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Largest Hard Rock Mining Bore

Big Becky, as they call her, truly lives up to her name.  Many onlookers  (for most it was their first time) were able to gaze upon her tremendous body during the exclusive “by invitiation only” inaugural celebration in Niagara Falls on August 8, 2006.  Amid tight security, 500 guests witnessed the christening and launch of the world’s largest hard rock boring machine.  She was named by a class of grade schoolers who won a naming competition (”Big” because it’s, well, gigantic, and “Becky” in honour of the Adam Beck station; mining equipment is always given a woman’s name).  All the usual suspects were there, including Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the executives from the Austrian company that built the drill (Strabag).  After smashing a bottle of grape juice on it, Dalton was given the honour of pressing the magic button which got the blades spinning.

The theme for “2001: A Space Odyssey” accompanied the launch, which was appropriate in a strange sort of way.  The drill is definately monolithic and is a mind-boggling display of technological mining wizardry.  Check out these photos of Big Becky:

Pictured is the entire body of Big Becky – almost 130 metres (390 ft).  Her journey begins at the Sir Adam Beck generating station where she’ll cut out a 10 km-long tunnel that’s as wide as 8 transport trucks side-by-side.  She’ll pop out 2 years from now in a section of the Niagara River (upstream of the Falls) that’s being dammed and drained in preparation for her break-through. Â

The cutting head looms ominously overhead as workers inspect it.  The sheer size of the 14.4 metre (43 ft) diameter cutting head is obvious, and the 85 cutters embedded in its face are only a little scary.

The Site of the Future Tunnel Intake

The intake for the new Niagara tunnel will be situated here, not far from Marineland.  Crews have begun damming the area closest to shore (where the little boat is) so they can drain it before Becky pops up in 2 years.

Pictured is also Big Becky’s launch site, situated at the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station.  She sits in a trench 300 metres (900 ft) long, ready to dive nose-first into the hard rock.  If Canada’s tallest building (First Canadian Place in Toronto) were laid on its side, it would stretch from one end of the trench to the other!

Big Becky won’t begin digging the tunnel until later this month, but it has officially been turned on, and is ready to go.  Once completed, 500 cubic metres of water will enter the tunnel every second, maxing out Ontario’s allotted water-intake from the Niagara River.  The allottment exists as part of a Canada-U.S. agreement which seeks to ensure that the Falls don’t dry up because of water being diverted for power.  160,000 homes will be powered by the additional 1,600,000,000 kilowatt hours of electricity provided by the water in the tunnel.  Big Becky is a big deal, and she’s helping Ontario provide clean and renewable power, with no visually-noticeable decrease in water flow over Niagara Falls.