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Slate | by PentlandPirate of the North
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Slate

Look at the mountain from the front and you see what looks like a disembowelled grey monster. There’s a huge hole dug out of its side. The spoil slate rocks have been tossed to the left and right and behind where the diggers were, thrown aside as if a monstrous dog has dug into the ground in a frantic rush to unearth a rabbit down its hole. In their efforts to extract 100,000 tonnes of slate each year the 3000 men of Dinorwic dug out and tossed into heaps around the edge of the quarry, millions of tonnes of……slate. What was wrong with the slate they exerted so much energy extracting, and lifting up into piles around where they worked? Today it lies in huge heaps all across the mountainside around the gaping hole.

 

I’m baffled as to why they could not have worked with more care and planning. It’s as if the human physical resources were so plentiful and cheap, that they did not have to think ahead. They started digging into a mountain working with gravity so that all the weight of the stone, finished and waste, moved downhill, and ended up digging down so deep that not only did they have to lift all the cut slates and all the waste up out of the hole, that eventually the huge piles of unwanted slate became unstable, causing a massive landslide that filled in the pit where the best slate was. It would have taken so much energy to clear out the pit, they deemed it uneconomic to continue quarrying there, with the result that Dinorwig quarry was closed and never re-opened. In a way they dug a hole for themselves!

 

But if you are digging a hole today, just think ahead and make sure that you pile up what you dig out, well away from the hole.

 

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Taken on May 10, 2014