Sunday, 30 September 2012

Whatever happened to the slate industry?

 Driving down the A5 en route for a walk around Llŷn Ogwen I stopped off at one of the last working slate quarries in North Wales, the Penrhyn Quarries near Bethesda. Once 100,000 men worked in the slate quarries of North Wales. Currently employing around 90 workers, this quarry is a shadow of its former self. Underinvestment, cheap imports from Spain, the fashion (now passing) for tiled roofs, and the problems of disposing of all the waste that a slate mine makes have taken their toll. Some sense of all the mess that slate mining creates can be seen on the aerial view of this quarry on Google Earth (please find it SW of Bethesda and print it here)
The scale of the operation is still impressive 90 lorries leave the site each day-20 of “ready for roof” slates and 70 for chippings which a prized for garden paths and for pipe bedding. These are made in a giant crushing machine.

The waste of years ago makes a sorry sight but this quarry may soon be home to a tourist zip wire project.
Bethesda has slates of varying shades
High quality slate waste (off cuts and the like) can be ground down to a fine powder and used for make up powder.
Some of the old trackways have been made up into cycle tracks, nice level routes suitable for kids of all ages that aren’t looking for a workout

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