shaft sinking

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shaft sinking, excavation from the surface of an opening in the earth. Shafts, which are generally vertical, are usually distinguished from tunnels, which are horizontal. Little difficulty is experienced in shaft sinking through solid rock, which contains little water. When loose, water-bearing strata have to be contended with, careful shoring and sealing of the shaft lining become necessary, and pumping facilities are needed. Shafts are usually circular or rectangular and are generally lined with wood, masonry, concrete, steel, or cast iron. Shafts sunk in loose water-bearing soils, where there is great external pressure on the shaft sides, are nearly always circular; rectangular shafts with wood lining are often used in mining work, as the shafts are frequently of a temporary nature. Shaft sinking through rock is generally accomplished by blasting. When the loose surface material has been removed, holes are drilled, and the charges are placed and are fired by electricity. The broken rock is removed and the process is repeated. In an ordinary rectangular shaft the lining consists of timbers 8 or 12 in. (20 or 30 cm) square placed horizontally around the shaft. Shafts of a more permanent nature are generally circular in form and lined with cast iron or with concrete masonry 1 to 2 ft (30–61 cm) thick, built in sections as the work advances. When excessive quantities of water are met with, cast-iron tubbing is sometimes used. This consists of heavy cast-iron rings made in segments, with flanges for connecting, and bolted together in place. Cement grout is forced into the space between the outside of the tubbing and the surrounding earth to form a seal. Shaft sinking by the freezing process in very watery soil is accomplished by sinking pipes in the area to be excavated and circulating brine at low temperature in them until the earth is frozen and hard so that it can be excavated in the same manner as rock. In the grouting method, liquid cement is forced into the water-bearing earth under very high pressure. On mixing with the water, the cement solidifies the adjacent area, and it is removed by drilling and blasting as with rock.