Step forward for tunnel works at Woodsmith Mine


Local school children choose name for the excavation machine.

The Company marked another major milestone in the development of its £3.5bn polyhalite mine near Whitby today, as it named its new Vertical Shaft Sinking Machine ("VSM"), which will start hollowing out a 360m deep shaft that will allow the cconstruction of the 23 mile tunnel that will transport mined ore to Teesside.

Children from nearby Sleights Primary School unveiled a plaque with the name of the machine, having won a competition between local schools. Isaac, Freddie, Joe and Owen, from years 5 and 6, chose the name ‘Bessy’, as it means Oath or God and will protect the machine and people using it. The naming tradition dates back to the 1500s when miners prayed to Saint Barbara to protect them from the dangers underground.

“Using this innovative cutting edge machine is proof of our determination to use the best, most effective engineering solutions to build this mine,” said Chris Fraser, CEO and Managing Director. “It’s great that we could get the school kids involved too. Making a positive impact in the community is hugely important to us and we hope this project will inspire them to become the engineers and miners of the future.”

The 75 tonne machine will be used to excavate the first 120m of a 360m deep access shaft for the mineral transport system. Once the shaft is complete, a tunnel boring machine will be lowered into the shaft, assembled in a cavern at the bottom and sent north towards Teesside. Two other machines will dig south from Teesside and from Lockwood Beck, and all meet up to complete the tunnel.

“The children were delighted to win the naming competition and really excited to come along today,” said Sleights Primary School Head, Scott Grason. “We really want them to understand what’s going on with this project on their doorstep and how important it is. We all look forward to watching it grow and grow in the years to come.”

“Starting to dig the shaft for our mineral transport system is another important sign of progress for our project,” said Chris Fraser. “We are already well progressed with construction of the foreshafts at the mine, we broke ground at our Teesside site earlier this summer, and we now number over 180 full time staff and 400 construction contractors.”

Back to news archive