The Big Dig
In October 2018 clearance work began of the large pile of collapsed deads and fill that partially blocks the continuation of No.2 Level beyond the old winze. There is an estimated 400 tons of material to clear over a distance of approximately 30 metres. An old mine plan (circa 1914) shows a '25 feet' deep winze in the floor of No.2 Level part way along this dig; this winze is indicated to connect with the Deep Adit Level.
The dig has to be carried out by hand. The relatively narrow width of the level and the inclination of the hangingwall precludes the use of the Eimco; also the expense of powering the Eimco would be too much. The material is loaded into the 1 ton side-tip wagons and hand-pushed out of No.2 Level to the tipping area. Here each wagon is tipped into the dumper truck and the material is disposed on the edge of the existing tip behind the sheds. The general aim is to load 4 - 5 wagon loads (~ 4 - 5 tons) per afternoon shift. Based on this we estimate it will take approximately four years to completely clear through on No.2 Level, with a further year to clean out the old winze to Deep Adit Level.
Schematic of the 'Big Dig' in No.2 Level
The top layers of the collapse comprise material that has been tipped down the main stope from No.1 Level, but the bottom layers are original back-stacked material. The original rail track is still in place on the floor of the level and this provide a useful guide to ensure that the floor level is maintained. The collapse must have happened soon after the mine closed, thereby preventing the removal of the rail for scrap.
By the middle of May 2019 we had removed and dumped 110 wagon loads (~110 tons) of material. One of the strangest discoveries that we have found whilst digging is the remains of a wooden boat buried within the bottom layers of the collapse. These remains must have been brought in in pieces, but we cannot explain the reason for this or the purpose for which they would have been used. We are storing these remains in the hope of being able to identify the type of boat and to reach some explanation for its purpose in the mine.
By the end of 2019 almost 150 tons had been removed.
The dig involves relaying new track (on top of the original track) as the dig advances. It also requires new timber stulls to be installed to support the hangingwall - either second-hand railway sleepers or new 5"x10" tanalised timber.
The top of the old winze down to Deep Adit Level was reached by the end of March 2020 (just before the start of the Covid-19 Lockdown). The winze lies at the junction of the Main Lode with the Caunter Lode, but is completely choked.
The Covid-19 Lockdown meant that activity at the mine had to cease until restrictions ended in May.
Digging continued at a reduced level, throughout the summer and autumn, removing 2 - 3 tons per week. Eventually by mid- December the entire blockage had been cleared out and access enabled to the back of the mine. A total of 275 tons had been removed in just over 2 years.