The Surveyor’s Job At A Coal Mine
Various Lectures Or Talks
Various lectures or talks and the compilation of information for personal or other management personnel for papers on various projects would be made. Courses were run for all management personnel including junior surveyors at Long Benton and unit Surveyors / Senior surveyors at the staff college Chalfont St Giles.
Consequently it was always necessary for the Surveyor to have Assistants and underground line staff to do routine work and assist on survey and special work. Apprentices were attached to a colliery for a period before being sent to another colliery. They assisted on as many jobs as possible in order to obtain experience, which hopefully would stand them in good stead for the future. The Surveyor would monitor his progress and in later years signed his work sheets.
It was necessary to liaise with all other departments at a colliery, particularly underground officials as well as surface personnel, and many departments at Area HQ also. Continual contact with the HQ Survey department was general. The Assistant Manager and Overman in charge of development would always be calling in to discuss the various projects on hand or in the proposal stage. The Undermanager or Assistant would call in on a daily basis to discuss routine matters. The Deputy Manager would always have some project or other that required some time and special jobs for the Manager or Production Manager would crop up periodically as would jobs for the Mechanical, Electrical or Safety departments.
It was always necessary to liaise with the Mines Inspectorate on matters regarding accidents, incidents and support rules, ventilation fan installations, approach notices regarding safety, the abandonment plan and report for a seam or mine, and tipping in the event of closure.
Invariably on any routine visit to the mine, the Inspector would require some information from the Surveyor, such as a site plan or roadway size, gradients, seam sections, depths from the surface, copy of a support plan etc. This meeting with the Inspector would invariably fall during lunch break!
Liaison with instrument firms for repairs or new orders; British Rail re workings at six monthly intervals, outside engineering firms etc. for relevant sizes of new underground equipment; involvement with County Council re tips; involvement with Inland Revenue re assessment for rating, etc. Invariably when overseas visitors came to the colliery they would end up in the survey office, for some information about the mine and copies of the underground workings. In some instances foreign students were attached to the care of the Surveyor for work experience as well as Mining department Directed Practical Trainees and the occasional schoolboy from a local school for work experience.
It was always necessary of course to have a good filing system, both for plans and information. It was also necessary to reference and keep all notebooks, calculations and other information required, and ensure that they were signed, if required by the person doing the job.
It was also necessary to have a good memory, particularly if asked for information away from the office.
Attendance At Various Meetings Required
The attendance at various meetings was required. Weekly meeting for development etc, monthly meeting for Policy, monthly for Development, Manpower savings schemes and Accountability, ad hoc meetings for Face design, Roadway drivages, Projects, Risk assessment, Strategic plan and 5 year Layout plan and signing, only attended by the Surveyor and the Manager. Surveyor’s annual meeting and others, for example haulage layout meeting and the preparation of the various ideas.
Of course numerous discussions or phone conversations or queries with parties from other departments were daily occurrences sometimes. Many odd jobs would crop up, such as find the height of the colliery chimney ready for demolition; how many tons of coal could be dumped on a particular piece of ground; how long a life had a slurry pond left; where to site a nuclear source store; how much steel was on stock; how many acres of grass had been set or acres of trees; how long a life had the dirt tip; when would the next panel be ready; find out why the gate belt on such and such a panel was running out of line; how high is so and so’s junction; design a frontispiece for a magazine; prepare slides for a paper; check the winding line; check for floor lift on a paddy road; mark out stockyard areas; how many areas of different roadway supports; lengths of fireproofing; hang up posters; position bulletins at parish boundaries; locate buried pipes and cables; set out batter boards; sketches for various projects and so on and so on. Of course these jobs and others would vary pit by pit.
Statutory Legislation Increased
Over the years, statutory legislation has increased. The restrictions on Working Rights began with the Railway Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, with the construction of railways and the working of coal beneath them. This Act required that 40 yards of coal support was left either side of a railway line. This was followed by the Waterworks Clauses Act, 1847, which applied to waterworks, reservoirs, pumping stations etc; The Public Health Act, 1875 (Support of Sewers), Amendment Act, 1883, and the Mines (Working Facilities & Support) Act, 1923 and later 1966; The Coal Acts, 1938 and 1943 - these were supplemented by the Coal Registration of Ownership Act, 1937; the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947 was followed by the T & CP (General Development) Order, 1950 and the T & CP (National Coal Board) Regulations, 1951; T & CP Act, 1959; the first Coal Mining Subsidence Act was in 1950, followed by further ones in 1957, 1975 and 1991. An Agreement was made between the NCB and the British Transport Commission in 1949, 1953 and later. The earlier Acts became known as the Mining Code.
Much of this legislation affected the Surveyors’ work in some way or other.
Notification Of Approach
Notification of approach to the CEGB and local electricity undertaking regarding the underworking of pylons and large sub-stations; similarly to the Gas Board regarding major large diameter pipelines that criss-cross the country.
Notification Of Working Under The Various Parishes
Notification of working under the various Parishes of a district entails the notification to that Parish of the proposed working and also the posting of notice of intent at various strategic points around such a boundary. Usually carried out by Senior staff with assistance from the Colliery Surveyor.
Water Dangers Committee
The Water Dangers Committee report of 1927 required the notification of notice of approach to any area that was regarded as dangerous or waterlogged etc.
Royal Commission On Safety Of Mines
In 1938 the Royal Commission on Safety of mines report recommended that among others the qualifications of Mine Surveyors should be amended. Also in 1938 the Coal Act set up the Coal Commission and a Coal Holdings register. Paragraphs 5 and 6 of the Act were important to the Surveyor as they dealt with leases, the first one being where the land and the rights to mine coal were in the same ownership and the latter where they were separated.
