more about our contributions to the landmark Woodsmith Mine project

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be posting a series of articles that will allow us to dig a little deeper into some of the more interesting aspects of the Woodsmith Mine project. So, check back here to learn more in our Woodsmith Mine series about our:

  • Innovative approach and methodology on this project, supported by BIM techniques
  • Use of a vertical sinking machine (VSM) and creation of a bespoke new slip form method to construct the MTS shaft (breaking a record along the way)
  • Rapid and efficient construction of the production and service shafts
  • Thorough sustainability measures, designed to preserve and protect the national park environment
  • Rigorous health, safety and quality plan, featuring carefully laid-out steps and procedures geared towards ensuring a spotless level of safety on-site
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