Basics of Underground Construction


Underground construction is essential in the mass transportation systems that move millions of urban commuters in cities every day. It also plays a role in protecting and securing structures against natural disasters, as well as supporting water quality with underground systems for wastewater control.

In every corner of the globe, ambitious, multi-million dollar projects are actively underway. Innovative new technologies, equipment and tools have made it easier than ever before to take on massive jobs without disturbing life above ground.

The demand for underground construction engineers is unprecedented as the current labor force begins to age out of the workplace. Areas of opportunity include several specialties, such as:

Mining Construction

Mining projects are happening around the world as the search for new deposits of valuable materials increases. From iron ore to copper and silver, the earth still holds unexplored pockets of opportunity, primarily in developing nations in South America and Asia.

Technological advancements in mining equipment are helping companies drill ever-deeper caves, at a faster pace. Other developments in concrete and concrete admixture are also available to improve safety along with speed, thanks to advanced applications for backfilling, anchoring, and shielding.

Tunnel Construction

Tunneling work is on the upswing in aging cities that need to shore up their crumbling infrastructure, including water and sewer channels, oil and natural gas pipelines, telephone and electric lines, cable systems and more.

Meanwhile, road tunneling is paving the way to growth in emerging economies. There is also continued expansion of subway construction in modern cities seeking more efficient and less polluting modes of transportation.

Like mining, the tunneling industry has enjoyed many technological improvements for computer-controlled drilling, safer excavation in wet areas, and better coating of raw surfaces for underground durability.

Building Construction

Of course, underground construction methodologies are also essential to commercial and residential property developments. A sound foundation is the starting point for any successful building project. Depending on the size and nature of the building, this can range from a simple basement to a complex and cavernous underground facility engineering operation. It could also include the option to build a site that is completely underground.

For example, there are a number of underground waste storage facilities located around the world. One of the most notorious sites is that of the once-planned Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository in Nevada. Today, decades later, Japan has commissioned a similar site known as the Horonobe Underground Research Center. This facility has been engineered to house 17,000 tons of “spent” fuel rods – pending study outcomes regarding volcanic activity and underground water flows.

As fascinating as that is, perhaps the most exciting underground construction project of our time is that of the particle accelerator complex built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN. This is the facility that houses the Large Hadron Collider (the “super-collider”), along with other marvels of physics ingenuity. CERN hosts Open Days each year for the public to view this amazing feat of engineering prowess.