Mine exploration

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Mine exploration is a hobby in which people visit abandoned mines, quarries, and sometimes operational mines. Enthusiasts usually engage in such activities for the purpose of exploration and documentation, sometimes through the use of surveying and photography. In this respect, mine exploration might be considered a type of amateur industrial archaeology. In many ways, however, it is closer to caving, with many participants actively interested in exploring both mines and caves. Mine exploration typically requires equipment such as helmets, head lamps, Wellington boots, and climbing gear.

Hobby regular activity that is done for enjoyment

A hobby is a regular activity done for enjoyment, typically during one's leisure time. Hobbies include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. Participation in hobbies encourages acquiring substantial skills and knowledge in that area. A list of hobbies changes with renewed interests and developing fashions, making it diverse and lengthy. Hobbies tend to follow trends in society, for example stamp collecting was popular during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as postal systems were the main means of communication, while video games are more popular nowadays following technological advances. The advancing production and technology of the nineteenth century provided workers with more availability in leisure time to engage in hobbies. Because of this, the efforts of people investing in hobbies has increased with time.

Quarry A place from which a geological material has been excavated from the ground

A quarry is a type of open-pit mine in which dimension stone, rock, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, gravel, or slate is excavated from the ground.

Mining The extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth

Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually from an ore body, lode, vein, seam, reef or placer deposit. These deposits form a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the miner.


Mine exploration typically involves less crawling and more walking than caving, since mines were purposefully excavated to allow human access. Some disused mines have been adapted for tourism, or use by organized outdoor recreation groups. Conversely, gaining access to other mines may require technical skills such as rappelling or single rope technique. Such techniques may also be used inside a mine to explore a winze, shaft, or steep incline. Similarly, some traverses and slopes may be roped for safety, particularly if organized groups are taken into the mine.

Walking One of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals, typically slower than running and other gaits; characterized by a vaulting movement of the body over the legs, frequently described as an inverted pendulum

Walking is one of the main gaits of locomotion among legged animals. Walking is typically slower than running and other gaits. Walking is defined by an 'inverted pendulum' gait in which the body vaults over the stiff limb or limbs with each step. This applies regardless of the unusable number of limbs—even arthropods, with six, eight, or more limbs, walk.

Tourism travel for recreational or leisure purposes

Tourism is travel for pleasure or business; also the theory and practice of touring, the business of attracting, accommodating, and entertaining tourists, and the business of operating tours. Tourism may be international, or within the traveller's country. The World Tourism Organization defines tourism more generally, in terms which go "beyond the common perception of tourism as being limited to holiday activity only", as people "traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure and not less than 24 hours, business and other purposes".

A winze is a minor connection between different levels in a mine. When worked upwards from a lower level it is usually called a raise; when sunk downward from a higher level it may be called a sump. The top of a winze is located underground and it is not equipped with winding gear, in contrast to a shaft, which is a deeper connection between levels and does have winding gear, whether the top of the excavation is located on the surface or underground.

Mine exploration shares some interests with Urban Exploration, primarily that of gaining access to abandoned or sometimes restricted locations. Mine explorers share an unspoken code of ethics, that of leaving sites in the same condition as they were found. A common phrase illustrating this viewpoint is the Baltimore Grotto caving society's motto: "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints." This is similar to the Leave No Trace ethos followed in much of modern outdoor recreation.

Leave No Trace ethics

Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. It consists of seven principles:

  1. plan ahead and prepare,
  2. travel and camp on durable surfaces,
  3. dispose of waste properly,
  4. leave what you find,
  5. minimize campfire impacts,
  6. respect wildlife,
  7. be considerate of other visitors.


Like many hobbies or sports, mine exploration appeals to a specific subset of people. An interest in industrial archaeology may be a motivating factor for some enthusiasts. Relics and artifacts found in abandoned mine workings may include equipment such as pumps, cranes, drills, narrow gauge railway tracks, wagons and locomotives. Abandoned mines may occasionally contain larger features such as timber bridges, cable railways, or waterwheels.

Wagon four wheeled vehicle (mostly pulled by draught animals)

A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals or on occasion by humans, used for transporting goods, commodities, agricultural materials, supplies and sometimes people.

Bridge structure built to span physical obstacles

A bridge is a structure built to span a physical obstacle, such as a body of water, valley, or road, without closing the way underneath. It is constructed for the purpose of providing passage over the obstacle, usually something that can be detrimental to cross otherwise. There are many different designs that each serve a particular purpose and apply to different situations. Designs of bridges vary depending on the function of the bridge, the nature of the terrain where the bridge is constructed and anchored, the material used to make it, and the funds available to build it.

Cable railway railway that uses a cable, rope or chain to haul trains

A cable railway is a railway that uses a cable, rope or chain to haul trains. It is a specific type of cable transportation.

Photography is often a significant component of enthusiasts' motivation for exploration. Underground photography requires specialized techniques such as light painting or an 'open flash.' Such techniques may require considerable practice for mastery.

