Here's a history of mining in Australia.

Australia’s proud mining history – how far have we come?

Right from Australia's early days, way back when it was first populated around 60,000 years ago, mining and minerals were integral to the continent's culture. At Locker Group, we're committed to providing Australian mines with the right tools and structures to enable them to carry on this amazing tradition. Here's a look back at how far mining has come since it first started all that time ago. 

Aboriginal art

Between 40,000 – 60,000 years ago, when the Aboriginal people came to Australia, they began the country's very first mining phase. They dug for ochre, which they used to make pigments for paint. This gave rise to the traditional browny-red colour that's often seen in Aboriginal cave paintings and rock art. The Aboriginal people also dug for suitable stones for weapons and tools. 

The early colonial period 

It was the early days of European settlement that first saw minerals being produced on a large scale in Australia. Coal was discovered near Newcastle (NSW) in 1791, just three years after the First Fleet arrived. The coal was essential for heating, cooking and later steam power. This was the beginning of the coal industry, and the first export occurred in 1799, when a shipment of coal set out for India. 

In Glen Osmond on the outskirts of Adelaide, lead became the first metal to be mined in Australia in 1841. Copper mining then began at Burra and Kapunda (both also in South Australia) not long afterwards. 

Gold rush

In the 1850s a gold rush began that was to put Australia's mining industry on the map. First found in NSW in 1823, there were sporadic discoveries of gold traces for a number of years before gold mining really took off. It was the finding of payable alluvial gold in 1851 near Bathurst in NSW as well as the rich reserves of it in Victoria that really saw gold mining begin properly. As word got out that Australia might be the next big gold rush centre, people began to emigrate there. This growing population enabled increased industrial development and more money to be invested into gold mining. 

This all meant that, by the 1850s, Australia was producing almost 40 per cent of the world's gold, according to the Australian Mining Association. Victoria in particular was to become a centre for gold mining for many years afterwards.

The familiar browny-red of aboriginal art comes from the minerals they first used to create pigments.The familiar browny-red of Aboriginal art comes from the minerals they first used to create pigments.

The late 19th-century

Tin was discovered in 1871 at Mt. Bischoff in Tasmania, and then Inverell in NSW. Soon, Australia's great mines were established – silver, lead and zinc were mined at Broken Hill in NSW, while gold was a major export from Coolgardie and Kalgoordie in WA. Iron ore was produced in South Australia and copper and gold at Mt. Morgan near Rockhampton, Queensland. 

The 20th-century

There were few new mineral finds during the first half of the 20th century, and mining in Australia experienced something of a decline. However the Pilbara iron ore region was developed in WA, and new metals were discovered in the second part of the 20th century. These included bauxite (the source of aluminium), nickel, tungsten, rutile (the source of titanium), uranium, oil and natural gas.

The goldrush of the 1850s laid the foundations for Australia to become the second largest exporter of gold.The gold rush of the 1850s laid the foundations for Australia to become the second largest exporter of gold.

Mining in the 21st-century

Australia is now one of the world's major exporters of minerals. For example, Australia is the world's largest coal exporter, worth $34 billion in export value in 2015, as reported by the Department for Industry, Innovation and Science. The same source tells us that Australia is also the world's largest exporter of alumina and iron ore, as well as the second largest exporter of gold and the fourth biggest exporter of nickel.

At Locker Group, we want Australia to continue this impressive tradition and remain one of the world's top producers of minerals. This is why we're committed to providing your mine with the walkways, screening equipment and other tools to help you stay competitive and safe. Our mining product developers are industry experts, and here to help at every step of the way.

For more information, please contact us

Australia is starting to compete with China over tech metal mining.

Is Australia on the verge of a new tech metals mining boom?

Australia may be on the verge of a new mining boom based on new "tech metals." If we are to really succeed, however, a value-added component must be introduced before shipping the products overseas. 

What exactly are tech metals?

