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Mining Encyclopaedia

Below is a list of terms used in Mining and Mine-Exploration. It's by no means complete so please send on your additions!

Term Description
Adit A horizontal tunnel that leads from the open air into the mine. Most adits had track on the floor so that wagons of waste/produce could be wheeled out by force of manpower, horse or locomotive. Mines will often have several adits at different altitudes leading into the mine workings at different heights, thereby giving a choice of entry. It is often the case that not all adits will be open (they do sometimes collapse), and is it not always possible to enter one adit and leave via another. Not all mines have adits. Often, the relief of the land and depth of the mineral to be worked was such that it simply wasn't possible to reach the workings via horizontal tunnels. For instance, a coal mine might be situated near the coast at a low altitude, with the seams to be worked deep below sea level. Obviously a mine in this situation could never have an adit driven, and such mines relied entirely on Shafts instead. Adits usually are angled very slightly upwards so that water naturally flows out of the mine. Adits will therefore always be devoid of water unless some form of blockage is present, in which case water will build up behind it.
Adit, Drainage Adit, Deep Drainage The lowest adit of all is usually the considered the "Drainage Adit". Water naturally gets into all mines and slowly fills them up, until the water level reaches the lowest place that it can drain out. All workings (if any) below the level of the bottom adit are completely flooded, typically. These drainage adits often have anything from a trickle of water flowing out of them to powerful torrents reaching the roof, depending on the size of the mine, catchment area and recent rainfall. Sometimes a mine would be sunk into fairly flat terrain where it wasn't possible to drive adits very low, or at all, and would require heavy pumping to keep the water out. Often in this case, the miners would attempt to drive a "Deep Drainage Adit" (or "Sough"). This involved finding the nearest place possible that was low enough (often a number of miles away in a remote valley), and driving a tunnel in towards the mine. These Deep Drainage Adits often took many years to complete due to their enormous length, but once they finally got below the mine, they would dig upwards to connect with the lowest workings and from that point the mine would be totally self-draining with no pumping required. Often several mines in close proximity would share the cost of driving a Deep Drainage Adit. Sometimes a company would form purely for developing a Deep Drainage Adit, then charging royalties on ores extracted below a certain depth by the mines they drained. Sometimes very sophisticated and ambitious drainage networks were developed over many years, such as the Milwr Tunnel, which still drains millions of gallons of water per day from an entire mining field in North Wales. Deep Drainage Adits, being as long and deep as they were, would often cut through new undiscovered veins of various minerals and sometimes fairly substantial mining operations would ensue on these. These helped to finance the cost of driving the tunnel. It wasn't unusual for a Deep Drainage Adit to take so long to reach the mine, that the mine had already developed below the altitude of the adit. It was therefore not able to drain the workings below its level, but, pumping was still greatly eased because water only needed to be raised to the adit level, not all the way up to the surface (which might be over 1,000 feet up).
Cap-Lamp The lamp attached to the explorer's helmet. There are many makes of cap-lamps, perhaps the best known being the Oldham which has been used in mines all over the world since the 1940's. It consists of a 4 volt battery that sits on a belt around the explorers waist, while a lead runs up to the actual lamp on the front of the helmet. Bulbs of various brightness can be placed into the lamp, from 1 watt (very dim but usable) to 4 watts as standard providing a very usable and clear light. A standard Oldham battery will power a 4 watt bulb for up to 13 hours. Larger bulbs again can be used including a 6 watt, or even a 10 or 20 watt with some modification to the lamp (replacing plastic parts with metal to avoid melting). Such bulbs are not often used as although the light is luxurious the explorer much either accept very short burn-times or carry enormous batteries. Cap lamps usually (but not always) have a low-wattage pilot bulb so that a dimmer light may be used when the explorer is resting/studying a map/being photographed.
Chamber The slate-mine equivalent of a stope. Slate veins are often very thick (sometimes over 120 feet) and can run anywhere from horizontal to vertical in orientation. Unlike metal veins, where molten metals rose into cracks from deep within the earth, Slate is basically compressed and fossilised mud from ancient sea-beds. This slate was removed to form large, rectangular ‘rooms', or Chambers are they are commonly known. There would typically be about 40 feet of slate left between each chamber, known as ‘Walls' or ‘Pillars', that held up the roof. Sometimes mines were mismanaged with the walls left thinner than they ought, or worse still worked away entirely leaving one huge chamber from several smaller ones. This practice was a frequent cause of serious collapses.
