The Surveyor’s Job At A Coal Mine
A large part of the Surveyor’s job was taken up by minerals management. This involved negotiating mineral leases with other companies, the valuation of mineral holdings for sale, the checking of plans, the payment of wayleaves, the checking of underground coal seam sections, the collection of rents and royalties, the planning of future mine workings within the colliery ‘take’, reports to the Manager and the Owner of the colliery regarding all things such as safety and the sterilisation of areas of coal due to railways, waterworks or other statutory bodies. The recording of all payments to Royalty owners would be documented by the Surveyor and counter-signed at payment times by the Owner or Director of the company. He would also in conjunction with others have to design and set out the shaft pillar at the start of a new mine with due allowance made for dip of the strata and proposed mining methods.
A further duty was to the training of apprentices and assistants and other subordinate staff.
After Nationalisation, the Surveyor lost some of these jobs slowly, such as planning, ventilation, and later geology, but picked up more survey work underground as statutory survey limits were increased and more and more specialised mining equipment was introduced, such as underground locomotives needing complex curves and gradients, improved coal cutting and loading machines giving increased daily advances, major trunk conveyor systems replacing the old tub haulage systems, bunkers, staple pit sinkings and shaft deepenings, etc, as many of the pits taken over by the NCB were in poor shape and needed the introduction of modern methods to survive. Many Surveyors were appointed into the new Planning department to assist and produce the ideas.
Much more work was required on the surface. New triangulations, and surface surveys to fix surface features that were required to be shown on the mine plans. This was before the Ordnance Survey plans of 1957 were issued, as the old ‘County sheets’ had different orientation. I was one of a team that surveyed many of the roads, lanes and railways so that these surveys could be superimposed over the old County sheets relative to the new Ordnance survey plans. Subsidence levelling surveys were required, and the monitoring of the results with the advent of the increased speed of mining, and methods of work. A specialist team of Surveyors was set up eventually to carry out the majority of this work, as was the setting up of a specialist team for mining subsidence but still needed assistance from the colliery Surveyor, such as supplying extra staff and information. An Estates department dealt with the actual work of examining the subsidence damage later and the organisation for carrying out of the repairs.
At Nationalisation on 1 January 1947 the old Colliery Companies ceased and the new Coal Board Areas and sub-Areas found themselves with lots of different methods of surveys and plan systems, calculations etc at neighbouring pits within the group or sub-areas as previously the pits may have been owned by different companies.
Triangulation and Correlations were carried out at all collieries to get every colliery on the same system now that the mines were Nationalised, and also many new proposed pit head baths sites required gridding and contouring etc for the land to be levelled, to enable building to proceed.
Methods from the old companies still survived at certain mines as they were thought to be the ‘best’ systems. Of course staff moved from one colliery to another for promotion or otherwise and took the various systems that they were used to with them.
The Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 was passed, and this established further regulation to the development of land and minerals. Existing mines were allowed permitted development, but all new mines after 1 July 1948 required planning permission for underground workings for the first time, coal stocking sites, waste tips, waste water disposal and other developments away from the pit head.
Of course what must be remembered, is that just because the pits were nationalised, they were still being managed and run by the same people, albeit some had a different title. So the job as Surveyor carried on much in the same way as before, until more staff was set on, and the job became more specialised. The minerals management was then done by staff at HQ, and Division, invariably the older experienced Surveyors who were promoted to senior positions.
To be a Surveyor for the Mine in the first place requires a good standard of education, School Certificate or after 1951, GCE ‘O’ levels or ‘A’ levels, plus a reference as to good character. One was usually set on as an apprentice and had to be well versed in English and maths including: arithmetic, algebra, geometry. Trigonometry, spherical trigonometry, calculus; general science including physics and chemistry, technical drawing, geological mapping and problem solving; and in particular all aspects of surveying and mining techniques, were learned to a high standard by attending a course at a Technical College on day release and/or night school. The Home Office Mines Qualifications Board examination prior to 1963 required a minimum of 2,000 hours underground surveying experience and other surface and office work over a period of about 5 years. The one day, two-paper written examination, taken at selective centres throughout the country, when passed, was followed by a 3-day practical examination. This consisted of an underground test with the theodolite and level, surface test with theodolite and level and an office test consisting of a drawing and calculations, including an oral examination of up to half an hour, at another colliery, not in the same Area as one was working in. Again the Examiners would be an Area Chief Surveyor or Assistant from a different Area. I too was appointed an MQB/JEB Examiner later in my career and assisted as an observer and adjudicator.
