Shaft mining or shaft sinking is the action of excavating a mine shaft from the top down, where there is initially no access to the bottom.[1] Shallow shafts, typically sunk for civil engineering projects, differ greatly in execution method from deep shafts, typically sunk for mining projects.

Abandoned mine shafts in Marl, Germany.
A plan-view schematic of a mine shaft showing cage and skip compartments. Services may be housed in either of the four open compartments.

Shaft sinking is one of the most difficult of all mine development methods: restricted space, gravity, groundwater and specialized procedures make the task quite formidable.[2] Shafts may be sunk by conventional drill and blast or mechanised means.

Historically, mine shaft sinking has been among the most dangerous of all the mining occupations and the preserve of mining contractors called sinkers.[3] Today shaft sinking contractors are concentrated in Canada, Germany, China and South Africa.

The modern shaft sinking industry is gradually shifting further towards greater mechanisation, recent innovations in the form of full-face shaft boring[4] (akin to a vertical tunnel boring machine) have shown promise but the use of this method is, as of 2019, not widespread.[5]