Drumhouse See Incline
Engine A machine designed to create physical motion from consumption of fuel – be it stream, oil, gas, petrol etc. When electricity was the energy source, it was generally called an Electric Motor rather than an Electric Engine.
Engine, Cornish Beam A Cornish Beam Engine comprised of (amongst other things) a boiler, piston and balance-bob. The steam pushed the piston which created a plunging motion on the balance bob. They were typically used for pumping (not just in Cornwall) but could be put to other uses. The engine size was expressed by the diameter of the piston in inches. 10 or 20 inches was a small engine, 50 inches was pretty powerful with 100 inches being enormous. The ‘stroke' measured how much travel the piston could do, and the cycles per minute was also an important metric.
Enginehouse An extremely solid masonry structure to house a steam engine (usually a Cornish Beam Engine), found adjacent to a shaft. The engine exerted massive stresses on its base so the building was built very heavy to counteract it. One corner on the rear wall usually had a chimney, and the wall next to the shaft was the Balance Wall and was the thickest wall of all.
Fathom A common unit of measurement used universally in mining, with one fathom equating simply to six feet, or approximately the height of the average man. It may be expressed for vertical or horizontal distances, E.G., "The adit was driven in for 300 fathoms to meet the bottom of the 180 fathom shaft". Often, levels within a mine were named according to their depth in fathoms from the surface or top of the mine. E.G. "I entered the 50 Adit (adit is 50 fathoms below the top of the mine), walked to the ladder-way and dropped down to the 75 level, after looking up the shaft to the 25. From here I descended a stope though the 110 to reach the big 145. I knew the 200 was below me but it was flooded."
Headframe See Shaft, Winding
Inbye A term used to describe the direction away from the entrance to the mine. If you were walking away from the entrance, you were walking Inbye.
Incline An incline is a tramway line on a gradient, sometimes quite steep (up to 45 degrees or more) but usually less so. At the top (called the Incline Head) would usually be a ‘Drum House', which essentially was a structure housing a large drum and a brake. Wagons to descend would be attached to the cable wound around the drum, and carefully pushed over the top (the ‘Crimp') onto the gradient. The ‘Brakesman' would then control the descent using the brake on the drum, which would unwind as the wagon descended to the bottom. Sometimes a few wagons would go at once. Wagons to go up the incline would be hooked on at the bottom and hauled up. The method of providing force to haul up the wagon(s) depended on the type of incline it was (see below). Inclines were used frequently both on the surface and underground. They vary greatly in length, and sometimes a series of inclines would be constructed where wagons needed to be raised and lowered over great height differences. Men were typically forbidden from riding in wagons on inclines, but numerous deaths are recorded for those who broke the rules. Sometimes the also cable would break, resulting of course in the attached wagons hurtling at great speed down the track and killing anyone in its path. Some men with no regards for safety used to construct small seats from wood, with two small iron wheels underneath and a basic brake. These lethal devices were used by men to ride at speed down the inclines in order to get home faster after work, but not surprisingly many men were killed or seriously injured in this usually forbidden pursuit.
Incline, Powered A powered incline was a simple, usually single track incline with an engine of some kind to haul up wagons. Descending wagons again just used the force of a brake to control its speed. The power source to haul up wagons was often a steam engine, or a water wheel, or later perhaps a gas, petrol or diesel engine, or even an electric motor. The engine was usually located with the drum at the top, but sometimes the drum and engine would be placed at the bottom, with just a wheel at the top for the cable. Sometimes a second track would be installed, fitted with a fixed counter-weight wagon partially filled with rubble or lead. This would ease the load on the engine pulling up wagons, and descending wagons were usually heavy enough to pull the counter-weight wagon back up to the top.
Incline, Self-Acting A Self-Acting incline would have two parallel tracks and two cables wound to the drum at the top. They were wound in such a way that as one cable wound in, the other wound out. Therefore, the energy from a descending wagon could be used to haul up another one by force of gravity. It was of course a requirement that the descending wagon(s) weighed more than the ascending wagon(s), which would pass each other half way. This wasn't usually a problem outside of the mine where finished product or waste would be lowered down into the valley, and only the empty wagons needed to come back. Hence, a Self-Acting was able to raise wagons as well as lower them needing no power source at all, though a wagon at the bottom would have to wait for a wagon to come down before it could go up. The journey was still controlled using a brake on the drum to prevent loosing control.
