Position statement - tunnelling operations

This position statement clarifies the tunnelling operations that WorkSafe considers are within the scope of the Health and Safety at Work (Mining Operations and Quarrying Operations) Regulations 2016 [the mining regulations]. It also lays out the operations the High Hazards Unit Extractives will focus on.

What will be covered

A tunnelling operation is an operation involving extraction of fill with the purpose of creating a tunnel or shaft or enlarging and extending any tunnel or shaft.

Regulation 6(external link) sets out which operations are excluded from the definition of tunnelling operations.

In practice HHU Extractives will focus its compliance and enforcement activities on any tunnelling operation that:

  • Ordinarily has mine workers working underground, and
  • Meets any of the criteria listed below:
  1. explosives are used underground at the operation; or
  2. the operation relates to a tunnel or shaft that is, or is intended to be, more than 15m long; or
  3. the concentration of methane is likely to be more than 0.25% of the general body of air in any working area at the operation.

What will not be covered

HHU Extractives will take the common meaning of tunnel as an artificial underground passage and deems that where the excavation of fill is not for the purpose of creating a shaft or tunnel, it is outside the scope of the mining regulations.

The HHU Extractives approach is to exclude shallow shafts and short tunnels (less than 15m) made as part of civil engineering construction and do not contain methane gas or use explosives.

An operation relating to a tunnel or shaft that is, or is intended to be, of any length where no person ordinarily works underground is not subject to the mining regulations.

Further information

Any queries may be emailed to the HHU Extractives team at hhu.extractives@worksafe.govt.nz