It’s time to go down the hole – the Australian Tunneling industry

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Australia’s never had such a prolific tunnelling infrastructure boom in its entire history.

As a conservative estimate into next year, there will be $28bn worth of tunnelling related projects either about to be let, underway or nearing completion across this great nation.

The major methodologies employed in these projects will be road headers for the roading associated projects, and TBM for the metro systems – for those who like the big kit, like me, and moving large amounts of dirt – they are a special type of project.

Thrown on top, will be big box cuts for station excavations and major shaft sinking operations, which typically employ heavy-duty large diameter piling works – again big kit involved.

I have never worked underground myself in either tunnelling or mining capacity.

My friends in mining, who worked underground, used to call me a “blue sky miner”, a tag I don’t believe was meant to be endearing. And though it must be the furthest from what you could call ‘’glamourous industry’’, it must be a rewarding occupation.

As one my old Engineering MDs used to say, “the risk is all in the ground on a project” and while I’m sure he was referring to the risk associated to cost and program, it also relates heavily to personal risk of H&S when in a tunnelling environment.

And of course, a tunnelling project is nearly all underground. On top of that, the guys “down the hole” typically work long hours on a shift basis, in unforgiving conditions – dusty, dirty and noisy, even with today’s advancement in methodologies/technologies.

So for all those who will take part in the tunnelling projects either underway or about to start across Australia, I take my hat off to you as a sign of respect.

You are a special breed, one we need to hold on a pedestal for the hard work you will put in, and the long hours, in one of the riskiest civil environments there are.

Good luck, I hope you get the metres you are after per shift and stay safe.

Peter Laver, Director