South Crofty Mine Underground 4: There was so much luck for me to get down South Crofty. The place where I stayed when I was in Cornwall, the owner knew the mine secretary. She put me in touch with the Geology Department where I pleaded my case for access. Once I had my first visit to the mine I hoped it would carry on, it did. When underground the cameras needed to be lucky. It was luck the film was ok, luck the camera was going to fire. Luck the flash was going to fire, luck the lens had not steamed up, luck I was underground in the first place. Finally the luck that got me a few good friends from South Crofty Mine.
The story did not end there. All the films needed developing and then printing. I have discovered the real skill is found in the darkroom, it has been a long journey, but it has been worth all the effort. On this page I have tried to show some of the tools of the trade, and a continuation of miners doing different tasks during their working days.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.1 – One of the tools of the trade. The explosives used in South Crofty were emulsion based explosives and ANFO (Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil). These were a lot cheaper and safer to use than Gelatine based powder which was phased out in the late eighties/early nineties.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.2 – A close up of the explosives.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.3 – Two SIG-24K rockdrills having a rest. These machines were used widely in South Crofty. They weighed 25kg with a length of 650mm, the compressed air telescopic leg was essential in use to hold the drill steady. A simple image, but it works.
The next few images are of miners working on the Grizzly, once again this was a very dangerous place to be.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.4 – This is Lee Williams South Crofty Miner working on the grizzly after dumping a load of mined ore.
Every working level in the mine had access to an ore pass. This was where the mined rock dumped so it could be fed into the main crusher. In the crusher it was reduced in size to sub 150mm. This made transporting the ore up the shaft to grass more efficient.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.5 – A second image of Lee Williams trying to move some very large rocks.
Over each ore pass was a grid of iron bars known as a Grizzly. This was in place to stop over sized boulders from entering the crusher because they could jam it or cause damage. Often there was a dedicated Grizzly man whose job it was to break these large boulders up with a sledge hammer, or in some cases explosives. Mostly in South Crofty the job was done by the miners themselves.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.6 – It’s very hard to see this happening today. Health and safety would never allow it.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.7 – A final image of Lee on the grizzly, in rare circumstances small amounts of explosives were used to break these larger rocks up.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.8 – This was hard manual labour. The rocks were broken up using a sledge hammer. This miner has been identified as Adrian Mugford swinging the hammer.
The next few images were taken on one of my trips with Dr Nick Leboutillier. The location was on Pryce’s Lode 295 Fathom, Sub Level 600ME.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.9 – Mickey Roberts (L) and Merv Randlesome (R) having a chat in the sub level.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.10 – It was very hot in here with little or no ventilation. In the background is a compressed air winch.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.11 – Break over, then it’s time to get on with it.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.12 – The compressed air winch being operated by Mickey Roberts.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.13 – Nick Le Boutillier at the other end of the winch, collecting samples.
A different location next, the following images were probably taken on the 445 Fathom Level Providence Lode Drive.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.14 – In this image, Underground Miner Neil Hodges is mending a water hose, the second miner is his mate Irvin Uren (Elmer).
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.15 – Job nearly done, every miner needed to know how to look after and repair his tools.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.16 – Neil Hodges and his mate Irvin Uren (Elmer) still mending the water hose. I was pleased with this image, totally unposed it was just luck that I managed to capture the moment.
South Crofty Mine Underground 4.17 – John Usoro Mine Geologist examining the lode in the roof of a drive.
South Crofty Mine Underground: 4.18 – Rory Bishop from the Geology Department examining a set of core samples from a diamond drill. This was such an important task. Without Diamond Drilling new ore reserves could not be found.
South Crofty Mine Underground: 4.19 – A second image of Rory snagging some samples. These would be taken to the surface. After crushing they would be analysed to determine the Tin content of the rock. The recovery was usually between 0.8 and 1.5%.
The next images are of “Tamrock” Drilling Machines. These were machines that could drill several holes simultaneously, it was used widely on lode drives where the work was needed to be completed in a hurry. Several were in use underground I believe at least two are still down there.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.20 – Walking down a drive towards the drill site. On the left of the image is the power unit for the “Tamrock”.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.21 – A second image of the drive, a bit closer.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.22 – Two miners having a chat, on a Clayton Loco, to the left is a “Tamrock Drill”.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.23 – A closer image of the drill rig, this particular drill is mounted on wheels.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.24 – “Tamrock Drill” in use. The noise in such a confined space was deafening. A miner watches the machine at work, he is making sure the drills do not jam.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.25 – A second of the large “Tamrock” remote drilling rigs used in the mine, there are fitters are working on it. I believe this is still down there as it was considered uneconomical to remove. This one is mounted on rails.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.26 – Another image of the “Tamrock”. I believe it was used widely but had the habit of breaking down frequently. Here a fitter is carrying out some repairs.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.27 – The “Tamrock” was not a popular machine. Apart from being unreliable it used a huge amount of compressed air to operate. Other miners in the same area had problems powering their own machines when it was running.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.28 – Finally repaired by the mine fitters, this is Senior Mine Geologist Nick Leboutillier watching the “Tamrock” at work.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.29 – The business end of a “Tamrock” drilling machine.
In mining, a Raise is a vertical or inclined shaft that connects two levels. These were important in many ways because they increased the air flow around the workings. Between levels they were often laddered to provide an emergency access in case of a collapse. Also used in conjunction with Longhole Stoping where the stope was mined away from sublevels.
It was hot and dangerous work for the miners, the raise could often go for 100’s of feet with very little available ventilation and the constant risk of a fall of ground.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.30 – This South Crofty miner is perched high on a wooden platform in a near vertical shaft. He is mining a raise to a higher level to aid ventilation. The only way up was to climb the chain hanging down the centre of the image. It looks like the miner has fuses in his hand, preparing for a blast.
Kenny German ex South Crofty Miner has kindly written a few words for the website.
Well at South Crofty my main job was raise mining. It could be very dangerous but also very rewarding, I had couple very close calls. One time I was up about 20mts, I set the platform ready for barring down. I started barring down when a massive rock came off the face and wiped out the platform I was standing on. Luckily I had anticipated what was about to happen and positioned myself on one off the L bars keeping platform in place. So there I was, over 60 feet up stranded on a single 1 inch bar. I had to reach full length to get to the chain ladder and to relative safety.
Myself and most the others who worked underground understood the dangers, but we loved it. We were and still are very proud to say we were Cornish Tin Miners.
Cornish Mine Images Underground: 4.31 – A second image of the miner at the top of the raise.
The next set of images are of a group of miners putting up ring supports in a drive. These were usually used when there was a major weakness or faulting in the rock of the roof. In circumstance where the roof was less fractured Rock Bolts would have been used with mesh to hold the loose stuff together.
Cornish Mine Images Underground 4.32 – The first view of the workplace, the roof appears to be quite high with the remains of Rock bolts in place. I would guess that the area had been stabilised before and failed.
Cornish Mine Images Underground 4.33 – It is very difficult to identify any of the miners. However Clarence Matthews Mine Timberman is on the right of the image.
Cornish Mine Images Underground 4.34 – The miner standing on the trolley is bolting the ring in place.
Cornish Mine Images Underground 4.35 – This was a great chance to get a group of miners doing a vital job.
Cornish Mine Images Underground 4.36 – Another wider view of the miners at work.
Cornish Mine Images Underground 4.37 – A final image of the miners. Just how many does it take to erect the rings?
South Crofty Mine Underground 5