Jansen Mine

Mechanized shaft sinking technology SBR proves itself in Canada

In August 2018, a milestone in the mining industry has been reached with the successful completion of two blind shafts to depths of -975 and -1,005 meters respectively at the Jansen Potash Project in Saskatchewan, Canada. For the first time, shafts in the mining business have been sunk using only mechanical excavation for this reference project. Two Herrenknecht Shaft Boring Roadheaders (SBRs) excavated the ground by a partial-face cutting method, using a cutting drum mounted on a telescopic boom. The excavated rock was then conveyed from the bench by an innovative pneumatic mucking system (PNM) and transferred into muck buckets to be hoisted to the surface.

An innovative laser navigation system designed by the Herrenknecht subsidiary, VMT Group, utilizing target units mounted on the SBR and lasers connected to the shaft wall, was used to keep the machines on track.

Herrenknecht with its experience as a technology leader in mechanized tunnelling, developed the SBR for the mechanized sinking of blind shafts in soft to medium-hard rock. Based on the proven technology of the Herrenknecht Vertical Shaft Sinking Machine (VSM) it offers improved safety performance compared to conventional shaft sinking methods while also achieving higher advance rates.

The challenge: geology – the solution: SBR

The geological conditions however were anything but easy. At a depth of around 450 meters, the SBR encountered a layer of extremely hard competent rock causing excessive pick wear and low rates of advance. To overcome this and some further hardness challenges, the cutting drum was upgraded to a hard rock cutting drum and torque output was doubled. Because an existing high pressure underground waterway known as the Blairmore aquifer posed a risk for water ingress into the shaft, ground freezing was executed temporarily in 2011 by BHP to a depth of approximately 650 meters.

A major success in this difficult geology was the use of a mechanical ring erector allowing the installation of steel tubbing segments with minimal risk to personnel and a high degree of accuracy. The steel liner rings were installed through the Blairmore aquifer to assist in the development of a composite steel and concrete watertight liner in both shafts.

Project-specific optimization

Since the project-specific design changes at Jansen required modifications to the SBRs, Herrenknecht together with DMC Mining Services refined the SBR technology as a whole over the long term. The result is the second generation of the Herrenknecht SBR technology.

As an example, the second generation SBR is equipped with an additional stabilization level allowing the fixation of the SBR center pipe on both ends. This ensures a stable transfer of the reaction forces from the cutting process to the shaft wall without movement of the machine – even with fluctuating excavation diameter of 8.00 meters up to 11.00 meters, as encountered at the Jansen Potash Project. In addition to an improved filter system, a new design of the PNM system was installed which results in a higher degree of separation in the suction tank itself, allowing wet material and even water to be handled.


  • For the first time completely mechanized sinking of mine shafts
  • Two shafts with depths of approx. 1,000m
  • Successful optimization of machine technology during running project
  • Variable shaft diamters


After the successful excavation, another task was to be managed: the disassembly of the huge machines in the deep shafts. To remove the SBR from the shaft bottom it was necessary to reduce the weight of the machine from 390 tons to 340 tons. This was achieved by stripping all components off the SBR that were in the excavation chamber. Both SBRs were safely extracted from the two shafts at the Jansen Potash Project in May of 2019.

The Jansen Potash Project located approximately 140 kilometers east of Saskatoon, SK, is a BHP-owned future potential potash mine with an expected initial mining output of around 3-4.5 million tons per year with valuable expansion options.

Column 0 Column 1
Project Jansen Mine
Client BHP Billiton Ltd.
Contractor DMC Mining Services
Geology Heterogenous ground, rock
Shaft depth 1 x 975m, 1 x 1,005m
Machine data
2 x Shaft Boring Roadheader (SBR)
Excavation diameter: 11,000mm (Inner diamater approx. 8,000mm)
Cutting drum power: 600kW
Cutting drum torque: 140kNm
Application Potash mining

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Steffen Dubé President and General Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA Inc.
Gerhard Goisser Commercial Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA, Inc.

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Steffen Dubé President and General Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA Inc.
Gerhard Goisser Commercial Manager Herrenknecht Tunnelling Systems USA, Inc.