Force Crag mine has been the focus of attention this last week. This was the last working mine of its type when it finally closed in 1991. In its early days it was mined for lead but latterly zinc and barytes were extracted. After closure it was taken over by the National Trust and it is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument and geological SSSI (site of special scientific interest).
The buildings and their machinery remain intact and this makes Force Crag mine a unique site. The Trust now holds a number of open days each year and we have trained and enthusiastic volunteers to guide visitors around the site and behind some locked doors. The next three open days are: April 17th, May 31st and June 31st. You can find contact details here if you want to know more about these visits.
One of the legacies of its history is that the water flowing from the mine into local water courses is contaminated with heavy metals (zinc, cadmium, lead and copper). The Trust’s Water Advisor, John Malley has been working on a nationally funded DEFRA mine-water remediation project with the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency and Newcastle University to develop a passive mine-water treatment plant to deal with the contamination.
The build phase has now been completed and the plant is currently being commissioned. This is a pioneering project that uses a passive-mine-water remediation scheme on a scale that has not been tried in the UK previously. The core idea of the process is to carry out the clean-up without using chemicals or energy. You can read more about it here. For even more detail, look here. I’ll tell you for starters that it uses old mine lagoons, limestone and processed, dried human ‘poo’!
As all this has been underway, the Trust has continued to develop opportunities for visitors to learn more of the old mining way of life. So I recently talked to a group of Guides about the mine. They seemed to be particularly interested in the ‘poo’ part of the story! A dried form of the ‘poo’ covers limestone chippings in the lagoons. The water will percolate through that and the bacteria will help to bind the contaminating metals. The Guides were curious about what if any smell there will be. At this stage, we honestly don’t know how much smell these ponds will produce. I suspect you would not want to picnic beside them but they have in fact been fenced so that passers-by cannot approach too closely. We hope there will be no more than a little whiff of it on rare occasions.
Many thanks due to John Malley for the photographs.
Daisy here. I’ve been to the pub. It’s great but ever so tiring. I didn’t want to get up for work the next morning!