These are metals used in the high tech components of modern technology. One of the most obvious examples is lithium, which is used in smartphones, laptops, digital cameras and tablets. Tech metals are often used to make the batteries that store the power that comes from renewable sources. This makes them particularly important as more impetus gets placed on finding cleaner fuels to power the world. 

Australia is already a key provider of tech metals. Western Australia, for instance, is now making strong claims to be the world's lithium capital. Although there is only one lithium mine at present, a recent investment of an estimated $500 million may mean that there could be as many as seven by 2018, according to ABC. 

Rare earth metals are also becoming an important part of Australia's mining output. These are found in the earth's crust, and there are 17 on the periodic table. While they aren't actually that sparse, the difficulty is an economic one in that they are rarely found in enough quantity to be economically viable for mining. Up until recently, they were exclusively exported by China, many deposits have now been found in Australia. Examples include neodymium and praseodymium, which is used to make magnets. 

Lithium is a key component in mobile phone batteries.Lithium is a key component in mobile phone batteries.

How can Australia compete with China?

George Bauk, Managing Director of Northern Minerals, told ABC that "we can compete with the Chinese if we look at the quality of the product that is here."

"Their grades are a 10th of what we have. Our grades are about 6,600 parts per million. Their grades are about six parts per million."

The key is to add value. Much of Australia's current mining output, particularly iron ore and coal, is simply shipped to China as is, and is then often imported back into Australia once China has added value by manufacturing it into several different products.  

Vincent Algar, Managing Director of Australian Vanadium Ltd, said to ABC that we need to learn from this lesson:

"I don't think that anyone in the lithium space, or the vanadium space, or the cobalt space for that matter, should not do that given our experience in the last boom, where we shipped a lot of tonnes away overseas."

Vanadium is another important tech metal. Though originally used for strengthening steel, its real value is as a component in redox batteries. "We've got this new developing industry with growing demand, and I think we should be able to make the redox flow batteries in Australia because we do have a lot of technology," Algar said.

We need to learn from the lesson of coal and iron ore and start adding value before exporting.We need to learn from the lesson of coal and iron ore and start adding value before exporting.

Australia the perfect place for adding value

Australia already has the regulations to add value, in terms of water usage restraints, environmental and pollution considerations, transport and disposal. 

"There's already a well-established regime and bureaucracy in place to regulate that, and we think it's better to do that at the mine site where it all happens, rather than trying to do it offshore and making it somebody else's problem," said Gavin Lockyer, Managing Director of Arafura Resources, to ABC.

At Locker Group, we know how complex mining is, especially with this move to extracting rare earth and tech metals. That's why our mining product developers are committed to staying on top of industry developments. Our experts understand that every mine is different, so talk to us today to find out more about our screening products, walkways and gratings. 

Designing flooring plans can be a major logistical challenge.

Good, solid flooring is at the foundation of any safe work facility

Every business owner wants the same thing from their company's facilities – a good, safe place where their employees can work productively and not have to worry about anything going wrong. If there are any defects in your company's work site, it can be a major source of stress and anxiety. No one wants to worry about their people being unsafe.

Every business owner wants the same thing from their facilities – a safe place where their employees can work productively.

Any safety effort should begin with having sturdy flooring for employees to walk on. Your floors are at the foundation of your work site, and you want workers to be able to walk from place to place, throughout your facility, with confidence.

What goes into creating good flooring?

Creating strong industrial flooring requires careful collaboration between a facility's architects and the builders carrying out the construction project. According to the Engineered Wood Products Association of Australasia, the flooring process should begin with an architect choosing the appropriate load and deflection criteria for the facility in question. How much weight and stress will the facility's floors need to support?

The best flooring plans are flexible, meaning it's easy to modify the design of a facility later on, should the business' needs change and additional capacity be required.

Overcoming key challenges in architecture

What does it take to overcome challenges in designing industrial flooring? What happens if a building is a particularly tricky size or shape to floor optimally, or if it's difficult for a business' owners to agree to terms with architects and builders on a strategy?

