Imagine dark corridors filled with clouds of steam, making it impossible to see. Smoke and dust filling your lungs. And exhausting physical work as you dig into solid rock, day after day, armed only with your pickaxe. Can you picture it? Well, believe me, reality was much worse for the miners not only in Marie Agnes, but also in other mines in Lower Silesia. The excavation techniques used before explosives became a daily practice made the miners’ lives a living hell.
History at Your Fingertips
The entrance to the adit of the Marie Agnes mine is located on the right bank of the Bystrzyca River, beneath the railway viaduct of the currently closed railway line. It is unknown when the deposit was discovered or from which period the individual fragments of the mine originated. It is possible that mining activities on this deposit lasted from the 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century. The excavations follow a hydrothermal barite-quartz vein containing lead, silver, and zinc ores (silver-bearing galena and sphalerite) in gneiss rocks. The pavements of the first level (partially flooded) are approximately 50 m long and extend in the southeast (SEE) direction. They have a maximum height of 2 m and a width of up to 1.5 m. The lower parts (level -6 m and level -11 m) are only accessible to cave divers and contain well-preserved relics of old mining technology.
Perhaps in the 18th century, to make the lower part of the deposit accessible, a vertical shaft with dimensions of 2.3 × 4.0 m in cross-section and a depth of approximately 6 m was constructed. The shaft is reinforced with wooden beams, to which the drainage pipeline and ladders for miners were attached. The pipeline consists of wooden pipes, each approximately 3.6 m long, with an outer diameter of 10 cm and an internal diameter of 5 cm. The drainage pipe itself is something worth seeing – note it was created without a single metal element!. It’s perfectly viible on the underewater 3d photogrammetry scan of the flooded levels.
Landmark – Wooden Winch Connecting Level 2 and 3
The lowermost flooded level of the mine is a horizontal excavation carried out about 6 m below the upper level excavation in which the shaft is buried. The cross-section of the flooded pavement is similar to that of the upper level. From this excavation, another shaft with a depth of about 3 m and a rectangular cross-section (although much smaller than the shaft connecting the higher levels) was dug. The wooden winch that the miners used to lift the excavated material is definitely worth seeing. Just imagine being in the presence of a 200-years old monument of a mining art. It’s also visible on many of the 3d renders and animations presenting the 3d scan of the flooded mine levels. You can also take a closer look using the AR experience provided on the project’s websit
Bowing to the Spirit of the Mine
The mine is easily accessible, as the adit mouth is located right next to the road running along the Bystrzyca stream. The mine had only one entrance, and its ventilation relied on diffusion. The entrance to the shaft surprises with its tightness, measuring only 60 cm in height. However, right behind it, the corridor reaches a height of 2 m in some places. According to some sources, the reason for having such a low entrance was to compel the miners working in the adit to “bow” to the spirit of the mine, seeking prosperity and ensuring safety during work. I need to admit – pulling my gear through that entrance was probably the hardest part of the diving.
The mining work was incredibly hard. The rocks were mined manually using hammers and pickaxes, and thermal methods of mining were likely used as well, as mentioned in sources describing other mines from this period. Heating rocks for mining has been known since ancient times. It involves exposing the rock face to the heat of a bonfire, causing the rock to expand and form cracks and fissures. The fractured rock can then be extracted with a pickaxe. To enhance the heating effect, water was poured over the rock. The consequence of such mining was extremely challenging conditions in the mine, with smoke, heat, and water vapor being part of the miners’ everyday work.