Report - - Mountain Level Iron MIne. Upper Race, Pontypool. April/May 2010 | Mines and Quarries | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - Mountain Level Iron MIne. Upper Race, Pontypool. April/May 2010


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Mountain Level Ironstone Mine Also known as Aberdare No1 level & Pontypool Iron mine was opened in the 1790's probably By Capel Hanbury or his offspring to feed one of the many family owned Ironworks in and around Pontypool at that time.

The Hanbury family lived in what was to become Pontypool Park, and around this the town grew. Much of the town's history comes from this family of industrial pioneers. The Napoleonic Wars were kind to the Hanburys, with increased prosperity due to the demand for munitions and armaments made from Welsh Iron.

The mine extends below the now disused Penyrhoel resevoior which was opened in 1914 by the Pontypool Gas & Water Company after the mine closed. Some concrete reinforcing of the mine took place in 1909 to stop water draining out of the reservior and the mines air shaft was extended by a brick lined chymney which rose above the of the surface of the reservoir. The reservoir was eventually closed in the early seventies due to continued leakage into the mine And several drownings over the years.

The mine and its workings are spread over some 800m of tunnels, drifts and connecting passages. Entry is via a small hillside adit some 4ft in height. Iron small gauge rails run almost the whole main passage only ceasing some 50m from the end working. Some 40m in the first right turn leads 10m in to a dead end 3ft high and a 4" bore Iron pipe sealed in calcite flowstone stained orange by the oxidizing Iron. The pipe exits this dead end and heads into the mine, carrying high pressure water from a surface pool ( now the reservoir ) to assist in mining methods of the time.
The next right turn is a further 50m in and carries an active streamway which winds its way downward into probably the first real workings of the mine. After some 100m it ends in a collapse where the wooden supports have totally disappeared over time. Large Kidney shaped Ironstones are visible throughout this working ranging in size from marbles to footballs.

Ironstones of the 'kidney stone' kind are reddish-brown rocks that are very heavy and dense. When the sand was being deposited on the ancient beach, living organisms became trapped in the sand. This organic material slowly attracts molecules of iron mineral around it. Slowly, over millions and millions of years, layer upon layer of iron, an ironstone concretion is formed. Ironstones are so hard that when they are exposed on a hoodoo, the soft sandstone around them is eroded away and the ironstone falls out, leaving a hole. The holes in the hoodoos can result in very exotic and curious forms. In this area the process has been slightly different because the 'kidney stones' have formed not in sandstone but in the other, slate like Clay based kind of iron stone.

A further 50m on in the main passage lies the nearly complete remains of a Hudson side tip truck with fragments of hauling rope still attached, the bucket from the truck is a further 20m on located at the 'Y' junction. The main passage the splits into two, the left passage leads on for some 60m until a upwardly spiral tunnel leads to the main vertical airshaft.

20m on in the main passage leads to the second left into the 'Iron Vagina' (copyright sinnerman 2010) Through the pipe and on into the wokings which extend for some 200m where high quality Ironstone can be found. The passages are lined with bolted Iron arches with narrow gauge rails and wood used as roof support. Small seams of Coal can be found scattered through this drift, there are many falls and crawls which need to be negotiated and low O2 content at the far end.

The main passage then continues for some 60m until you reach the end of the tunnel.. then over piled blocks and deads through the crawl into the major end workings. The chamber is vast but O2 levels of less than 16% and substantial de-lamination of the clay based Ironstone prevent further extensive exploration (chicken-bone activated auto arse clench at this point!)

Just a word of warning: Low Oxygen levels and serious de-lamination at end workings make this a hazardous place to visit. Please only do so with proper equipment and training or experience. Other wise.. enjoy the pictures!





























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