TunnelSAFE_Alto Maipo Gantry Design - 273 x 242
Written by Roberto Breyer, South America BDM

MineARC has recently been engaged to provide TunnelSAFE Refuge Chambers to a large scale hydro-electric engineering project in Chile. The hydro-electric project, located high in the Chilean Andes south of Chile’s capital Santiago, aims to provide an annual total production of 2,320GWh once completed. This would add more hydro power to the Chilean energy mix which currently stands at 63% thermo-electric (based on imported fossil fuels), 34% hydro and 3% non-conventional renewable sources.

The project comprises of underground plants, with tunnels and shafts running a total length of over 65km. The construction phase will use a mix of both conventional drill and blast and tunnel boring machine (TBM) excavation methods.

Tunnelling contracts have been awarded to two groups, both companies have placed high importance on safety as of foremost importance in the project and have instructed their TBM manufacturers that they require refuge chambers on the TBMs. As a result the hydroelectric project now has a total of five MineARC TunnelSAFE Refuge Chambers incorporated in to the Emergency Response Plan (ERP).

The MineARC TunnelSAFE Gantry Design has been customised to suit the specifications of each TBM and have been specifically constructed for high occupancy and long duration, with each chamber being designed to run autonomously for 48 hours without external power or air.

Emergency refuge should always play an integral part in a tunnelling project’s wider Emergency Response Plan (ERP). Fires, fall of ground, flooding, and the release of smoke and other forms of toxic gas are the types of incidents that can occur, despite the high levels of planning and safety precautions in place. In these types of emergencies, where personnel become trapped without adequate ventilation and evacuation is no longer safe or practical, emergency refuge is designed to provide a secure ‘go-to’ area for personnel to gather and await extraction.

MineARC’s TunnelSAFE Range of Refuge Chambers include Gantry Design, Rail Design and Standard Design for Drill and Blast operations. The range are highly customisable to suit any project and can be built to comply with British Standard (BS EN 16191:2014) Safety Requirements for Tunnelling Machinery. They can also comply with the ITA’s “Guidelines for the Provision of Refuge Chambers Under Construction”, in addition to meeting the local regulations of each country.

For further information on how MineARC can assist you with your tunnelling project, please click here or email