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Types of Hard Rock Mines

by Todd Underwood

Hard rock mines usually fall into one of two categories, tunnels or shafts. Each involves digging and blasting deep into the bowels of the earth. Tunnel hard rock mines begin at the earth's surface

Tunnel Mine

and continue horizontally into the rock. Tunnels can extend for miles as they follow the ore. Most tunnels have many side tunnels, or even shafts that are sunk far back in the tunnel. These shafts are called winzes. Exploring Tunnel mines is very dangerous as it its dark and very difficult to see winzes. Many tunnels go back so far into the earth they tap into some of the earth's geothermal resources filling with gas that is toxic to humans. There is also the danger of cave-ins in old shafts that are no longer supported by the rotting wood timbers.

A shaft is a whole in the earth that is dug relatively straight down. Shafts usually have some sort of headframe or large wooden or metal structure at the top of the shaft to support a hoist. Hoists are used to lower men and machinery into the mine and to haul

Looking down a Shaft

ore out. Many shafts have tunnels dug at different depths throughout the shaft. Getting too close to the side of an abandoned shaft can spell almost certain death. Many of the shafts extend thousands of feet into the earth.


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Headframe of the Red Rover Mine


Tunnel Entrance

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