The drill at Big Bear tunnels 1,150 feet into the ground to improve the mine ventilation system and increase airflow.
Doe Run uses a 16-foot drill bit to tunnel 1,150 feet into the ground to open up a new mine ventilation shaft, which enhances airflow to help safely explore new ore bodies in Southeast Missouri.

Our mine development activities require significant capital investment and ensure our future.

The Big Bear Vent Shaft, which was near completion at the end of 2018, is an example of the investments we make to expand and sustain our Missouri mines. Located at the southernmost point of Doe Run’s Fletcher mine, the new shaft will support mining activity almost four miles from the main shaft at Fletcher Mine.

“We’re constantly searching for new ore bodies in the Southeast Missouri region so we can maintain our production rates and meet global demand for minerals and metals,” said Doug Aholt, project engineer. “In recent years, our exploration crews discovered a rich ore body of galena, the mineral form of lead, in the region. In order to reach the ore body, we needed to develop this area of our underground mine, which includes blasting new tunnels, bringing in utilities, such as electric and water, and adding ventilation.”

First, we installed ductwork and fans to ventilate the area under development. After developing the area further, we realized a new vent shaft would not only enable faster ore recovery, it would also allow expanded, future development more distant from our production shaft. In 2016, we began work on the new vent shaft, which will improve airflow and make mining the area more efficient.

Every dollar we spend in capital improvements, like the Big Bear Vent Shaft, is a commitment to the future.

Steve Batts, vice president and chief operating officer
Doug Aholt reviews mine ventilation plans with a colleague at Big Bear Vent Shaft.
Doug Aholt oversees construction on the Big Bear mine ventilation shaft with a team of contractors.

“One of the most important aspects of mining underground is air ventilation,” continued Doug. “When we blast the rock, we need to divert dust created by the explosion from the area, and keep a flow of fresh air. The challenge with expanding our mines is that these new areas are farther away from existing vent shafts, so it takes longer to clear the air before we allow employees to return to the area.”

The new 1,150-foot-deep vent shaft will more quickly ventilate this area of the mine after each blast. This in turn speeds up ore recovery and allows faster progress into the mine.  

“Many aspects of this project were not easy,” said Doug. “But expanding our mining operation is critical to the long-term health of our business.”

The Big Bear Vent Shaft will help manage airflow as we explore other parts of this region as well. Our exploration teams are also engaged in various stages of new developments near many of our other existing operations.

“These new ore bodies will help maintain production levels in the Viburnum Trend,” said Steve Batts, vice president and chief operating officer. “This region is our home, and these exploration and expansion projects can help us continue to be a major employer and contributor in this community into the future.”

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