Berufsfeld Bergbau
Work field

Mining

Within the K+S Group, mining includes prospecting, exploration and extraction of raw materials.

What I like most about my job are the daily challenges and because every day is different.
Manuel, miner

Procedures used for the extraction of potash, magnesium and rock salts

  • Conventional underground mining: Mines
  • Conventional open-pit mining: Open-pit mining 
  • Solution mining
A day in the life of...

Miners

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... begins before each shift in the "Kau", the changing rooms of the miners. There they change into therir mining gear. Then they take their personal equipment to the pit cage: in the lamp room they put on the headlight and hang the self-rescuer around themselves. It supplies the miner with oxygen for up to 50 minutes in an emergency. The color of the helmet shows the miner's tasks: The supervisors have white helmets, the mechanics have a blue one, the electricians, green. The miners in salt extraction wear yellow helmets and the men of the underground fire department have a bright red helmet. The men who take care of all safety issues wear orange helmets.

The miners then wait for the pit cage, which takes them down several hundred meters. At a speed of around 8 meters per second, they get to where they need to go quickly. Not only do the men come underground through the shaft, but the shafts for crews and equipment also serve to bring in freash air - it's the ventilation system.  This is the responsibility of the "Wettersteiger" - they ensure that the miners can work in a well-ventilated environment despite the running engines of the large machines.

An extensive network of roads

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Arriving at the lower part of the shaft in the depths of the mine, the miners leave the pit cage and board the vehicles, which take them to their working areas, the "districts". Some get there quickly, for others the journey sometimes takes up to half an hour - depending on the size of the mine and the distance of the individual sections from the shaft. The journey takes place on salt roads and leads through labyrinth. They are between 12 and 16 metere wide and vary in height depending on the deposit and cross section of the road. Flat sections alternate with sometimes steep uphill and downhill sections. Thetrip takes you past filling stations, workshop areas, measuring stations that measure the content of valuable substances in crude salt, and along kilometers of conveyor belts on which the extracted crude salt is transported to the shafts. Again and again, new roads cross each other, alternating with salt pillars. They have an edge length of up to 50 metres and support the overburden, i.e. the ceiling which are rock layers several hundred meters thick. The supporting pillars can hold three times the load actually resting on them.

Underground specialists

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After driving through the dark, only partially illuminated roads, the miners arrive at the station. There are constantly pleasant temperatures of more than 20 degrees Celsius and the humidity is only about 20 percent After the "steiger", or supervisors, have checked the area and the work done so far, they assign miners their tasks. They carry out their work largely independently and bear a great deal of responsibility for their area of work.

Everyone is a specialist at their workplace. One uses large, complex machines to drill the holes (large holes and blast holes), which their colleague - the blasting worker - then fills with explosives and fires. They have a lot to do, because their colleague "Bohrhauer" or driller had previously drilled 60 holes with a diameter of 35 millimeters seven meters deep into the rock. A computer-controlled blast hole drilling carriage is used, a device that works with the highest precision and creates the blast holes according to a fixed scheme. Blasting takes place at the change of shifts. The blasting is triggered in the control station.

We're all one big family underground. We all stick together and everyone helps each other out.
Sandra, apprentice in mining technology

Safety first

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The loading vehicles will then be used, large diesel-powered and, in some cases, electric-powered vehicles with shovels that can carry up to 20 tonnes of salt at a time. This salt is then transported to the tipping point, where the salt rocks are crushed with a chisel-equipped roller. The crushed salt is then transported on conveyor belts to the shaft or for interim storage in an underground bunker near the shaft.

Safety is a top priority for K+S: Securing the ceiling and side walls is an ongoing task - the miners refer to it as "robbing". With the help of robbing machines, rocks weighing tons that have loosened are often removed in a controlled manner so that they do not fall.

The ridge anchor drill rig is then used. Ridge anchors are threaded rods up to 1.2 meters long with an expansion sleeve at the tip, which - comparable to an oversized anchor - connect the salt layers to each other and give them greater strength.

All the work is connected; every "step" must be taken, because the next step based on this can only be successful if one step has been carried out as intended. Although the miners are specialists and work largely on their own, in the end they see themselves as a team that can only be successful if they work together and extract the required amount of crude salt.

If one shift is over, the miners of the next shift are already waiting to enter. Meanwhile, several hundred meters of dust and blasting vapors from the detonation that has just been triggered are dispersed. Once again, the miners in charge will check whether the area can be travelled on, and once again they will drive tons of salt in wheel loaders to crushers, prepare the roads and ensure that they are safe again. The network of underground roads always expands. To ensure that the salt can also be transported away, the conveyor belts must also be extended.

Computer-controlled vehicles in use

The image of a miner with a pickaxe and shovel has long been a thing of the past. The work in potash and rock salt mining today is characterized by the use of computer-controlled large-scale machines - an indispensable prerequisite for being able to extract millions of tonnes of rock salt and crude salt year after year, which are processed into a large number of salt and fertilizer as well as industrial products. Every employee in the K+S Group's mining operations has completed extensive training that enables them to carry out the tasks assigned to them independently and with a great sense of responsibility and safety.

Typical jobs

  • Mining technologist (m/f/d) 
  • Mining engineer (m/f/d)
  • Mining mechanic (m/f/d)
  • Mine operation assistant (m/f/d) 
  • and much more
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K+S Aktiengesellschaft
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HR Marketing
K+S Aktiengesellschaft
Svenja Ludwig
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