Overcoming building challenges requires solid teamwork.Overcoming building challenges requires solid teamwork.

The Industry Skills Councils emphasises that good teamwork is essential for tackling difficult flooring projects. If architects and builders are able to share information well and collaborate on making key decisions about the process, everyone's job will be easier – even difficult problem-solving exercises can be simplified dramatically.

Of course, it also helps if you begin by using the best possible architectural products.

We can lend a hand at Locker Group

You want your business to have nothing less than the best when it comes to flooring that prioritises safety and resiliency. Whether you're working on a rural flooring project or building a massive facility for a large corporation, you want a structure with integrity.

At Locker Group, we can help make that happen. We offer flooring solutions that are highly reliable, yet affordable and low-maintenance. Contact us to learn more about how we can enhance your company's facilities.

Mining companies are looking for new, creative ways to stay competitive.

Companies striving to stay competitive in Australia’s mining industry

The work of the mining industry is crucial to the success of Australia's economy as a whole. Miners work hard to uncover valuable natural resources, which in turn are used to complete a variety of residential and industrial building projects. Without mining, we would be without many of the structures that enable us to live our daily lives.

As prices for certain commodities are falling, mining companies have begun looking for ways to stay competitive.

At the moment, though, the industry has major concerns to deal with. As prices for certain commodities are falling, mining companies have begun looking for ways to stay competitive in the industry, still paying their employees' wages and other expenses without overstepping their limited budgets.

There are certain places where they can't cut corners, though. For example, when it comes to keeping employees safe and productive, there are costs involved that are non-negotiable. This only adds to the challenge of running a successful mining business in 2017.

The key economic role of mining in Australia

It's not hard to see that mining products play a key role in driving economic value in Australia. According to the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the country is fortunate to have an abundance of natural resources to be mined – these include diamonds, gold, iron ore, lead, nickel, uranium and zinc. Australia ranks in the top five exporters worldwide of all of the above. All told, these valuable products make up a sizable amount of the country's gross domestic product and export earnings.

With all the products extracted from Australian mines, there should in theory be enough to support both domestic building projects and foreign investment in construction. The markets both here and abroad, however, are subject to fluctuation, which means mining companies must be prepared to adjust to changing forces around them and change their strategies.

Falling commodity prices create revenue pressures

The hope is that the nation's miners continue to supply builders everywhere with the architectural products they need, and make a pretty penny as a result. Unfortunately though, this can only happen if buyers remain willing to pay premium prices for their natural resources. When demand drops off, the industry can fall on hard times.

As revenues start dropping, mining companies need to adjust.As revenues start dropping, mining companies need to adjust.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that in 2015, revenues in the mining industry began to slip. Industry value added decreased by $9.4 billion to a total of $118.3 billion, a 7.4 per cent drop. Metal ore mining saw the most significant fall, 12.9 per cent. Falling prices for metallurgical coal, thermal coal and iron ore also had an adverse effect.

These market changes may only be temporary, but if they're not, it will be important in the near future for mining companies to make key changes. It will be harder for them to stay financially viable without losing their competitive edge, which means little changes at the margins – such as using better and more affordable measures to build safe mining facilities – could make all the difference.

Using the right products to foster business success

No matter how the economic climate around your business might look, it's clear that mining safety remains a top priority. If you want your operation to be viable, it's non-negotiable that you need your employees to be safe and productive. At Locker Group, we can help with this. We provide Australian mining businesses with dependable tools and solid structures they can use to ensure safe, secure profitable work each day.

We carry everything from screening media to walkway gratings and handrails – all products that serve to strengthen Australia's mines and make them better places to work. Speak with our experts soon and learn more about how our products can add value to any mining project.

The gold mining industry continues to grow.

Gold mining industry still growing with new funding for Penny’s Find

Empire Resources' Penny's Find gold mine (WA) can now go into full production, thanks to the $7.5 million funding it recently secured in March.

