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Tunneling Construction: How Hydro Excavation & Potholing Works for the Mining Industry

hydro excavation and mining industry

 

Hydro Excavation and the Mining Industry

Hydro excavation (often referred to as hydrovac) is finding its way into more industries as companies become more familiar with the process and learn of the many benefits of its non-destructive nature.  

In hydro excavation, high-pressure water is injected into the sight intended, loosening up the rock, soil, sand, and debris, which is simultaneously pumped out of the trench and into a holding tank. Mining operations are now realizing the benefits of hydro-excavating trenches.

Comparatively, mechanical trenching takes many more man-hours.  Also, there are more equipment breakdowns to deal with sometimes resulting in the shutdown of a project until replacement parts arrive – all this often adds up to job cost overruns.  

Benefits to the Mining Industry

  • Mining is performed on a host of terrains, ground textures, and soil types. Regardless of the soil composition, gravel, clay, etc., hydro excavation can penetrate the medium.  Mechanical excavation utilizes metal drill bits and is not quite as effective as hydro-excavation in certain types of terrain, especially in cold climates when the ground is hard. 
  • The precision of hydro excavating is an excellent option for the mining industry; drilling and trenching around mines can be extremely sensitive, requiring specialized hydrovac equipment. Mining operations call for high standards of safety, which utilizing hydrovac helps maintain. 
  • Hydro excavation gets the job done in considerably less time, reducing the costs. Considering the scale of mining operations, this may work out to be a big advantage. 
  • The non-destructive nature of hydro-excavation all but eliminates costs associated with repairs to adjacent surroundings, labor accidents or other mishaps. 

hydro excavation and potholing

Potholing and Hydro Excavation

Traditionally done with either a backhoe or by hand, both of which are high-risk, cumbersome, inefficient and labor-intensive, "potholing" is now done via hydro excavation.

The process of digging test holes to expose pipes and underground utilities is "potholing", or as some refer to it, "daylighting." The hydro excavation process uses pressurized water to displace soil and create a slurry that is removed via a high-velocity suction and stored in a holding tank. 

This exposes the utilities and pipes which can then be examined to determine their position and orientation and to check for cracks and punctures in the lines. This maintenance is performed periodically to ensure all is as it should be.

Hydro excavation is now the preferred method used to perform these tasks, eliminating the threat of damage to the utility lines.  Also, due to efficiency and cost-effectiveness, potholing is now used in other applications, such as installing utility poles, telephone poles, fences, signs and any other task that requires setting a post in the ground.

The process is very similar to a pressure washer you would use on your driveway or deck—highly pressurized water is injected into the ground through a handheld wand. Due to its accuracy, project delays and service interruptions resulting from inaccurate digging are minimized. This is good news since damaging existing utilities can be costly in terms of potential contractor fines and project downtime.

Hydro excavating provides some long-term benefits as well. Due to the improved safety measures and fewer repairs, hydro excavation helps reduce insurance and liability costs.

hydro excavation

The Leading Recruiting Company for the Mining Industry

At Resource Erectors, we connect mining professionals at the advanced levels of mine engineering to the best mining companies in North America. We're also the go-to resource for the top candidates in manufacturing, civil engineering, tunneling, and construction. Industry leaders have been relying on Resource Erectors for decades to recruit the best-qualified talent to contribute to their company's success.

When you're ready to make a strategic professional career move, or when it's time to take your company's performance to the next level with the best available professionals in your industry, please don't hesitate to contact us

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About Author

Dan Duszynski
Dan Duszynski

CEO and President of Resource Erectors, Inc.. A search and recruitment firm serving the mining and mineral processing, engineering, and civil construction industries of North America.

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