Shaft sinking innovations, safer workplace by 2040

Lucara Diamond Corporation or Lucara has earned over 120.5m USD…


Lucara Diamond Corporation or Lucara has earned over 120.5m USD in diamond sales for the past six months from the Karowe mine located in Botswana. They have also decided to start shaft sinking in order to make a transition from open pit to underground operations. This mine has been operating for the past 10 years. The shift will further extend the life of the mine through 2040.

“The estimated capital cost of the underground project has been increased from $534m to $547m “to reflect expected pricing changes following execution of the main sink contract,” Eira Thomas, Karowe CEO said.

He also added that the mine ramp-up is expected in the first quarter of 2026 with full production from the Karowe UGP (underground project) expected in the second half of 2026.

Lucara is expected to spend a total of 110m USD on this shaft sinking project but they will not need to pay any tax for the year 2022 because of Botswana’s progressive tax rate computation. They will be able to immediately start the transition since there is a deduction of operating costs, which includes capital expenditures.

According to Thomas, “ based on the updated 2022 revenue guidance of $195m to $225m and assuming the underground development expenditures are incurred, the expected tax rate will be 0% for 2022.”

Lucara remains positive about their long-term price outlook despite the different uncertainties caused by geopolitical events such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and COVID-9 pandemic.

UMS and its 60-year legacy

Over the course of six decades, United Mining Services or UMS has helped thousands of clients extract the world’s most challenging ore bodies and have sunk more than 170,000 meters of vertical shafts across the globe. UMS has also consistently innovated shaft sinking in international projects.

“Shaft sinking has been evolving for years as hazards are identified and addressed through design and elimination. UMS is always striving to make the sinking process as safe as possible, and zero harm is the absolute objective for all of our projects. Shaft sinking has become more mechanized and removing people completely from the shaft bottom is the driving factor for almost all innovations. That objective has been met for almost all parts of the sinking cycle,” said UMS CEO Digby Glover.

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He further explained how using vertical shaft muckers will improve operational safety at their project mines. They also introduced remote-controlled equipment for the project to further increase the safety of their workers and make working conditions a lot more comfortable for operators.

“UMS has not thrown the baby out with the bath water in terms of cactus grabs. Where they are used, however, no persons are allowed on shaft bottom during the mucking cycle. This ensures the safety of our workers at all times and eliminates the possibility of an accident during this hazardous phase of the sinking cycle,” Glover added.

Currently, UMS also has another shaft sinking project in New Mexico, USA which started in May 2022. They are aiming to reduce the number of workers dramatically. This is also why they have chosen a highly skilled workforce to handle this project.

The organization is using remote-controlled equipment for an underground deepening project in Brazil. UMS will also begin pre-sinking a deep shaft later this year. This will hopefully extend the life of the copper mine.

“Today it is possible to sink a shaft without a single accident with the equipment and methodology described above. Another innovation is the replacement of compressed air with hydraulics to reduce the potential for hearing loss and fatigue. Soon it will be eliminated completely. Now the focus is on productivity improvements to make shaft sinking more cost effective and improve the rate of return to improve the business case.

We will continue to engage with our clients at concept or feasibility phase and assist in developing underground mining projects through to the construction phase in the safest and most productive way. We are in a unique position of being able to offer upfront engineering through to construction alongside our shaft sinking contracting skills. This combination offers significant value to our clients,” he added.

Redpath as a global leader

Redpath is well-known in the mining industry for specializing in shaft sinking. They work in the most extreme conditions and remote locations (jungles of South America, the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and the high Arctic). They are well-experienced in this field and hence are well-placed to create safer workplaces.

Redpath has also improved monitoring and communication capabilities – such as the Redpath Shaft Control System, Wireless Cross head signaling, Advanced operator graphics panels, shaft bells position identifier, winder/hoist emergency stop and creep control on the galloway, laser scanners at the collar and sub collar doors, bucket movement warning alarms, air quality monitoring and real time QA data capture and transmission amongst others – for a smoother flow of transactions inside and outside the company.

These innovative approaches have made their systems safer and more productive. It has also made it easier to train new employees. The following mines are included in the shaft-sinking projects: EleonoreMine, Les Mines Opinaca, La Colorada, Pan American Silver Corporation, Shaft 2, Oyu Tolgoi Mine, and Nezhinsky Mine, Belarus.

“The latest trends in shaft sinking have focused on ‘doing more with less’ while providing a safer environment with non-concurrent activities in the sinking shaft. As a result, developing and improving mechanized sinking methods remains a long-term priority for the industry,” said Alon Davidov, CEO of Shaft Sinkers.

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