Mining: Mining Techniques

Table of Contents

Types of mining include; drift mines, small scale shaft mining, bell pit, slope mining and underground soft rock mining. Drift mining and bell pit mining were the two most common forms of mining during the Industrial Revolution, which in the Red Hills probably maintained through the years of Candles.

Drift mining is a method of accessing valuable geological material, such as coal, by cutting into the side of the earth, rather than tunneling straight downwards (see shaft mine). Drift mines have horizontal entries into the coal seam from a hillside. Drift mines are distinct from slope mines, which have an inclined entrance from the surface to the coal seam. If possible, though, drifts are driven at just a slight incline so that removal of material can be assisted by gravity.

A bell pit is a primitive method of mining coal where the coal lies near the surface on flat land. A shaft is sunk to reach the coal which is then excavated and removed by means of a bucket (much like a well). No supports are used and mining continues outward until the mine becomes too dangerous (or collapses) at which point another mine is started. A bell pit is so called because in cross section it resembles an upturned bell.

Shaft mining is the deepest form of underground mining. Underground mining is chosen when the rock or mineral is too far to reach using surface mining. Shaft mining is the kind of mine that you usually see in movies where the miner travels straight down into a deep, dark tunnel [shaft] until he reaches the bottom.

The shaft mine has a vertical manshaft, a tunnel where the men travel up and down in an elevator. Equipment is taken into the mine using this shaft, too. Short tunnels to the ore are dug from that manshaft [see diagram]. When the ore is dynamited and broken into chunks, it is taken to the top and loaded into trucks through a second shaft. There is usually an airshaft that gives the mine ventilation. When we visited a coal mine, it was amazing how much air moved around in the tunnels. Moving air removes the gases that are naturally underground.

untitled1.jpg Tunnels are deepened and the mine is made larger until there isn’t any ore left, or it costs too much money to get it out. Even though those old movies show abandoned mines that spooky people travel through, most mines are filled with some kind of cement or filler when mining is done. This keeps the land around it from sinking when the inside mine beams rot away. It is a safer way to close a mine.

By the early 1900’s new techniques through the use of machinery had been found to decrease the number of man hours needed to extract coal. The new technology also caused an uproar in strikes as stated in this New York Times article from the late 1890’s.

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