Anglo American has confirmed its Crop Nutrients business has ended the contract of its shaft sinking contractor, DMC Mining Services UK Ltd, at the Woodsmith polyhalite project in the UK.
Anglo, which only took ownership of the asset earlier this year, said DMC staff were expected to transfer to Anglo American under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, and construction progress was due to continue.
DMC was awarded the design and build contract for the construction of the deep shafts at the Woodsmith project back in February 2018 when the project was owned by Sirius Minerals.
This contract would have seen it engineer and construct four shafts at the project in North Yorkshire. Those shafts include a production and service shaft, each around 1,500 m deep, and two smaller shafts associated with the materials transport system, each approximately 350 m deep. It was to sink the deep shafts using Herrenknecht’s Shaft Boring Roadheader technology.
Herrenknecht developed the SBR for the mechanised sinking of blind shafts in soft to medium-hard rock. Based on the technology of the Herrenknecht Vertical Shaft Sinking Machine, the SBR offers improved safety performance compared with conventional shaft sinking methods while also achieving higher advance rates, according to the company.
DMC, itself, had become familiar with the technology after helping successfully sink two blind shafts to depths of -975 and -1,005 m, respectively, at the BHP-owned Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Sinking activities with the SBRs at Woodsmith, meanwhile, were expected to start next year, with the machines having already arrived on site.
A spokesman for the Woodsmith project said of the DMC contract cancellation: “This new structure provides us with simpler internal processes and allows us to better manage the important transition between the sinking phase and ramp-up to steady state operations.
“It also gives us greater control over processes like local recruitment and training.”