“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine. Fabulous!”Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film maker
by Damian Bird
Britain has a long history of mining, with copper and tin mining dating back to the bronze age. Today, the country produces an array of fossil fuels, industrial minerals and metals. But do we think of ourselves as a nation of miners? Who are the people, predominantly men, who go to work each day, deep in the earth’s crust? In 2016, Damian Bird visited the oldest, last and deepest mines in Britain in celebration of this ancient profession.
Damian Bird’sThe Oldest
Boulby Mine, on the North Yorkshire coast, is Britain’s deepest mine. It is 1,250 metres deep and has a 620 mile network of underground tunnels and roads extending out under the North Sea.
Since 1973, the mine has produced half of the UK’s supply of potash, used in fertiliser, glass making and in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Boulby Mine.
The Potash mining districts extend both under the North Sea and out towards the North Yorkshire Moors where miners extract ore in the pitch darkness with just small cap lamps and vehicle headlights to see by. Boulby Mine.
The air is thick with dust which is safely absorbed by the body.
Because the air is thick with salt, miners carry bowsers filled with iced water and take regular breaks to prevent dehydration.
Eckington Mine, Eckington, Derbyshire is a drift mine supplying coal to Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station.
Eckington coal mine.
At the coal face. Eckington Mine.
Drilling into the coal face. Eckington Mine.
In 2013, Eckington Mine was granted a ten year extention to continue mining coal after it was established that no further environmental damage would be cause by it.
Eckington Mine. Entrance to the drift mine.
Winsford rock-salt mine is Britain's oldest working mine and lies 200 metres under the Cheshire coutryside. It is the UK’s largest salt mine, providing rock salt for de-icing roads during cold winter weather.
Salt beds were formed back in the Triassic period, when the UK was still attached to Europe. The combination of inland seas and desert envrionments led to a slow evaporation over many millions of years, resulting in the formation of salt beds which lie under Cheshire and the surrounding areas.
Although the salt bed is fragmented it can be found from Carrick Fergus, Northern Ireland, under the Irish Sea, reappearing in central England. It then dips under the North Sea, with the final part of the salt bed lying across Europe.
Towns around Winsford like: Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich, all take their names from salt production with ‘Wych’ often meaning ‘brine town’.
Salt was first found in Northwich in 1670 and in Winsford in 1844. Two shafts were installed at Winsford, with miners being lowered into the shafts by bucket.
In 1928 the last mine in Northwich was flooded which resulted in the rapid expansion of Winsford Mine which now consists of three shafts.