Whilst there are very few natural caves in Snowdonia, the landscape has been subjected to mining on a surprisingly large scale. Underground mine exploration takes you on a stunning adventure deep underground within an old slate mine. This gives you a unique and memorable experience, exploring tunnels, chambers , climbing up old inclines and roofing shafts carved into the mountain sides over a century ago. Step back in time and see first hand the working conditions of the miners and experience the atmosphere and ambience of this once labour intense occupation.
The quarry workers laboured mostly for slate and lead - to consider the lives of these Victorian men in comparison to our comfortable 21st century existence is an educational experience in itself.
Groups can explore underground on foot or take more adventurous routes using abseils and ladders. This torch-lit activity gives students an important real life perspective on their studies of history, geology and geography. It is a challenging activity, which will push individuals outside their comfort zones, but it also encourages team work and communication skills.
Is it Safe?
You may be wondering if mines are safe to go in? The mines we use are not tourist attractions, and only organisations with the appropriate experience and knowledge can use them. However, the routes we follow in the mines have all been inspected and approved by the HSE Mine Inspectorate.
Students will be supplied with waterproofs, wellies, fleece jumper if needed, and helmets with head lamps.
Slate industry in Wales
This began during the Roman period when slate was used to roof the fort at Segontium, near Caernarfon. The slate industry grew in the early 18th century, and then expanded rapidly until the late 19th century. At this time the most important slate producing areas were in northwest Wales, including the Penrhyn Quarry near Bethesda, the Dinorwig Quarry near Llanberis (this is just behind the centre and can be explored during a Blue Peris course), the Nantlle Valley quarries, and Blaenau Ffestiniog where the slate was mined rather than quarried. Penrhyn and Dinorwig were the two largest slate quarries in the world, and the Oakeley mine at Blaenau Ffestiniog was the largest slate mine in the world. Slate is mainly used for roofing, but is also produced as thicker slab for a variety of uses including flooring, worktops and headstones.
The slate industry dominated the economy of northwest Wales during the second half of the 19th century. In 1898, a work force of 17,000 men produced half a million tons of slate. The Great Depression and Second World War led to the closure of many smaller quarries, and competition from other roofing materials, particularly tiles, resulted in the closure of most of the larger quarries in the 1960s and 1970s. Slate production does continue, but on a much reduced scale.
For more information about the Slate Industry in Wales you can follow this Wikipedia link and read some more.