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Thursday, 21 August 2014

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Work continuing at collapsed Egremont mine shaft

Work is continuing to stabilise a collapsed mineshaft that forced the evacuation of people from their homes.

Contractors for Copeland council have started work to create a road that can safely get heavy machinery to the site in Egremont. Nine homes have now been evacuated from Howbank Road as efforts continue to make the area safe after a gaping hole opened up on Wednesday.

Pat Graham, Copeland's director of services, said: “We are continuing to work with our contractors to identify a solution to the slippage and our teams will be working on site throughout the weekend as well as continuing to monitor for further movement.

“We are working to ensure that residents’ practical and welfare concerns are met. We realise that being evacuated from your home without access is incredibly inconvenient, but this is a necessary safety measure.”

People will not be allowed to return to their homes on the Smithfield estate until the council is satisfied the area is safe.

The council was alerted to the mineshaft’s presence about 12 months ago.

As it collapsed, a man using a drilling vehicle had to be rescued from going into the hole with his vehicle.

The Egremont area is heavily populated with mineshafts, and Wednesday’s episode is the latest in a series that have caused problems.

Only four years ago, another mineshaft further along Howbank Road was identified, only yards from the newly-opened one. Three homes were evacuated as a result and although the shaft has never opened up, the properties have recently been demolished and the area fenced off.

In 2005, nine homes were evacuated and later demolished after a large mineshaft opened up in a resident’s back garden on Greenmoor Road, also on the Smithfield estate.

Other mineshafts have been identified and repaired, including one on Chapel Street car park and another on the former Wyndham School’s tennis courts.

Dave Banks, a local mineshaft expert, said that the two on Howbank Road are the only untreated mineshafts he is aware of in the Egremont area.

“Although the exact figures are not know – as there are no maps giving their details – it has been estimated that there are 300 mineshafts between Lamplugh and Beckermet. However, the worst ones have been capped by different people in different ways over the years.”

The shaft that opened on Wednesday – an iron ore mine called Gilfoot Park No 2 – was part of the Wyndham Mine network on which Egremont sits.

Mr Banks added: “The mines have been used and then the holes have been plugged with whatever material was available. They have then been grassed over and forgotten about over the years.

“There are no sign of the shafts being there underground until something happens. Copeland knew about this one and was working to fix it when it collapsed.

“The are not many options when working on a shaft.”

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