Lochaline Silica Mine

Lochaline is a pretty wee village in, basically, the middle of nowhere – when you need to take a ferry and drive down 20 miles of singletrack to get somewhere, it’s very un-urban exploring!

But what Lochaline has is a silica mine – opened in 1940 to meet the wartime need of silica to make optical quality glass, the sandstone in the mine is very pure. The mine closed in 2008, but is reopening in the spring.

What’s odd is that the mine is full of cars! Old wrecked ones, used to get about in the mine, and shoved into side passages when they finally died.

The mine is huge – 48km of tunnels, covering 370 acres, and capable of producing 100,000 tonnes per year – destined mostly for Pilkington’s solar panel production, apparently.

I thought these were explosives at first! They’re not – they’re resin for roof bracing.

On the surface, the processing equipment is all ready to go, and the silica sand goes out by sea.

2 Responses

  1. I was told back in the ’60s that they actually exported sand to a Saudi glass-maker for scientific instruments (coals to Newcastle?). Many of the beaches there are the purest white and extend right up to Sanna in Ardnamurchan. I expect they are composed of very pure silica sand as well from the same Jurassic era.

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