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Author Sherburn No.2 mine abandonment
Boy Engineer

Joined: 20/06/2008
Location: Derby

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Sherburn No.2 mine abandonment
Posted: 02/07/2019 17:33:55
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Back in the 1980s, I was involved in the (as it turned out, extremely short-lived) attempt to control an inrush of water into the gypsum mine at Sherburn in Elmet. The following account is what has stuck in my mind over the intervening 32 years and I thought I ought to record what remains before the memory fades further.
The gypsum seam at Sherburn was unfortunately placed in some respects, with water bearing strata above and below. It wasn't a deep mine (mostly around 40m) but getting down to the seam had proved difficult. The original shaft had been lost due to flooding and access was by a steep drift of circular cross-section that allowed vehicle access and a roof hung conveyor for mineral. A second shaft, fitted with a ladder for second means of egress was sunk to provide ventilation. The fans were underground so there were no fancy air locks on the drift or shaft.
Compared to many of the other gypsum mines in the U.K. the workings were quite narrow at about 4m wide. Height was similar in some parts but the seam thickness varied and so there were some parts rather lower. It always felt pokier than the Midlands mines and the equipment was consequently smaller.
The mine had had water issues before 1987, but it surprising what can be solved by the application of large amounts of concrete and cash.
The 1987 inrush happened in a panel relatively close to the main workshop area and was caused by blasting into a break in the floor. When you hit an aquifer, things can happen fairly quickly. Within 8 hours of the initial inrush, I found myself drafted into helping save the mine. Saving took on a new meaning the following day, when the decision was taken to abandon it, as the likely cost of plugging the breach was deemed uneconomic in the face of diminishing reserves. I think there was also the consideration that the mine had got form for hitting water and how long might it be before the same thing happened again. The race was then on to get as much useful kit out before the water beat us to it. In order to 'buy some time' high volume pumps had been brought in, but you only had to get close to the breach to realise that this was not going to be a long term solution. I can't really explain the noise , other than a sort of whooshing sound (sorry for the lack of imagination). It was somewhat awe inspiring though. What was also thought-provoking was the fact that the mine working areas were spread out and connected by drifts through some small faults. The undulations in the seam meant that the connecting drifts to the northeastern areas (where most of the capital equipment was located) had what is known as a swilley in them. The concern (correct as it turned out) was that this swilley would eventually sump, meaning that access to this area would be lost first.
Whilst there was a desire to recover as much equipment as possible, we didn't have the luxury of time, as we had the complication of an artesian water source. Failure to seal the shaft and drift would have resulted in the creation of Yorkshire's largest water park. The artesian head was about 2m above ground level. Within hours of the decision to abandon, Cementation Mining were on site to undertake the sealing operation. Labour for the salvage came from the mine work force and others brought in from other company mines.
Because the drift was so steep (something like 1 in 3 or 1 in 4), vehicles were assisted up and down using a winch and cable. As you can imagine, the very best time for the winch motor to fail would be during a salvage operation and this duly happened. The hydraulic motor on the winch was of a similar type to that used on the underground crushers, apart from having (again typically) a different number of splines on the output shaft. Those of you who have replaced kitchen tap cartridges will appreciate the problem when you refit the handle. Or don't. Anyway a local firm of engineers manufactured an adapter and it was repaired. In the meantime, a solution was found by taking the winch cable off the drum and using a big front-end loader in lieu of the winch and a pulley at the drift top. One of those jobs where you stand clear and hope that nothing snags. I remember that the Mines Inspector was very supportive (although I don't think we ran that one past him), but as I've said in connection with other stuff, long time ago and things were done differently. Do not try this at home.
The plan for the seals in the drift and the shaft were for large concrete plugs, grouted in place. The shaft was equipped with steel frames to hold the emergency egress ladders, so these had to be removed where the plug was located. I remember a Cemo fitter being sacked on the spot for refusing to hang from a chain ladder by one arm whilst gas-axing steelwork with his free hand. Pour encourager les autres as they said in earlier times, and someone else then got on with the job. Fortunately there were a number of pipes running down the shaft and one of these was utilised as a concrete delivery system. A high slump mix was used (175mm for anyone still reading) of sulphate-resisting C30. And woe betide any mix truck that didn't comply. A rough framework of pipes were put in place before the concrete was dropped in so that the periphery of the plug could be pressure grouted once it had hardened sufficiently. The area of the plug in both the shaft and drift were also drilled to allow rebar dowels to be fitted to provide some initial lateral resistance to the water pressure on the face.
I seem to remember that we started filling the shaft before all the kit was recovered so the mine then went onto a limited number of men inbye.
Up until the point that the connecting drift sumped, it wasn't possible to accurately measure the inflow of water. When you've driven through water that you know is going to sump, it concentrates the mind and I was always relieved to be back on the right side. Eventually we got to the point where the water made the decision for us. However, a borehole into the far side workings was still open at surface and one could measure the airflow coming out by means of a pitot tube. And boy did it whistle out, with about 11 million gallons a day as the calculated inflow rate. Eventually this hole had to be plugged and grouted, to prevent an unwanted fountain feature.
Eventually the need to get the concrete plug in the drift took precedence and all salvaging had to stop. Steel and timber shuttering was completed and concrete was pumped in a number of 'lifts' to form the plug. It was the first time I'd seen concrete pumping up close and personal; one wondered if the sloppy mix would ever be solid enough to allow grouting. But it was and then the grouting started.
Unfortunately I didn't take any photos.
All of this took about a fortnight, with work taking place around the clock. Whilst it was sad to lose the mine, particularly for the workforce at the time, it was a tremendous experience, albeit one that wasn't of enormous value in my second career in the aerospace industry!
The site is still home to a plasterboard factory, but raw materials are now brought in from elsewhere. If you wonder what prompted my recollections, it was by serendipitously finding the mine abandonment plan on the BGS website here: http://www.largeimages.bgs.ac.uk/iip/mineplans.html?id=010685_01
IP: 80.189.72.246 Edited: 02/07/2019 17:37:24 by Boy Engineer
Morlock

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Joined: 31/07/2008

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Sherburn No.2 mine abandonment
Posted: 02/07/2019 18:04:50
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Most interesting, many thanks.Smile IP: 86.150.59.216
royfellows

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Joined: 13/06/2007
Location: Great Wyrley near Walsall

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Sherburn No.2 mine abandonment
Posted: 02/07/2019 19:32:24
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I feel that articles such as this should be recorded by submitting for publication in one of Mining History Organisations memoirs.

What comes to mind is either PDMHS or Northern Mines Research Society.

Nothing wrong with AN, but this just a thread and will eventually fade into the background.

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Looking forward to NAMHO 2019. www.cambrianmines.co.uk
IP: 88.108.9.169
AR

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Joined: 07/11/2007
Location: Knot far from Knotlow in the middle of the Peak District

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Sherburn No.2 mine abandonment
Posted: 02/07/2019 20:15:22
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Copy, paste, email to Steve Thompson for inclusion in the October PDMHS newsletter.... Job done!

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