The new binding Term Sheet agreement states that Blue Capital Services will fund operations until the mine's cash flow is positive. The agreement only covers open pit mining, but ensures that it has enough capital to begin the site's initial open pit operations. 

A quick turnover

David Sargeant, managing director of Empire, who have a 60 per cent in the site, said he was happy that operations can now begin. 

"All agreements for mining, haulage and treatment of Penny's Find gold ore are now satisfactorily in place, allowing the project to make the immediate transition to mining," he said.

"A recently re-designed pit and new mining schedule will also allow Empire to mine at a faster rate than previously anticipated, with considerable cost savings."

The Penny's Find is expected to generate a $7.6 million free cash flow over the open pit mine life of 11 months.

Empire Resources eventually plan to take their mine underground.Empire Resources eventually plan to take their mine underground.

Another Eastern Goldfields jackpot

Just the open pit of Penny's Find has gold resources of approximately 146,000 tonnes grading 4.62 grams per tonne gold for 21,7000 contained ounces. This is located within the first 80 metres from the surface. 

However, Empire does eventually plan to take the mine underground – gold mineralisation extends to at least 250 metres below the earth's surface and potentially goes deeper. 

Gold mining looking like a good investment

Located 50,000 km northeast of Kalgoorlie, this is one of many mines in Western Australia's prolific eastern goldfields area.

We design our mining products with reliability and safety at the forefront of our minds.

This is looking like an excellent time for the gold mining industry – Empire Resources' shares are trading up 45 per cent over the past 12 months. The wider view for gold mining is also looking positive, with AUD gold trading at $1,595 per ounce. 

Make your mine better with Locker Group

With the Penny's Find site indicating that the mining industry's growth won't be slowing any time soon, it's important that directors maintain mining safety and quality standards. This is something that Locker Group can help you with. We design our mining products with reliability and safety at the forefront of our minds. We can provide you with screening products made of rubber and polyurethane, as well as several grating and walkway options, meaning you can choose which is best for you.

At Locker Group, customisation is at the heart of what we do. We know no two mines are the same, so we'll make sure the products we deliver fit the individual specifications and needs of each site. 

For more information, please contact us.

Which materials are best for salt mining?

Fibre reinforced plastic in the salt mining industry

Salt is incredibly valuable. Our body needs it to survive, and it forms the backbone of many industries. In fact, the Australian government estimates there are over 14,000 uses of the stuff.

Unsurprisingly, salt mining makes up a significant portion of Australia's nonmetallic mineral mining industry. According to Ibis World, Australian salt production has grown over the last five years to exceed 13 million tonnes in 2015-2016. Western Australia produces around half of the industry's volume of salt, with the rest spread around Queensland and South Australia.

However, salt is a reactive mineral and a significant contributor to corrosion and weathering of materials, which can pose significant problems to infrastructure when it comes time to harvest. Selecting the right material for construction in this industry requires a creative solution: Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP).

FRP is an ideal solution for the salt mining industry.FRP is an ideal solution for the salt mining industry.

What is FRP?

FRP is a composite material made from a blend of a polymer matrix (plastic) with a reinforcing material, which in this case is fibreglass. It poses a number of distinct advantages  over other forms of grating material, depending on the application. Its primary uses are in industrial flooring, access walkways, screens, nonslip surfaces, machine guards and stair treads.

In the salt mining industry, this material's resistance to reactivity is what sets it apart from other flooring products.

What makes FRP suitable for the salt mining industry?

In the salt mining industry, this material's resistance to reactivity is what sets it apart from other flooring products.

FRP is unreactive to all concentrations of sodium chloride, magnesium salts, potassium salts and more at a wide range of temperatures, which makes it the perfect material for this industry.

