The Underground Tour Project
As a plan to provide park visitors with a full emersion tour of an historic underground mining operation, an adit (tunnel) has been driven over 875 feet into the rock to join an 1860ís drift off the main shaft of the Empire Mine. The journey into the adit will pass three displays, each depicting historic mining practices. A grant from the California Cultural and Historic Endowment will help fund these displays and the support facilities to allow the Empire Mine Park Association, in cooperation with DPR, to open the walking tour to the public. Note: as of 6-14-2010, The Over-the-Hill Gang (OHG) has been granted permission to start construction. Since that time they have been working on "roughing in" the utilities; phone, water and electricity within the adit itself and have made great progress. Work has also begun on the displays.The latest Estimate for the opening of the Tour is spring of 2014.
As the shock from the powerful explosion reaches the surface from the depths of the mine, it is sensed more as a
vibration then sound. Outside the tunnel below, miners await the gasses and dust to clear before removing the shattered rock. Than they attack the exposed rock face with compressed air drills leaving a specially designed pattern of holes.
Fire in the Hole !! Whump!!
Dynamite is tamped into the holes, and the blasting is repeated. Foot by foot, blast by blast, the tunnel ( called an adit in miner's parlance) slowly advances toward the Empire Mine's main inclined shaft approximately 100 feet below ground.
The foregoing is not a recount of past mining operations of the Empire, it is happening NOW! The long dreamed Underground Tour Project is underway. The adit will penetrate horizontally through the quartz-laced gray granite until it intersects the main shaft. Visitors will be transported by tram along its 800 foot length, stopping from time to time, to view dioramas depicting the advancement of hardrock mining techniques over the years. Near the intersection of the main shaft, visitors will see where the quartz vein was mined upward, leaving a caverous area called a stope.From there they will proceed to where the main shaft can be viewed. It will be an outstanding educational opportunity, for both adults and children, to actually experience the same environment, sights, and sounds as those experienced by working miners.
Underground Tour Project Overview
The mission statement of the California Department of Parks & Recreation reads, in part, " to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California" and protect " its most valuable natural and cultural resources". Since its inception, the Empire Mine State Historic Park has implemented these objectives by developing comphrehensive restoration, interpretive and public education programs.
Interpretation of the mine covers many aspects, such as the complicated process of extracting gold ore from solid rock, bring it to the surface, and refining it to an almost pure form. The visitor also learns about the people who worked at the mine, their culture and what they did for amusement. Docents portray mine workers, managers, and owners in a living history program that interacts with the public, an enjoyable, yet educational experience. However, the most important interpretive experience of all has been lacking until now. This will be fulfulled by the Underground Tour Project.