Upon qualifying for a Mine Surveyor’s Certificate, a period of 3 years post certificate experience in and about mines was required, before one could be appointed as Surveyor at a mine, and by law was appointed by the Owner but in practice was chosen by the Colliery Manager, Area Surveyor and Staff Manager at an interview. Following the Nationalisation of mines, it was required that a Surveyor was to be appointed at all mines employing more than 30 men underground. There were insufficient qualified people at that time, and many apprentices and linesmen were set on to boost staffing levels following the Fleck Report on the industry. A relaxation of the appointment of Surveyor with less than 3 years post certificate experience was allowed in the early years, and a Sub-Area Surveyor was appointed Surveyor by law to oversee several colliery Surveyors, until the time limit of post certificate experience expired.
I had qualified as a Surveyor by the Home Office exam but also obtained a Higher National Certificate later, as I was asked to stay on at College to make the number of students being lectured to up to 6, the lowest number that was allowed in any one class.
After 1963, the only course open was to follow the Ordinary and Higher National Certificate, or Higher National Diploma course, or the Royal Institution of Surveyors’ Intermediate examination, again followed by the practical examination. Examinations were held at 6 monthly intervals up to 1960s, thereafter at yearly intervals.
For a time the practical examination was condensed into 2 days, but this was found to be unsuitable and reverted back to 3 days. Block release at College replaced the Day release. This created some degree of difficulty at the collieries because the Apprentices were missing for months on end. Furthermore the Apprentices were missing valuable practical experience for months on end also.
However no more apprentices were set on by the NCB after the mid 1980s as it was realised then that a downsizing in the industry was imminent and there would be too many qualified surveyors for the number of collieries that would remain.
Further practical experience had to be gained in the office, before sitting the examination, with penmanship etc using various types of drawing pen. Drawing office techniques, engineering drawing, organisational qualities and knowledge of all types of surveying instruments available, from the old glass topped magnetic Casartelli type dial to the latest digital type computer oriented theodolite, or self reducing tachymeter or tacheometer, and various levelling instruments, from the Dumpy level to the modern self levelling types, followed by the practical use of them on the surface and underground were learnt. The assisting on and the carrying out of statutory and other surveys using these instruments was necessary to gain practical experience. Other practical exercises were undertaken at the Technical College. Technical experiments, plus such things as instrument care, use of silica gel etc and solar and stellar observations and subsequent calculations were taught. In the early days the memorisation of dozens of formulae was required, for mathematical calculations, for water, dirt, coal calculations, etc.
Various types of protractors, parallel rules, set squares, French curves, scale rules, pen and ink compasses and pencils and pens needed to be used in the office to further draughtsmanship skills.
A thorough knowledge of the relevant Acts, Regulations, Orders, Rules and other documents as laid down from time to time was imperative. It was also necessary to be familiar with all different mining methods and techniques, both practically and academically wise.
Other qualifications could be obtained such as the City and Guilds, Builders’ Surveying and Levelling etc and the exams were generally taken as a lead up to the MQB exam along with the yearly EMEU examinations. Further higher qualification could be obtained after passing the Surveyors’ Certificate by following a course and passing the Final examination of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. This course gave a deeper knowledge of the minerals management side of surveying. More advanced survey techniques and complicated problems, mining subsidence, astronomical work, building construction, valuation, mining law, local and national taxation. Later a scheme of practical supervision in various departments of the Board was required to fulfill the final year examination criteria, followed by a thesis and oral test.
The appointment as Surveyor for the mine is Statutory and made by the Owner of the mine, and like the Manager and Undermanager his name and address is forwarded to the Inspector of Mines. It is interesting to note that a mine may not be worked for more than 28 days without a Surveyor, but may be worked for up to 72 days without a Manager! Of course in practice, a Deputy or Assistant would act or be appointed temporarily in both cases, until a permanent appointment was made. As Surveyor under the Coal Mines Act, 1911, the Mines & Quarries Act, 1954 (in operation from 1 January 1957) and the Tips Act 1969 and the 1990s Mines Administration & Safety & Health package later, one was responsible for all plans and sections etc, required to be kept and for all calculations and records, and to ensure that they were signed and preserved. The Surveyor must comply with the Act and any Regulations and Orders, and also to the limits of error and conditions laid down to surveys and plans, contained in the latest version of the Code of Surveying Practice. The Surveyor also had a duty to train and supervise all his subordinate staff. He also has a responsibility to the Manager of the mine for any duties required, which could be numerous and varied. He also had a duty to the Area Chief Surveyor and Headquarters staff and any rules, directives etc, passed on by them. He has a duty to the Owner and Manager regarding informing them on matters of safety.