In a harsh environment, such as the kind where salts and water can mix, the maintenance, degradation and eventual replacement of flooring materials is a significant ongoing cost. Metal products give way to corrosion and rust, while other materials degrade quickly when exposed to the high levels of UV radiation solar salt beds need to evaporate the excess water. 

Not only is it highly resistant to corrosion, FRP is protected against degradation from the sun due to UV inhibitors within the material. It also has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio thanks to its singular, interwoven pattern. For these reasons and more, FRP is not only a durable, but also cost-effective industrial flooring solution for the salt mining industry. 

To find out about what other industries FRP is suitable for, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today. 

How much water does Australian industry use?

How are industries reducing their water consumption?

The United Nations World Water Day is held on March 22nd. Its focus: bringing to attention the importance of freshwater and its sustainable management. Each year revolves around a specific aspect of water, and this year, the theme is wastewater.

Wastewater is a result of consumption – water that has been used as part of a commercial, industrial or residential processes. In general, wastewater is no longer potable or safe to introduce back into the environment, which reduces the total amount of freshwater available.

Australia is a nation that depends on its water resources. In 2014-2015, we consumed over 17,000 gigalitres (GL) across all sectors – the equivalent of 35 Sydney Harbours, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). For reference, 1 GL is equivalent to 1 billion litres.

At Locker Group, we want to celebrate the responsible use of resources in industry. So how are different industries reducing the amount of water they use?

Reducing water consumption is important for sustainability.Reducing water consumption is important for sustainability.

Conserving water in mining

According to the ABS, the mining industry consumed over 700 GL of water in 2014-2015. This is partly due to the number of vital roles water plays in the processing of minerals and the prevention of toxins entering the environment. However, this doesn't meant that there aren't innovative ways for mines to reduce their consumption and discharge as much as possible.

Mines can utilise nature in the form of wetlands to 'purify' wastewater.

Mining Facts highlights some of the active and passive ways to treat water so that it gets recycled and doesn't go to waste. Active treatments, such as filtration or chemical treatment to remove contaminants are common methods. Passively, mines can utilise nature in the form of wetlands to 'purify' wastewater – filtering water to the point where it can be reincorporated into the environment. Other solutions include using bacteria to remove harmful toxins from water, allowing it to be recycled more easily, as outlined in the Australian Trade Commission's Urban and Industrial Water report. 

On the other hand, not all water used in mines is hazardous. Using something as simple as screens or grating to catch surface runoff on floors and walkways can contribute to the reduction of water used in mines.

Reducing runoff in agriculture

By far, the industry that uses the most water in Australia is agriculture. In 2014-2015, this sector used over 10,000 GL, according to the ABS. However, despite accounting for the vast majority of freshwater use (60 per cent), the agricultural industry is also leading the charge in reducing the water it consumes. Lauren Binns, Director of Environment and Agriculture Statistical Delivery and Communication, explains.

"The largest decrease in water consumption was in the agriculture industry. Ongoing dry conditions across the eastern states meant farmers used less water for irrigation, so consumption was down 10 per cent to 10,410 GL in 2014-15. This followed an 8 per cent decrease in the previous year," said Ms Binns.

Preventing runoff from irrigation is crucial to reducing the amount of water that gets wasted.

According to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, most of the water used in agriculture goes towards the irrigation of crops. Preventing runoff from irrigation is crucial to reducing the amount of water that gets wasted. As in farming, this runoff often contains an excess of nutrients and particulates that, if introduced to rivers and streams, can contaminate fresh water supplies.

Strategies such as using screens or mesh are options to reducing matter in wastewater, whilst diverting its flow into retention ponds where it can be reused for irrigation is an effective way to curtail the total volume used. 

The outlook is positive. Australia decreased its consumption of water by 7 per cent in 2014-2015, a trend supported across the majority of Australian sectors, reports the ABS.

To find out more, get in touch with the team at Locker Group today.

Are conveyor belts the best transport option?

Materials handling and efficiency: conveyor belts or dump trucks?

