Report on the conference
International research and training conference devoted to the problems of underground space use took place on June 20 -21 in the Karelian Research Center. The conference was held under the auspices of Baltic Sea Underground Innovation Network (BSUIN) project of Iterreg Baltic Sea Region Program and gathered more than thirty specialists from seven countries willing to share their professional experience in the sphere of underground facilities.
Participants of the conference in underground Ruskeala
Ruskeala Mining Park has been rapidly growing for already more than ten years in Karelia next to Russian-Finnish border. Recently the dense network of tourist paths has been added by one more unique route constructed in haulage adits and spacious underground chamber inside marble mountain. Successful experience of using the new underground route and multi-year research of the mining park’s territory allowed applying for participation in BSUIN project – international platform created to extend the advanced experience of underground space development. Actually, that was the purpose of the participants of the conference – to discuss the issues of legal, financial, organizational, scientific-research and technical aspects of using mining sites.
Foreign guests got familiar with excursion route around Mramornoe (Marble) lake and Italian quarry, visiting the underground part of the mining park, within the frameworks of the workshop given to BSUIN project participants just before. Meeting the beauty of the outstanding in its history and contribution to the treasury of the world architecture marble quarry was not just a part of social program. They should see everything with their own eyes and appreciate duly the success of the first mining park in Karelia also in order to bring up to date the conference agenda and prepare the guests for discussing the experience of underground mining workings development for tourist purposes. Besides, a number of reports presented during the conference were related to scientific research of Ruskeala quarry.
Seeing the beauty of Ruskeala
The condition of underground workings is being successfully monitored and eco-balance is being maintained during two recent years by efforts of permanent scientific laboratory “RuskeaLab” based on the mining park within the borders of former mining enterprise that has turned into a popular tourist site. The report of Deputy director of the Institute of Geology, KRC RAS, conference coordinator Vitaly Shekov was devoted to the experience of using laser distance meters when estimating the stability of mining workings. In order to assess the rock movements that are invisible for the naked human eye, 15 basic stations to record laser beam on the same point were installed in the underground space of Ruskeala Mining Park. So far all the measurements taken by this method have been within the limits of error, that is, have not exceeded one and a half millimeters, and it means that Ruskeala underground workings are stable and the chance of their fall is brought down to a minimum. According to the reporter, the Institute of Geology, KRC RAS, has taken out a patent for this invention, but has not made any efforts to market this technology.
Vitaly Shekov is demonstrating how to use laser distance meters
Using underground space is an example of a systematic problem in order to solve which it is required to involve both science and practitioners; and alteration of the reports of both is one of the peculiarities of such conferences. Anton Yushko, place marketing advisor with many years of experience, presented report on retrospective review of Ruskeala mining park development path.
Major problems of organizational development of one of mining museums were covered by the report of Margaret Faull, previously Director of National Coal Mining Museum for England, Yorkshire, England, now – Honorary President of the Network of European Coal Mining Museums. The reporter embraced both the special aspects of the national legislation, the demands it places on former mining workings, and the particular organizational and financial problems accompanying the process of establishing the museum she once headed. Works on converting the industrial site into the modern museum were carried out from January 1980 till June 1988, the total cost was 2.57 mln. pound sterling, or about 4.18 mln. euro at the exchange rate of those years, received from state coal companies. Heavy running costs of the museum facilities, that include also part of underground workings, were a great problem; but when in 1995 the museum achieved national status and special state funding was allocated, this issue receded into the background. Starting from the beginning of the XXI century, according to a new state policy, the museum has introduced free admission for all members of the public, so that the number of visitors has increased by one and a half – two times, up to 120 – 140 thousand people per year, and more than one third of them are kids and schoolchildren. Now the museum earns almost one thousand times smaller amount of money than it receives from the state for the running costs; however, along with the fact that there are some cutbacks to funding during recent years, struggle for additional money intended for development has never been stopped.
Margaret Faull, Honorary President of the Network of European Coal Mining Museums
Marta Ajkowska-Mazur and Mateusz Gil
One of the directions of using underground space on operating mining workings of the Freiberg area in Saxony, Germany, is also visiting by tourists. Toni Müller’s report was devoted to multiple purposes use of mining facilities. Indeed, part of mine “Reiche Zeche” situated in Freiberg was allocated for visiting by tourists, and initially, starting from 1819 it has been used for educational purposes. However, as Tony supposes, both historic galleries and the preserved mining equipment, and also modern underground scientific laboratories can become tourist attractions. Considering such important advantages as depth of the mine and stability of temperature conditions at different levels of the working, the underground facilities have high economic potential contributing to dealing with an extensive range of challenges. So, water heating and utilization of electric energy and many other things – all these could be considered as one more option of preservation of the mine, keeping the possibility of resuming mineral extraction.
The subject of multifunctionality of underground mining workings was continued by Nikolay Natal'in, research manager of Leningrad Regional Non-Governmental Organization “Preservation of Nature and Cultural Heritage”. He focused on ten possible directions of using former mining workings including growing of mushrooms and cheese ripening, ensuring food preservation, wellness activities, storage of wastes, placing production facilities for close control equipment and creating the conditions for restoration of biological diversity. By the way, both an underground museum, taking the area from the first to the third levels, and halotherapeutic health resort, situated on the fifth level, have been successfully working for already more than fifty years in the Wieliczka Salt Mine. This was informed by one more reporter, Mateuz Gil, who emphasized that the museum collection of the Wieliczka mine is notable for its great variety and extending beyond geology and mining. Having various vectors of using underground space of former mining workings improves the efficiency of such sites and gives a measure of their high social implication.
Anton Yushko and Nikolay Natal'in
As Toni Müller from Freiberg Mining Academy recognized, “if everything was perfect in our place (in Germany), I would not be standing here” – the mining workings that are operated by the educational institution are a heavy burden for its budget. He explained that those who work in the mine have to prove to the state authorities (that are financing their work) what for we are using this mine (despite the extremely high running costs). At the same time, Tony expressed his hope that BSUIN project as well as the other projects, that will be generated based on it and after its completion, will serve an additional and weighty argument for the demand in research and practical works performed in mine “Reiche Zeche”.
Jari Juotsenvaara, manager of the project on creating international network of underground laboratories, confirmed that conversion of mining workings, their maintenance cost a lot of money, and it is going to be one of the tasks of BSUIN project to elaborate the procedure for the estimation of expediency of costs for the organization of the development of such laboratories and work out suggestions on their optimization. Data base of underground laboratories, their location and purpose, the services they suggest and the costs of these services is being created, but it seems that now this is not the most important thing. The focus is shifting to the establishing new association – European Association of Underground Laboratories – that will allow turning episodic interactions on an occasional basis into a systemic cooperation with joint researches and student exchange.
Eija-Riitta Niinikoski and Jari Juotsenvaara
Any research or research and training conference is a big event that cannot merely be consigned to reports and discussions of general problems, excursions and workshops. The most important things are happening aside of the official events when a scope of interested persons gathers around some common challenge or common problem. The initiative of Krakow Saltworks Museum in Wieliczka to organize a special committee on mining-industrial heritage issues with the International Council of Museums, ICOM, became one of the most essential results of the International conference of mining and underground museums that took place in Poland in November 2018. BSUIN international project works in the same line and its goal is to combine the efforts of scientific and research organizations for meeting the challenges of underground space use.
Photos by Kirill Shekov, Igor Khlebalin
Text by Kirill Shekov