A yearly job appraisal was carried out by the Surveyor on his subordinates and by the Manager on himself. Senior staff was interviewed by their superiors and so on.
The Surveyor also has a duty to make sure that all his staff conduct themselves in a proper manner on work below and above ground and that safety is borne in mind, particularly when using flame safety lamps, these being an integral part of the job. He must also order and supply the requisite tackle for jobs, e.g. string, wire, chalk, plumb-bobs, line levels, clips, tapes, notebooks, pens, pencils, rubbers etc and any other equipment necessary to fulfill the duties of survey staff members. Blank plan sheets, calculation sheets, books, and other special equipment were ordered via a Senior Surveyor through Area stores.
Overtime and weekend work is sometimes necessary to carry out tasks and the organisation of same and authorisation of holidays and rest days to enable the smooth running of the department to continue is another task. Generally this is done via liaison with an Overman, Undermanager or Deputy Manager.
As underground survey linesmen staff come under the auspices of the Mining department, generally apart from special jobs, at some pits they start their shifts early by going underground with the Day shift miners, and the organisation of which type of instrument or other tackle needed on the day is organised beforehand where possible. Routine work is generally carried out by them before meeting up with staff personnel later to carry out a survey or levelling etc. At other pits the underground staff enter the mine with the Surveyor later and do the bulk of the tackle carrying etc.
Generally survey work is always done in roadways where haulage vehicles, manriders or other people pass, and it would appear that the surveyors and their tackle are always in the way of others who are doing routine work. Surveys are ‘routine work’ for the surveyors! A surveyor and his assistants were authorised to travel roadways where haulage ropes or locos etc were in motion.
The mines were privatised once more from 1 January 1995, with RJB Mining being the owner of most of the English collieries, around 20 in number (now 13). There were also several Management buyouts of ex British Coal mines. Many small mines continued as before.
Plans of all workings need to be plotted up to a date of not more than 3 months past, or to a position not more than 100 metres from their actual position. In the 1920s, it was not unusual for the workings to advance 30 or 40 metres in a year over a very large area. Nowadays, with modern mining equipment, it is not unusual for a panel face to retreat 30 metres in a day! Development headings are advancing around 10 metres or more a shift also, therefore in many working places a survey is required every week, whereas in the past, up to 1887 it was twice a year, usually March and September and from then on it was 4 times a year, and likewise the plans were updated to those dates which were the old Quarter days namely Lady Day (25 March), Midsummer (24 June), Michaelmas (29 September), Christmas (25 December). Later the modern Quarter end dates were used, 31 March, 30 June, 30 September, 31 December, whereas in later years the day of the survey is the date written on the plan, eg 12 May, 3 August, 9 October etc.
The invention of several different coal cutting machines in the early days of Nationalisation and in particular the Trepanner and the Anderton shearer cutter-loaders and armoured face conveyors in the mid 1950s, brought in a new style of mining which was highly mechanised, and coal production increased dramatically, bringing with it two major differences for the Surveyor. Firstly, it meant more underground surveys per year would have to be undertaken, depending on the number of coal faces and development headings, and also dependent upon the speed of advance, but more importantly, more types of support rules needed constructing and amending for these modern coal faces, whereas in the past, probably one set of support rules for coal faces and one set for development would have sufficed, because generally only one method for each was used at a particular colliery or company.
With the new style of mining came panzer creep. That is where the armoured face conveyor or panzer moves downhill by weight and periodic face surveys are necessary to ascertain the straightness of the face and generally the lead forward of the gate that the panzer is creeping to so that it would force the panzer to move in the opposite direction. See-sawing in fact over a short distance to keep the gates straight because when the panzer moves from its intended position in the centre of the gate to the side of the gate all the ancillary equipment has to move with it and the gate then has to move that way to accommodate the tackle. If the face is bent because it is easy to cut in light at the gate ends and cut deeper as the machine moves up the face line thereby creating a banana shape. That then tended to pull both gates in towards one another. The secret was to do face check lines on a regular basis and inform the Undermanager and his officials of the result so that immediate remedial action can be taken. Again this operation becomes second nature to the Surveyor.