Quite some time ago I discovered the existence of an abandoned mine in Needle Hill. Several tunnels had been hewn out in the rock to gain access to tungsten bearing ore. The mines closed in the 1970s following a drop in tungsten prices and a sharp increase in labour cost, and have been left idle since. About half a year ago I placed a series of geocaches in these adits, and now some friends wanted to go find them. And I decided to follow them.
The rock is granite, so the risk of collapse is very low. However there are loose rocks everywhere, and the tunnels are low and rough. Wearing a hard hat is a basic safety requirement.
As some of the entrances are blocked, it is not always easy to enter them, and water is collecting at the entrance. So wet feet were guaranteed, the deepest water we encountered was nearly waist deep.
There were more adits than geocaches, this was of course intentional, giving a bit more of a challenge to find them. But after some good exploration it did not take long to dig up the first cache. And a few adits later the second was found! Half a year after I placed them, finally someone managed to go and find them. And not much help from me, I intentionally stayed behind most of the time. I only helped searching some of the entrances, which are really hard to find. Even if you’ve been there before.
It was a beautiful day, not too hot, nice and sunny, and after a break at the rock quarry we continued to find some more adits, this time higher up the mountain. Again it was a tough search, again no cache in the tunnel, but we did encounter some interesting wildlife, including bats and geckos.
This bat was small, maybe 10 cm head to tail. The gecko, probably the common Bowring’s Gecko, was a little longer than that, some 15 cm including the tail. The colouring is really interesting as the little reptile blends in very well in its surroundings.
Finally in one of the adits we found the first half of the tungsten mining earth cache, at a place where some actual ore is still visible inside the quartz vein. This ore is almost certainly not tungsten, as it would have been mined immediately. I think this is galena, lead ore, an ore commonly found together with wolframite, the tungsten ore mined here.
Two and a half cache found, and it was a great adventure. It is just so interesting to walk around those mines, to see the rotten ladders, remains of electrical lighting. It must have been really hard to work there, chiselling away at the hard rock. At first all done by hand, later likely with the help of machines. No matter what the environment was cramped, damp, and probably dangerous.
Since the closing of the mine operation and the expiry of the mining license ownership has returned to the government, and nothing is done with it. It is not likely that any mining will take place here any time soon, even though the mines are far from exhausted, as it is simply not economical. They are left as an icon of times past, and provide a great adventure for the few hikers that know about them.