Light painting photographic technique

Light painting, painting with light,light drawing, or light art performance photography are terms that describe photographic techniques of moving a light source while taking a long exposure photograph, either to illuminate a subject or space, or to shine light at the camera to 'draw', or by moving the camera itself during exposure of light sources. Practised since the 1880s, the technique is used for both scientific and artistic purposes, as well as in commercial photography.


There are many abandoned mines in the world – for example, it is estimated that there are approximately 500,000 abandoned mines in the United States alone, with Nevada having the largest percentage of this number. However, access to many of these is not possible for a variety of reasons, including:

Adit horizontal entrance shaft to an underground mine

An adit is an entrance to an underground mine which is horizontal or nearly horizontal, by which the mine can be entered, drained of water, ventilated, and minerals extracted at the lowest convenient level. Adits are also used to explore for mineral veins.

Shaft mining construction which connect underground deposits together or with the surface

Shaft mining or shaft sinking is excavating a vertical or near-vertical tunnel from the top down, where there is initially no access to the bottom.

Computer data storage technology consisting of computer components and recording media used to retain digital data

Computer data storage, often called storage or memory, is a technology consisting of computer components and recording media that are used to retain digital data. It is a core function and fundamental component of computers.

Potential dangers

Mine exploration is considered a dangerous activity by many. In the United States, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has run an annual "Stay Out-Stay Alive" national public safety campaign to warn children about the dangers of exploring and playing on mine property. They claim that since 1999, nearly 150 children and adults have died in recreational accidents at active and abandoned mine and quarry sites, although the majority of these were not related to mine exploration.

Many accidents by inexperienced curiosity-seekers cause reactions by government agencies to close mines. In most cases, a mine entrance will be fenced and warning signs erected, but the BLM, NPS and other organizations are increasingly resorting to bulldozing, plugging or gating mine entrances, denying everyone access. Most mine closures of this nature are done in areas near large population centers and parks that receive a large number of visitors, such as Death Valley.

Common features in a mine include drifts (horizontal tunnels), shafts (vertical tunnels) and winzes or air vents that are much smaller and can be at any angle underground. Climbing through these shafts, tunnels, and winzes can be very dangerous due to their unseen entrances and exits. A drift with a portal to the outside is called an adit.

Stopes (areas where ore was removed) usually follow the ore vein and are often at steep angles to horizontal. Many stopes are shored with wooden 2x4s or 4x4s. Contrary to what one might think, the wood isn't there to keep the stope from collapsing, but rather to hold loose rock in place. Some stopes are narrow and convoluted (explorers like to call them "spider holes"); others resemble giant rooms. Many stopes have a lot of loose material on or around them.

Raises are often used to transit vertically between levels of a mine. A raise is often a 6–12 foot square vertical shaft divided into two sections. One half is a straight drop to the bottom and is used for haulage, and the other section is a series of platforms, 10 or more feet apart, with holes cut in them in an alternating manner. Beneath each hole is a ladder leading to the next platform. This style of construction affords safety: if one falls off the ladder, the fall is only to the next platform, not the bottom of the shaft.

Mines were generally constructed and maintained to be safe while they were operational. After they are abandoned, workings may decay to a point where they could become dangerous. For instance, some support structures may have been removed before abandonment for re-use elsewhere, or supporting pillars may have been quarried away, leaving the chambering unstable. Ventilation and water pumping systems that once maintained safe working conditions are removed.

There are a number of potential hazards that mine explorers face:

In spite of the potential risks involved in mine exploration, the danger to the experienced mine explorer is relatively low: as the MHSA state, the majority of accidents involve people who are unprepared.



There are thought to be approximately 500,000 mines within the United States. Listed below are regions containing a high number of both abandoned and operational mines:


Britain's man-made underground world is extensive. Some abandoned mines range as deep as 1.1 km. Some of the more extensive tunnel systems span mountain ranges or extend underneath populous cities.

Some typical mine exploration locations and type of mines are:


Some examples of mines frequented by explorers includes:


See also

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Urban exploration exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment

Urban exploration is the exploration of man-made structures, usually abandoned ruins or not usually seen components of the man-made environment. Photography and historical interest/documentation are heavily featured in the hobby and, although it may sometimes involve trespassing onto private property, this is not always the case. Urban exploration may also be referred to as draining, urban spelunking, urban rock climbing, urban caving, or building hacking.

Underground mining (hard rock) underground mining techniques used to excavate hard minerals

Underground hard rock mining refers to various underground mining techniques used to excavate hard minerals, usually those containing metals such as ore containing gold, silver, iron, copper, zinc, nickel, tin and lead, but also involves using the same techniques for excavating ores of gems such as diamonds or rubies. Soft rock mining refers to excavation of softer minerals such as salt, coal, or oil sands.