Incline, Water-Balanced Even more cleaver than the Self-Acting incline was the Water-Balanced version. This again had two tracks with the drum wound in the same way, but, the second track carried not a wagon but a large water tank on wheels. When a wagon at the bottom needed to be hauled up, the water tank (which would be at the top of the incline) would have a nearby stream directed into it. The tank would gradually fill with water, becoming heavier and heavier. Eventually it would become heavier than the wagon waiting at the bottom, and the drum would begin to move. The weight of the water tank coming down would haul up the wagon at the bottom. When the operation was complete, the wagon would be unhitched and the tank at the bottom would be drained. The next wagon to come down would haul up the empty tank from its gravity. The benefit of a Water-Balanced Incline was that wagons (even full ones) could be hauled up without needing a heavier wagon to come down first. Again no power was required to do this, but once the tank was at the bottom it was stuck there until there was a wagon to come down. If a motor of some kind was installed in the drum house, it could be used to haul up the empty tank without needing a down-going load. This was still more efficient than a Powered-Incline, because the empty tank weighed very little – less than an empty wagon usually - and much less than a full one.
Level Used to describe either a whole floor within a mine (as a floor within a building) or a physical tunnel within a mine.
Level, Boat A boat level was like an ordinary tunnel but purposely flooded in a few feet of water. This enabled flat-bottomed boats or barges to float up and down carrying men or mineral.
Level, Coffin Early tunnels within mines were driven by hand rather than by using gunpowder and to save effort, they were cut only as large as they needed to be. Their typical shape in cross-section resembled a coffin – narrow at the top and bottom for the head and feet, but wider in the upper-middle for the torso. Some Coffin Levels were so constricted that it was not possible to turn around in one.
Level, Horse The level within a mine that a horse would enter and haul out mineral or waste. Similar and often the same as the sough or deep drainage adit.
Level, Self-Supporting A tunnel driven in good rock needed no additional support to the roof and therefore was considered self-supporting.
Level, Timbered A Timbered Level is a tunnel that is supported at regular intervals by timber beams. It is the stereotyped mine tunnel.
Level, Trial Trial adits are often found on the hillside, either near existing mine workings or totally isolated. They are tunnels driven for a distance to search for or test the quality of mineral veins. If the trial is still a trial then obviously nothing worth mining was discovered. Trials can sometimes also be driven from within mines, sometimes for great distances looking for new veins to work.
Outbye A term used to describe the direction towards the entrance to the mine. If you were towards the entrance, you were walking Outbye.
S.R.T. "Single Rope Technique". Whereas some mines are easy "Walk abouts" others require the ability to ascend or descend vertical or near-vertical "pitches" in order to enter the mine or reach new sections. S.R.T. is a collective name for a number of methods of ascending and descending pitches using a single strong rope designed for the purpose (typically 9mm, 10mm or 11mm thick). The rope is always "Static", meaning that it is designed to have as little stretch as possible (in contrast to climbing rope which stretches to cushion falls). The full technique is beyond this definition to explain properly but in summary the rope is anchored at the top and the explorer can then descend (abseil) it by threading the rope through a friction device, which is then in turn attached to the explorers Harness. There are many types of friction device that enable an explorer to abseil down a rope, popular examples are the Petzl Stop and Petzl Rack. Climbing devices such as a Figure-8s or Stitch Places may be also used but generally are avoided due to the lack of control afforded by these devices. To climb back up the rope the explorer uses a pair of mechanical jammers. These small metal devices simply let rope slide through one way but not the other. One is attached to the explorers Harness, the other to a length of rope with a loop in the end to stand in. The basic procedure is to sit in the harness (therefore suspended from that jammer) while the foot-loop jammer is raised up the rope. The explorer then stands up in the foot-loop, which drags up the other jammer. By repeating this action over and over, the explorer will gradually ascend up the rope until the top is reached.
S.W.M.B.O. "She Who Must Be Obeyed". An endearing term used to describe the female partners of male Mine-Explorers. Swmbo's generally have the ultimate authority on the extent the male exploring partner may explore mines – and permission from the Swmbo must always be sought first. A male explorer will always hold a theoretical number of Mine-Exploring Tokens with his Swmbo. After an explore, he will have used up a number of his tokens. If he returns late only to walk mud through the house and deposit smelly clothes on the bed, he will loose extra tokens. Gestures such as buying flowers, doing DIY, taking the Swmbo out for a meal etc will usually result in earning extra tokens. The male Mine-Explorer usually operates in a Overdraft of tokens with his Swmbo (the account is very rarely in credit). The overdraft is not interest free and the fines for hitting the limit are high.