On 1 July 1942, the Coal Act of that year amended section 5 of the 1938 Act. All property and rights in coal were vested in the Coal Commission. A third set of files now came into existence - lease files. The primary source of the records was to show what the State inherited and the matters to which the coal may be subject. They reflected the position at 1 January 1939 and show whether the coal held by former owners is freehold or former copyhold, and if the former, whether freehold in position or in lease. In respect of freehold coal, entries set out in the register will generally indicate whether the coal and the surface above it was in the same ownership or whether severance had taken place. These are kept at the Mines Records Office under the care of a qualified Surveyor.
The various Coal Mines Acts over the years created much work for the Surveyor by the compliance of the Rules, Orders etc that emulated from them.
After the Act of 1850, which required that owners keep ‘correct’ plans of mines; the 1872 Act required abandoned mine plans to be deposited within 3 months, and on a scale not less than 1:1584 (or 2 chains to the inch). In the 1887 Coal Mines Regulation Act, plans were required to be made up to date quarterly, prior to this it was 6 monthly. The Coal Mines Regulation Act of 1896 required that plans were to be certified by a ‘competent’ Surveyor and that more detail was to be shown. The 1911 Coal Mines Act required plans to be on 1:1584. Any plans on a different scale would have had to be redone. The Act also required that in future Surveyors would have to be certificated by examination. Further, in the late 1930s the examination was increased in severity as new methods were employed throughout the industry. Plans on the 1:2500 scale were required following the nationalisation of the mines in 1947.
After the Knockshinnoch disaster in Scotland in 1950, where a proposed steep exit roadway being driven at 1 in 2 grade from underground to the surface, struck a peat bog, which engulfed the underground workings, killing several and trapping another 116 men, who were fortunately rescued later, by driving a connection roadway through from a neighbouring mine, Inrush Regulations were implemented in 1952. The Surveyor was required to notify the Manager and Owner of any approach towards any peat, sand, moss, body of water or anything that was likely to flow when wet.
SM 1 Form
The Surveyor does this by filling in a pre-designed SM 1 form (Surveyor to Manager) some time in advance including the relevant details, accompanied by a plan of the site. The Manager signs to acknowledge that he has received the information, then decides the course of action required to carry out the exercise safely. This additional information is outlined on another part of the form and together with the plan and Surveyor’s report is sent through to superior officials to add their comments or sign their acceptance, then forwarded to the Owner for his signature. It is returned to the Manager and a copy is then sent to the Inspector for the district for his approval.
These were updated in 1979 with the Mines (Precautions Against Inrushes) Regulations.
This followed several reported inrushes throughout the country, but notably Lofthouse, Yorkshire in March 1973, where a working face undermined an old shaft, and an inrush of stagnant water and mud engulfed a working district and 7 men were drowned. The shaft was not actually sunk down to the seam that was being worked, and it was thought safe to undermine it. However later it was found in an old Victorian Surveyor’s handbook, after a thorough in depth search, that a borehole had been drilled down to the seam from the bottom of the old shaft, and it was this which had allowed the water to inrush from old workings, when it had collapsed by being undermined.
The need for information to be properly documented and filed and plotted on mine plans if required, cannot be more emphasied. Obviously in older coalfield areas where mining has been carried on for centuries the necessity to examine old plans is a ‘must’.
Emergency Borehole Procedure
The emergency borehole procedure was implemented at the site at the Lofthouse disaster and a borehole commenced, however this was abandoned before being finished, as it was known that it would be impracticable to be used, and the district was sealed off and the bodies entombed.
In an emergency such as this, the Surveyor would report to the Incident Controller, usually the Manager, and be prepared to go underground in order to measure up the site and the position of the bodies in order to prepare plans of the incident, and also arrange for the production of further copies or information which may be required.
On the surface, the route to any possible emergency borehole site has to be planned out, and access gained, taking into account facilities which will be required such as a water supply and checking to see that the site to be chosen, scaled from the working plan of the mine, does not have electric pylons or cables, gas pipes, water pipes or sewers in the way. Also the route chosen to get the rig and personnel to the site does not have to traverse across streams, swampy ground, railways, low bridges etc. Physical observation of the route would be necessary at some stage.
As an exercise to further the immediate access to information, should such an incident occur, the Surveyors at pits with shallow workings up to 400 yards deep were first to create a series of surface fixed survey stations around the periphery of the workings, but outside any major subsidence zones, which could affect the accuracy. Teversal was the first pit in North Nottinghamshire where I was Senior Assistant and the majority of the work fell upon me. These survey stations were situated such that an accurate borehole position could be marked out in a fairly short time, as compared to having to traverse possibly several miles from the pit yard base. The possibility of fog or mist could hamper operations and survey bases near to an emergency site could save a great deal of time. These were checked and extended at intervals. Later expertise with the rescue-boring rig led to depths up to 1,000 metres being included. Should an emergency occur, a borehole is set out from a surface position to enable a pilot hole to be drilled down to intercept an underground roadway in a position where men may be trapped and where other means of approaching them are not thought possible or practical. When the pilot hole is through, communications, food and water are to be sent in. A further hole is drilled and the reamed out to a diameter to enable a small mansized cylinder to be lowered to the underground position, by means of an emergency winding engine, in order to get the men out. The Foraky rig at Nottingham was the one that was kept on standby for the purpose. To date this exercise has not been fully carried out.