Gold Mine (ETW building)
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Steam-Pumped Gold Mine
Mining is a dirty, dangerous business. Men hack out all manner of valuable minerals by hand, risking life and limb for the mine owners’ profits.
Lit only by candles (which they must buy themselves) or lamps with naked flames, most miners are labouring in conditions that resemble hell on earth. In some mines firedamp (methane) is a constant risk thanks to the candles – an explosion can happen at any time. The risk of a slow death is there too: stone dust and poisonous minerals such as arsenic ruin a man as surely as any explosion.
There are also accidents. Miners are paid only for the valuable minerals that they extract, so there is little incentive to carry out much work for safety’s sake. Pit props may keep the roof from collapsing, but putting them in does not earn any payment – the miners may even be charged for the materials! And it is not just men who labour below ground. Women often pull carts from the working face to the surface. Children need less space and air than adults, and make ideal support workers, clearing tunnels and bringing food and water to the miners. In smaller seams, children are the perfect labourers.
All of this is secondary, however, to the business of making money, and mining can be a very profitable industry.