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Report - Killifrith Mine, Cornwall, December 2009

Discussion in 'Mines and Quarries' started by Pasty, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Pasty

    Pasty 28DL Full Member
    28DL Full Member

    Dec 3, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Last year we heard talk of a mine which may still have some pumping gear in place at the bottom of the shaft so decided to go take a look.

    Killifrith engine house is not hard to find, hawks shaft engine house having the tallest stack of any engine house in cornwall, it is visible for miles.

    Brief history.

    Killifrith mine was worked for copper from 1826-1860, then for tin until 1897. It was re opened from 1912 to 1924 closing breifly over the first world war.
    Towards the end of 1920 the price of tin had fallen considerably, while the price of arsenic had rised very high indeed. It was decided by the owners to acquire the great wheal busy mine (next door) and to work it for arsenic.

    Pumping operations on killifrith were accordingly suspended and all future efforts were concentrated on the great wheal busy mine.

    So back to the site...
    Next to this engine house is hawks shaft which has been capped, at the bottom of which, rumor had it, were the remains of the giant pumps.
    Our plan was to find and drop an open shaft and see if it was possible to work our way underground back to the bottom of this capped shaft.

    This mine had two main shafts, both 100 fathoms deep, (600ft/183m).
    And a short distance away we found the other which luckily was open.


    The above photo is taken from the grilled open shaft looking back at the engine house, and gives a good idea of the distance required to walk underground to reach the bottom of the pumps.

    Before attempting we did some research and the internet threw up some great information including a plan of the old workings.
    The plan threw up a few issues, firstly it was a long way down to the first level, almost 100m, secondly it was wet, very wet, and thirdly, if we could get down the open shaft and try to get back under hawks shaft there were two winces (holes in the floor) that needed crossing,
    these were around 60m deep!

    So the research and recon were complete, we gathered the gear required to rig/drop the shaft and construct 2 bridges underground out of scaffold.

    This is a collection of pitures from our two visits, one during daylight, the other at night.
    On the first trip we cleared tunnels and constructed bridges, but unfortunately i dropped my
    tripod from the very top of the shaft, after nearly 100m of free fall there wasnt much left,
    so we returned a week later for better pictures.

    This hole was huge, you could easily fit a transit van down wheels first and it wouldnt have touched the sides on the way down, and because of the funnel shapped top of the first 10-20m, the ropes had to be rigged so that they hung out from the centre of the cone to avoid rope rub further down.
    This unfortunately required a start of descent which envolved swinging out into the middle of the shaft under the cage before going down, which happened to be scary as hell!



    There was a massive blockage in the shaft around the first level, with the tunnel in requiring some digging and moving of dumped rubbish, but we were soon in and found the first hole to cross


    Tubes were carried in and a simple bridge constructed, the drop below was quite deep, you could see water at the bottom.

    Tunnels after the crossing had not had visitors for some time, there were no footsteps and some great mineral deposits.



    Second crossing wasnt so bad, the hole in the floor was slightly of centre from the tunnel so you could use the tunnel side and one scaffold tube to safely cross...


    At last, the bottom of Hawks pumping shaft was reached....





    The pump was driven by an 80 inch cornish pumping engine, capable of dealing with 750gallons of water per minute.
    The giant clack valves in the pictures above were used in the pump line as a one way valve to make it possible to get the water to the surface.
    After having a good look at the massive valves we ventured further into the workings



    several tunnels and junctions later we encountered some patches of bad air, so decided to call it a day.
    We heading back and got ready for our long climb back out.

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  2. Rude Dog

    Rude Dog Guest

    For those of you who don't know, there has been a bit of a rumpus regarding mine rescue in Cornwall. Due to various dogs falling down shafts, holes are quite high priority and give people something to worry about and the council are always up for capping shafts. Those cages were put over shafts in the 80's and often they are plugged underneath, it's only the biggest ones which aren't (as they would have taken too much concrete-and the men were paid by unit). The 90's saw a more serious plugging programme in which many mines like Wheal Basset and Wheal Buller got plugged. The local underground chaps got a few access points under the auspice of bats. There was another plugging programme in the pipes and it got held up/is still in the process.

    What we don't want to see is remaining holes being plugged by these muppets because "nanny knows best and must protect you from everything".

    Please can we be a bit more careful about what we stick up as I know for a fact that "people" look at this stuff and then get their arses in their hands and the bloody council start wanting to plug stuff. Out of sight, out of mind.

    Can we be less specific about mines in Cornwall as one day you'll turn up to find a load of blokes tipping 3m of concrete onto steel beams they have put in the shaft. It has happened and landowners/authorities/public really don't give 2 monkeys about history, bats, geology. They see them as huge scary pits for bonzo to fall down CAP THEM ALL!!!

    Please bear this in mind in Cornwall. It's why sites like mine explorer and aditnow show very little in the way of "stuff". It's not because we're all secretive wankers, it's because of the bloody authorities!
  3. Promethius

    Promethius Guest

    I only got a couple of other shots that Pasty didn't, but there was some ochre staining on the walls from where it has previously flooded to:


    Some more ochrous formations:


    Evidence copper sulphate deposition. The bridge is over a 40' winze shaft.


    Anyone wondering why we didn't keep going when the air got thin should probably be aware that low o2 is quite unpleasant. Feels like someone is sat on your chest!

    Climbing out of this one was a beast. 20mins of srt!
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