Most minerals travel a long distance from their point of extraction their point of processing. Traditionally, trucks and other diesel engines have been the preferred mode of transport, but with rising petrol costs, maintenance and environmental impact, trucks have become an inefficient and costly option.

Alternatively, the use of conveyor belt systems is becoming a popular option for long-distance materials handling. Mines all over the world, including the Fabrica Mine in Minas Gerais State, Brazil have investigated the use of such systems for materials handling and found that conveyors hold a number of advantages over traditional modes of transportation.

Diesel is an inefficient and costly transport option.Diesel transportation is no longer the most efficient option.

Conveyor belts versus trucks: a question of energy efficiency

Mines have long sought to provide a balance between supplying essential non-renewable materials and lessening the environmental impact of getting them. Extraction of minerals is an energy-intensive process that currently relies heavily on fossil fuels. Advancements in technologies that aim to lessen the energy cost and resulting carbon footprint have the potential to dramatically lessen the impact mining has on the environment.

Conveyor belts have the potential to operate at 98 per cent energy efficiency and contribute much less to the energy cost of material handling.

According to a 2007 US Department of Energy study entitled "Mining Industry Energy Bandwidth", diesel equipment is less efficient than electric equipment. Diesel transportation, such as service trucks, bulk trucks and rear-dump trucks, is highly energy intensive and accounts for 87 per cent of total energy consumed in materials handling. What's more, according to the study, diesel transportation can only operate at a maximum 63 per cent efficiency rate.

On the other hand, electrical equipment such as conveyor belts have the potential to operate at 98 per cent energy efficiency and contribute much less to the energy cost of material handling. The added advantage is that electric systems do not generate exhaust fumes, which further lessens the environmental impact of materials handling.

Advantages of conveyors

The Fabrica Mine case study found that conveyor belt technology proved to be an effective and low-cost method of transportation. While they initially come with a high cost of investment and are less flexible than trucks, conveyor systems offer a number of distinct advantages:

  • Ability to transport over long distances.
  • Continuous production.
  • High capacity.
  • Lower environmental impact.
  • Low operation and maintenance costs.

Additionally, according to the book Evolutionary and Revolutionary Technologies for Mining (2002), in certain scenarios transport by conveyor belt systems allows for extra processing such as physical separation, prior to the material reaching the processing mills. This integration of processing and transport can further improve upon the efficiency of the system.

At Locker Group, our conveyor systems of woven wire, rolmat, spiral, plastic and plastic hybrid belts suit any conveyor application. To find out more, get in touch with our team today.

Dust is everywhere in the mining industry.

The importance of preventing dust formation in Australian mines

Dust is a persistent issue with Australian mine sites, whether above ground or below. Considering that May 2015 brought the first case of black lung in over 30 years and many more have followed, according to Australian Mining, it's wise for work health and safety experts to pay close attention to the issue of reducing and preventing dust.

There are many available options for dealing with dust, minimising both the amount and the impact it has on workers in the industry, including the use of Locker Group's mining products.

It's not just underground where dust is a problem.It's not just underground where dust is a problem.

Dust is a persistent issue and hazard

Navigating the regulations of dust control, providing the correct safety equipment and preventing dust formation are some of the challenges the mining industry faces. According to the Australian Department of the Environment Dust Study report, dust is an inevitable problem for almost all forms of mining. While it's hard to correlate volume of dust with its impact on people's health, many dusts do contain metals that have a known detrimental effect on people's well-being and are potentially hazardous. Case in point: the 16 confirmed cases of black lung reported by Australian Mining in recent months.

Dust generated from haul roads within the mines is the biggest source of fine dust particles on most mine sites, contributing about 40 per cent of total emissions.

Dust can come from a number of sources. Blasting, handling, processing or transportation of soil and rock are just some examples of activities that generate dust. In the case of the black lung incidents, one of the surprising things about the case is that one of the more recent incidents arose in an open cut mine, which runs counter to the perception that underground mines are more dangerous for respiratory diseases.