Shaft A mine shaft is a generic term for a vertical tunnel and they were used for many purposes, not least for raising and lowering men and mineral like a modern day lift/elevator. Deep mines were typically accessed solely using shafts, where it just wasn't feasible to drive in horizontal adits. Shafts can range in length anything from 20-30 feet to several vertical miles. Shafts may either connect only at the top and bottom, or sometimes it will connect a number of floors/levels within the mine. The top of a shaft is known as the shaft Collar. If the shaft collar itself is underground rather than on the surface then the shaft is known as an Internal Shaft. Sometimes puddles on the floor within mines are not puddles but the tops of flooded internal shafts of great depth. Mine-Explorers will often descend shafts using a long rope to access workings. Many mines can only be accessed via a shaft, and it is very important of course to make sure the rope is long enough for the particular shaft. The deepest continuous shaft in the U.K. (and Europe in fact) is 1.1 vertical kilometres, though elsewhere in the world they can be found several times this length.
Shaft, Multi-Purpose Often a mine was such that a shaft would be used for several functions. For instance, some deep coal mines had only one shaft and no adits (or connections to other mines) which wasn't at all ideal from a safety point of view. This shaft would be used to drain water, raise and lower men/coal, and also to provide ventilation (send and return).
Shaft, Pumping A Pumping Shaft would be sunk to the workings to assist in draining the mine. Typically a power source would reside at the top, be it a steam engine, water wheel, horse-whim or other, and this would connect via rods to a pump at the bottom. The power-source would force the rods up and down, working the pump. The pump would either raise water all the way up the shaft to the surface, or to the level of a Deep Drainage Adit should there be one. Some shafts can still be found with their pumps at the bottom, together with the pumping rods.
Shaft, Ventilation, Air Getting air into the workings was always very important and often shafts would be sunk purely for circulation. They would be either positioned in such a way that it would cause a natural movement of air or would be power assisted with a large fan, or Water-Blast. Water-Blast put very simply was a cleaver technology involving letting a small stream of water pour over the collar of the shaft, forcing air down with its gravity. There would be an adit so the water could drain off, but the force of the falling water would push a lot of air down which could be directed to other parts of the mine. This way air would be pumped around reliably with no power required.
Shaft, Winding A Winding shaft as the name suggests would be installed to haul men and/or mineral up and down. Typically at the top would be a Head-Frame (An Iron or Steel structure with a big wheel, or pair of wheels at the top) and a rope would loop around this, connected to a cage to travel up and down the shaft. At the other end would be a large winding drum powered usually by steam, water wheel, or electricity.
Stope The space left behind in a mine after the mineral is removed (usually ore from a metal mine). Ore is found in Veins, which can be anything from a few inches wide (but rarely worked if this thin) to a number of metres, averaging perhaps from three to six feet. Veins of ore are usually either vertical or nearly vertical, and so when it is removed to form a stope, it could be of great vertical height and width, but still only a few feet thick. The character of a stope resembles a large underground crack in the rock. In fact, veins of ore were often real cracks that formed under stresses as the earth settled, and as they opened up, molten ore-bearing rock from deep within the earth's surface would rush up under pressure and fill the crack. This would then cool and harden. Removing this ore-bearing rock that filled the crack is what resulted in a stope forming. Stopes often can be found reaching the surface where the ore outcrops on the ground. This ore is discovered quickly and miners begin removing it and cutting down until the bottom of the vein is reached, or it becomes to thin or poor grade to be worth extracting. Open stopes on mountainsides are often encountered in mining regions and they are not good things to fall into, given the bottom could be hundreds of feet below. Where veins are suspected below ground (even thousands of feet), adits are driven or shafts sunk to find it. When located, the ore again is extracted but leaving a stope that is fully underground (IE, not reaching the surface). Many mines will have discovered numerous veins within their ‘Sett' (area of land owned or leased to them for mining), and will have worked all those worth exploiting. Often mines tunnels will sprawl out in seeming random directions leading only to dead-ends. These tunnels are looking for new veins.