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Excavating a Tunnel in the Foothills of the Southern Alps of New Zealand


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Author J Edwards and E Giles


Pike River Coal Limited (PRCL) is opening a new underground coal mine in the
Paparoa Ranges north-east of Greymouth. To access the coal reserves, PRCL have
had to build a 13 km access road through regrowth and virgin forest, and
appointed McConnell Dowell Constructors Limited, with URS New Zealand Limited as
their consulting engineers, to construct the final access link: a 2.3 km long,
5.5 m wide and 4.5 m high incline tunnel.

This paper discusses the logistical issues of construction in an isolated
pristine forest in mountain land and how they were addressed. It provides an
overview of the 90 per cent complete tunnel and how challenging rock conditions
have been mastered. It outlines briefly the remaining work which is construction
of pit bottom workings where the mine infrastructure will be housed and
construction of a 110 m deep, 4.0 m diameter, vertical ventilation