It's not just industrial production that generates dust. Speaking to Australian Mining, EPA acting chief executive Mark Gifford explains that roads are the most common source of dust.

"Dust generated from haul roads within the mines is the biggest source of fine dust particles on most mine sites, contributing about 40 per cent of total emissions," he said. 

Reducing workers' exposure to dust and particulates

While the most effective way to reduce dust and keep it from going airborne is through the use of sprays, creating barriers and fences to prevent employees accessing areas that are known to generate a lot of airborne particulates is another way to control worker exposure to dust, according to the Department of the Environment.

This includes maintaining the walkways employees use to access sites. In order to reduce the amount of dust produced from foot traffic, it may be a good idea to install custom walkways that give workers an alternative to kicking up particulate matter.

To find out more about our mining products, get in touch with Locker Group today.

What does underground architecture have to offer Australia?

Living underground: Where mining and architecture meet

If there are two industries Locker Group knows about, it's architecture and mining. These fields seem like they'd be fairly separate, but there is an area where they overlap and intermingle: underground buildings. Given our interest in the contributing elements, and the potential underground building has in Australia, we thought we'd take a look at this fascinating movement in structural design:

The potential benefits of going underground

There are several appeals to living or working in underground structures. These primarily come down to issues of space or climate.

Living underground can be more appealing because the surface environment is simply inhospitable.

For some densely populated areas, particularly urban spaces, there is a need for more space to accommodate ever-expanding populations, but no more land area to spread out into. The BBC says that this is a major issue in Singapore, an island nation that has used its available land to its limits and is still the second most densely populated city in the world. With hardly any natural spaces left, and high-rises extending into the suburbs, Singapore is now looking at underground developments as an option for housing new industrial facilities.

And in several parts of the world, living underground is more appealing than staying on the surface because the environment is simply inhospitable. A perfect example of this is the South Australian mining town of Coober Pedy, where roughly 80 per cent of the population lives underground. Temperatures on the surface can get up to 50 degrees in the height of summer, so migrating into the cooler air of the mines below offers a logical solution.

Underground buildings also offer the opportunity to hide or disguise features that you'd rather were not visually prominent, such as newer buildings in heritage areas.

A photo posted by FeeBee (@fobiness) on

The challenges of subterranean architecture

As architect and writer Witold Rybczynski points out in Slate Magazine, the discreetness of underground buildings is undercut by their practical needs for access – you can hide away your car park or information centre all you want, but it still needs a clearly labelled entrance, wheelchair access, emergency exits and vehicle ramps that will announce its presence. 

Even for buildings that are not trying to disguise their presence, being underground presents challenges that surface-level architecture doesn't have to face. Natural light and ventilation are features to consider for any structure, but they take on a new level of importance when your structure is buried in rock. The logistics of doing the initial excavation and construction safely also mean additional cost and time pressures – challenges those in the mining industry will know all about.

The other major problem that subterranean architecture faces is people's resistance to living underground.

"The human mind is naturally predisposed to fear underground spaces, which it associates with dark, small, cavernous environments and a danger of being buried alive," Mexican architect Esteban Suarez told the BBC.

To alleviate the discomfort people feel when they're underground, the solution is to make sure that they don't feel like they're confined. Gunnar D Jenssen, an underground psychology researcher, said to the BBC that clean air and the perception of open space can do a lot to reduce people's stress about being underground. Keeping underground spaces well lit also has a considerable effect on how comfortable people feel.

Locker Group has years of experience providing both the mining and architectural industries with products, services and advice. This means we have a unique outlook to offer companies or designers looking at subterranean architecture in Australia. Our architectural products such as expanded and perforated metal facades, which have proven value in conventional architecture, could be repurposed into underground architecture in exciting ways.

To find out more about what Locker Group offers and how we can help you with your next project, whether it's above ground or below, please get in touch today.

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