My name is Christopher Room; I am 17 years old and currently studying A-level Physics, Music, Drama and Geography at the Q3 Academy in Birmingham. I’m quite passionate about the Environment and the Geology of the planet and I enjoy aspects of Archaeology and Palaeontology.
I recently was given the incredible opportunity to undertake work experience with The Institute of Quarrying, and when I say it was an incredible experience, I mean it.
I started off my week with a visit to the National Stone Centre in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, where I was given an introduction to the quarrying industry as a whole. I was shown around the disused quarries dotted around the centre and gained a true insight into the actual scale of the operations that took place in a quarry.
The educational facilities at the stone centre itself depicted how the operations were run before the site was discontinued and showed what ores and minerals were excavated from the quarries. These ranged from Calcite, to Lime and Lead, it was also possible to see how these were extracted and rendered.
I didn’t understand the true scale of the operations undertaken in quarries until the next day, when we visited an absolutely vast Sand and Gravel Quarry, situated at Eaton Hall, Congleton. Led by Quarry Manager Kim Shilcock and accompanied by the IQ’s Mike Phillips, Sarah Fry and Emma Bellingham. The day provided a detailed all access tour of the facilities in the quarry.
We were shown where a dredger quarries the sand and gravel and how it transports such vast quantities of material in such a small amount of time, through the use of multiple pumps and a large steel pipe. We were then shown where all the sand and gravel is stored and transported ready for distribution. The sand was sorted into piles in order of the size of the grade.
The conservation of the local Sand Martins was very important at this quarry, as they are a protected species. Artificial sandbanks had been created at the quarry to avoid disturbing any Martins that may have moved into the quarried matter.
Wednesday was easily the highlight of the week, with a trip down a British Fluorspar Mine, Milldam Mine in Derbyshire. The necessary PPE requirements were met and we descended into the mine via pickup truck, until reaching level 2 of the mine before getting out and exploring the ominous shafts. We were shown how the blasting in the mine revealed mineralisation and the veins of ore they were chasing. The massive 30-40 tonne vehicles that carried the waste and the mineral out of the mine were awe inspiring, and the sheer quantity of material that they were removing was phenomenal.
Thursday was an interesting day, in which I visited Ecton Mine, a disused mine turned discovery centre. The tour guide detailed how the mining was done in the 1700’s, before modern technical advancements. We were shown around the countless 800-foot deep mineshafts and ventilation ducts scattered across the hillside, then taken into the mine to see the inner workings and how the miners worked. Once inside, there was no artificial light, which meant the workers often had to mine in complete darkness, occasionally with the use of just a candle. This day served as a brilliant insight into the history of mining and conditions workers were exposed to.
All in all, this week has been a marvellous insight into the world of Quarrying and Mining, a career path that deserves far more publicity than it receives. The knowledge I have gained of the industry as a whole has been invaluable to me and I hope that I will be able to look into a career in the industry in the future.