As part of Careys’ role as principal contractor for the initial phases of the ambitious North Yorkshire polyhalite project near Whitby, North Yorkshire, worth over £3.2bn, we have adopted a number of innovative techniques. These will help us to most effectively, efficiently and safely construct several of the mine’s most complex and vital components.

In two upcoming articles, we will delve more deeply into the details about these innovative systems and how we employed them. But, in this post, we will take a look at how our in-house Careys Design Team used cutting-edge building information modelling (BIM) technology, coupled with their considerable construction and digital engineering expertise, to ensure the successful and safe implementation of our construction plan at Woodsmith Mine.

Identifying the most efficient methods to help construct a trio of mine shafts

Sirius Minerals’ ambitious polyhalite project – which is set in the North York Moors National Park– aims to tap into a massive vein of polyhalite, a mineral in growing demand internationally as a fertiliser.

As part of our responsibilities on this ground-breaking venture – the first significant mining operation in the UK for decades – we have been tasked with constructing the initial 120m-deep sections of the mine’s three main shafts. Through these vertical shafts, miners will be able to extract the polyhalite, from a depth of over 1,500m and prepare it for the 37km underground conveyor journey to a processing plant and port on Teesside, in preparation for being shipped to destinations across the globe.

In keeping with Careys’ practice of finding and implementing the most efficient and innovative methodologies in order to complete our work to the highest of standards, we identified a number of innovative systems and solutions on the Woodsmith Mine project. These included employing a vertical sinking machine (VSM) – for the first time in the UK – and innovating a bespoke slip form system, used in tandem with the VSM, to continuously construct the initial 120mwalls of a 360m deep shaft.

Digital models help ensure safe, effective deployment of innovative systems at Woodsmith Mine

In order to ensure that these innovative methodologies would actually function as they were designed to, once they were deployed at Woodsmith Mine, we called upon the extensive experience and skills of the team of digital and construction engineers at fellow Carey Group company, Careys Design Team (CDT).

Experts in cutting-edge BIM and virtual reality (VR) technologies, CDT allows us to digitally construct projects, which gives us the capability to envision, in advance, how various building systems and equipment will perform in a real-world environment. By forecasting a range of possible outcomes for each aspect of the construction process, CDT’s BIM techniques and 3D and 4D models allow us to plan projects with a high degree of certainty, by predicting and selecting the best possible courses of action.

We are also able to use CDT’s digital models not only to explain projects to clients, providing them with greater understanding, reassurance and satisfaction, but also to give the site team a full understanding of the construction sequence prior to its arrival on site.

At Woodsmith Mine, CDT has generated a series of information and digital models, that have enabled us to:

  • Develop and carry out a customised construction programme that safely and efficiently capitalises on the capabilities of the new mine shaft construction technique we have created for the VSM
  • Facilitate optimal supply chain integration through
    • Ensuring full coordination of different cast-in items for machinery
    • Coordinating the control descending cable strand system
    • Installing monitoring sensor equipment within the shaft wall
  • Minimise risks, both those associated with construction, as well as those related to the commercial aspects of quantifying material and programme duration
  • Ensure a high level of health and safety on-site, through running virtual simulations of different potential emergency scenarios, including entry, exit and evacuation of injured staff
  • Protect the environment, by devising and implementing a set of responsible conservation practices, such as the reuse and effective disposal of all excavated materials throughout the construction process

More stories to come about how Careys is helping to facilitate the construction at Woodsmith Mine

Check back regularly over the weeks to come, as you’ll be able to discover more details about the landmark Woodsmith Mine project and our contributions to it. There will be upcoming articles covering topics, such as our:

  • Deployment of the state-of-the-art VSM, and implementation of a bespoke new slip form method, to construct the 120m-deep material transport system (MTS) shaft
  • Rapid, safe and high-quality construction of the service and production shafts
  • Well-planned and all-encompassing sustainability plan to safeguard the environment in the national park setting
  • Thorough health, safety and quality measures, focused on attaining a perfect safety record
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