Roof and tunnel hacking

Roof and tunnel hacking is the unauthorized exploration of roof and utility tunnel spaces. The term carries a strong collegiate connotation, stemming from its use at MIT, where the practice has a long history. It is a form of urban exploration. Some participants use it as a means of carrying out collegiate pranks, by hanging banners from high places or, in one notable example from MIT, placing a life-size model police car on top of a university building. Others are interested in exploring inaccessible and seldom-seen places; that such exploration is unauthorized is often part of the thrill. Roofers, in particular, may be interested in the skyline views from the highest points on a campus. On August 1, 2016, Red Bull TV launched the documentary series URBEX – Enter At Your Own Risk, that also chronicles roof and tunnel hacking.

Dolaucothi Gold Mines gold mine

The Dolaucothi Gold Mines, also known as the Ogofau Gold Mine, are ancient Roman surface and underground mines located in the valley of the River Cothi, near Pumsaint, Carmarthenshire, Wales. The gold mines are located within the Dolaucothi Estate which is now owned by the National Trust.

Great Laxey Mine Railway

The Great Laxey Mine Railway was originally constructed to serve the Isle of Man's Great Laxey Mine, a lead mine located in Laxey. The 19 in gauge railway runs from the old mine entrance to the washing floors along a right of way that passes through the Isle of Man's only remaining railway tunnel under the 3 ft gauge Victorian Manx Electric Railway and the main A2 Douglas to Ramsey coast road.

Slate industry

The slate industry is the industry related to the extraction and processing of slate. Slate is either quarried from a slate quarry or reached by tunneling in a slate mine. Common uses for slate include as a roofing material, a flooring material, gravestones and memorial tablets, and for electrical insulation. Slate mines are found around the world and the major slate mining region in the United Kingdom is Wales: in Cornwall there are a number of slate quarries and in the Lake District there are numerous slate mines and quarries.

Wet Earth Colliery Historical industrial site in England

Wet Earth Colliery was a coal mine located on the Manchester Coalfield, in Clifton, Greater Manchester. The colliery site is now the location of Clifton Country Park. The colliery has a unique place in British coal mining history; apart from being one of the earliest pits in the country, it is the place where engineer James Brindley made water run uphill.

Rhosydd Quarry

Rhosydd Quarry is a slate mine northeast of Porthmadog in North Wales. Small-scale working of the site began in the 1830s, but was hampered by the remote location, and the lack of a transport system to carry the slates to markets. The Rhosydd Slate Company was formed in 1853, and became a limited company in 1856. Transport was made more difficult by the attitude of the Cwmorthin Quarry, through whose land the most obvious route to the Ffestiniog Railway ran. A solution was found in 1864, with the opening of the Croesor Tramway, to which the quarry was connected by one of the longest single-pitch inclines in Wales. Huge amounts of money were spent on development work, and the company, unable to make adequate returns, went into voluntary liquidation in 1873.

An abandoned mine is a mine or quarry which is no longer producing or operational, though definitions vary.

Eylesbarrow mine

Eylesbarrow mine was a tin mine on Dartmoor, Devon, England that was active during the first half of the 19th century. In its early years it was one of the largest and most prosperous of the Dartmoor tin mines, along with Whiteworks and the Birch Tor and Vitifer mines. Its name has several variant spellings, such as Eylesburrow, Ailsborough, Ellisborough, Hillsborough etc. It was also known as Wheal Ruth for a short period around 1850. The extensive remains lie to the north of the River Plym, less than 1 mile (1.6 km) north-east of Drizzlecombe, on the southern shoulder of the hill called Eylesbarrow on top of which are two prominent Bronze Age barrows.


Stoping is the process of extracting the desired ore or other mineral from an underground mine, leaving behind an open space known as a stope. Stoping is used when the country rock is sufficiently strong not to collapse into the stope, although in most cases artificial support is also provided.

Also known as the Salmon Creek District, the Ruby Mining District is an abandoned mining district in north central Washington State, founded in 1887 by Thomas D. Fuller. The principle mined ore was silver, though, copper, lead, and small amounts of gold were also extracted.

Klondyke mill

Klondyke Mill was an ore processing mill on the edge of the Gwydir Forest, near Trefriw, north Wales.

This is a partial glossary of coal mining terminology commonly used in the coalfields of the United Kingdom. Some words were in use throughout the coalfields, some are historic and some are local to the different British coalfields.

Sundown Tin and Copper Mine

Sundown Tin and Copper Mine is a heritage-listed mine at Little Sundown Creek, Stanthorpe, Southern Downs Region, Queensland, Australia. It was built from c. 1897 to 1920s. It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register on 28 July 2000.

Black Trout Adit

Black Trout Adit is the longest underground tourist route in Poland travelled by boats. It's a part of one of 8 adits dug in the area to drain the workings. The Black Trout Adit is located in a park in the west of the town Tarnowskie Góry. Access is by two shafts Ewa and Sylwester. The guide puts the boats in motion and tells the stories connected with the place.

Annaglogh Lead Mines

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