How Canadian engineer is enhancing shaft mining safety

Project could be a defining development for the industry

How Canadian engineer is enhancing shaft mining safety

A young Canadian engineer is working on a project that could revolutionize shaft mining safety around the world. Ryan Rhodes is a project engineer with Thyssen Mining and he’s moving to Australia to help create a new type of shaft mining stage for one of the company’s clients.

“It’s honestly been nothing but challenges, and it’s required a much higher tier of safety than shaft mining has previously been accustomed to,” says the recent graduate from the University of Regina.

Rhodes and his team are designing a mining stage to support a shaft that will be 24 ½ feet in diameter and go 1.3 kilometres beneath the surface of the earth. “Think of it as a six-storey building suspended on ropes from the surface,” says Rhodes, and one of the big challenges is that nobody can be at the bottom of the shaft.

One of the main safety concerns in mining is the use of explosives. “They’re very volatile - the ground is never uniform,” says Rhodes. "It creates a lot of voids, and in those voids a lot of safety concerns are present. In the worst case you have a hole that a worker can fall down.”

During a recent panel discussion among rising stars at the Canada’s Safest Employers Awards, Rhodes explained how his team attempted to employ a stage currently being used in South Africa, but it can’t be used to service shafts greater than 16 feet in diameter, 8 and half feet smaller than what is needed for the project in Australia.

Now Rhodes and his team are trying to build a similar stage, but one that can support a shaft as big and as a deep as what’s required. “We took this one step further and addressed every safety concern noted on the stage being used in South America to further make our best attempt to make this the safest stage.”

Rhodes will be moving from Regina to Australia later this month. “If this project works as intended, we’re not only going to see the beginning of more shafts in Australia, as this is the first one in 10 years, but Thyssen will also have a massive leg up on the competition.” And we could see more mining stages like it being used all over the world.