Thursday, 8 January 2015

Daydream Mine, Broken Hill

Daydream Mine is one of the more off-beat attractions in Broken Hill, the biggest settlement in north west New South Wales.  I write 'attraction' because it's one of only a very few original mines that I know of where you can actually experience, with the minimum of fuss from the health and safety people, something of the true nature of what mining must have been like 150 years ago.

OK, you don't get to actually work the rock face for 12 hour shifts in near black conditions with only a single candle as a light source, nor do you have to suffer the disgusting lung damage created by breathing in the airborne mica fibres all day long (that left most miners dead by the age of 35 coughing up their lungs), neither do you get to experience the immense burst of pressure when the mine ceiling collapses, killing all in its wake - not from falling debris but from the intense pressure, but you do get an inkling of what it must have been like.  A hard place to photograph in as there was no time to stop for tripod work, not much light for the AF in the camera to work off and no room to manoeuvre, but I think you get the picture...

Innocent enough.
This small hole is one of the entrances to the Daydream Mine. 
Not the one we went down thank goodness, a near vertical shaft down into the ore lode beneath.
No safety rails, no ventilation, no decent lighting and of course, no safety precautions. Those were the days. 
The amazing fact about early mining  was that, to begin with at least, there were no facilities for processing the ore on site - all the ore was carted from Daydream by bullocks to the nearest rail head, then trained to Adelaide then shipped to smelter in South Wales (UK).

This shot gives you a good idea of what it was like getting down to level one -  steep, very roughly-hewn steps into the bowels of the earth with less than enough head room (you'll be very happy to wear the helmets!), a single flimsy hand rope and plenty of opportunity to sprain ankle - I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
This is one of the side shafts, blasted to help clear some of the 96,000 tonnes of silver lead ore that was eventually extracted and shipped to the smelters over a short period of 20 years.
The way out at last! You can clearly see where the poor grade ore or rock has been used on the right hand side of the mine to support the roof that has been undermined.
Apparently kids were employed as graders sorting the ore-rich rock from the rubbish. 
The former was manually dragged to the surface while the latter was used to back fill the workings.

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