I’ve been travelling down to the quarries in Portland for a number of years now and was recently invited to go a little bit deeper into the mine for a closer look to see how this world famous stone is so carefully extracted. It was an early start to beat the beach traffic as the forecast was so good and we arrived outside Bowers Mine around 08:00. We were greeted by the Albion Stone team, geared up and then taken down by mine manager Mark. Mark is a proper stone man and I follow him closely on twitter @Titanites and enjoy reading his feeds on Portland and the surrounding area.
It didn’t take long to make our way down and in through the mine entrance and it was clear to see how precise and exact this whole operation was. I expected the sides to be rough and ragged, but they were clean and straight like super clad walls of monster size blocks. Meandering our way down we could see some junctions in the road way that led to other areas which had been excavated and work in that area completed. We then dropped down again and were greeted by a double height view which is where this shot was taken. I had to get in the photo simply for scale.
We then arrived at the area which was currently being worked. A robotic saw was in place facing a white wall and straight cuts had been made on either side and the huge blade was only slightly visible at the base as it had already made its way into carving out the base of the rock. Mark then clearly explained the extraction techniques to brake the block away using water fed through a steel pillow which just expands until it’s pushed apart. After some more info on the layers of Portland Stone we made our way back, passing another machine which was used for pinning the rock to keep everything stable and prevent any movement occurring.
As we left the mine I saw this massive cat lurking around a corner patiently waiting to collect the next 20ton block to bring to the surface. It was then I realised that the roadway down there was just the right size for the forklift to meander its way through the mine. We then had a debrief, thanked Mark and the team and watched as the next group made their way down. I felt very privileged to be invited down to see the initial part of the process and to see where the stone I love to work with is cut and prepared.