Monday, 4 April 2011
Opencast Mines I have known
Opencast mines I have known. Now there's a thought. This is the Glenmuckloch opencast near Kirkconnel which thanks to the Dumfries and Galloway Wildlife Festival, the good offices of ATH Resources and the GeoD group led by Diana Turner, I was fortunate enough to spend some hours in on Saturday past. With the mine's geologist and four keen Land Rover drivers from the workforce, our party explored the site from top to bottom. Once this was where the National Coal Board's Roger mines had worked which closed in 1980. This site started I believe in 2006. It excites a whole range of emotions. Wonder at the sheer technical ingenuity of it all. The geology is extremely complicated as the picture shows. The seams have come hard up against a volcanic dyke at the back of the site so the layers twist and turn and break and fault. A coal seam is prominent in the picture and it is anything but horizontal. Definite admiration then for those acheiving the job and who have also laid in Britain's longest conveyor to get the coal to a rail loading point so that lorries are not used outside the mine. There is also wonder and excitement at seeing the geology laid bare. Privilege at seeing something so rarely exposed. Sheer awe and fear too, partly at the creative forces exposed, partly at the sheer sight. It is a rare opportunity to wonder at the conjunction of nature and man's industry which creates a sublime vision. It is the sort of thing which inspired the Auden's, Blake's and Martin's of this world and which nowadays everyday Britain does not see so much of. Some might feel repugnance. The word exploitation crosses the mind. There is a huge price in man's addiction to fossil fuels and seeming unwillingness to exploit to the full all the endless sustainable energy around us. However on the opposite side of the Nith a new windfarm was hard at work. And in reviewing: were'nt we lucky with the weather? The conditions up here this last winter must have been abominable.
Whilst with opencasts and coal, I can quickly review past encounters. Opencasts have been officially visited at Chalmerston Ayrshire and Plenmeller Northumberland in the 1990s. They have been legally viewed from public highways most impressively near Widdrington shortly before said road through the middle of the site was closed and bullzozed away (Maiden's Farm OCS). As a public event this was right up there with a 1983 underground visit as part of Cumbria County Council's Guided Walk programme to Claerghyll Licensed Coal Mine near Alston. The scale of that could not have been more different.