Home » Tunnelling machine Stella-Rose bores a world record

Tunnelling machine Stella-Rose bores a world record

by Mark Cantrell
A tunnelling machine that's been boring its way beneath the North Yorkshire countryside chewed its way to a new world record

A tunnelling machine that’s been boring its way beneath the North Yorkshire countryside chewed its way to a new world record recently – reaching a distance of 25.8km, and it’s not done yet.

The machine, named Stella-Rose, is a Herrenknecht tunnel boring machine (TBM) operated by STRABAG. It weighs in at 1,775 tonnes and has a diameter of six metres; a mammoth machine.

Stella-Rose has been underground for four and half years, excavating a tunnel for the Woodsmith mine near Whitby in the North East of England. Once complete, it will be a total of 37km long.

According to STRABAG UK, it’s not only the tunnelling that is breaking records at the project. The company is also building the world’s longest conveyor tunnel for a permanent mineral transport system (MTS) on behalf of Anglo American.

Simon Wild, managing director of STRABAG UK, said: “We are extremely proud of the team at the Woodsmith project for reaching this incredible milestone, and passing the current world record set for a single bored tunnel drive.

“This is another example of our growing presence in the North East of England and the UK, demonstrating our industry leading expertise.”

Andrew Johnson, Woodsmith project director for Anglo American, said: “We are delighted to achieve such an incredible milestone in the UK as part of our pioneering project. It is a demonstration of the fruits of teamwork with our partners. We are now focused on looking forward and setting a new world record every day. The Woodsmith tunnel is a fundamental part of our commitment to create a sustainable mine with minimal environmental impact.”

When completed, the MTS will be used to transport ore from the world’s largest polyhalite deposit from under the North York Moors National Park to Wilton, Teesside, for further processing.

Polyhalite, a naturally occurring mineral that can be used as a fertiliser in organic farming, is extracted from the Woodsmith mine via two 1.6-km shafts connected to the underground conveyor belt; a system that was chosen to minimise the environmental impact at the surface.

With an internal diameter of 4.9 metres, the conveyor tunnel and transport system are designed to handle a throughput of up to 20m tonnes of material a year.

Following completion of the overall project, Anglo American and STRABAG are expecting to have the record officially confirmed by Guinness World Records. Until that happens in 2026, the STRABAG site team will have to be patient.

About 450 people are directly employed on the Woodsmith project, with around 75% of them local to Teesside. STRABAG’s preference for working with local construction partners and suppliers has also created many further jobs in the region.

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