The limestone in the Eyam area, originally all covered with shale and Millstone Grit, is cut
by prominent faults running from north east to south west, by smaller joints at right angles
to these, and by horizontal bedding planes. In the order of 180 million years ago, hot
mineral fluids moved through this network of fractures, laying mineral upon mineral in
layers on their walls. Galena, the principal ore of lead, was generally the last, and therefore
occurs in the centre of the veins. The solutions rose from great depth, and travelled large
distances laterally from their source.
The village is overlooked to the north by the high ridge of Eyam Edge and Hucklow Edge, the scarp face of shale and gritstone which is being steadily stripped from the limestone by erosion. The edge of the shale lies roughly along the line of Church Street, so that much of the village stands on limestone. It was in the limestone that man found the valuable minerals, and subsequent mining has followed them northwards under the shale and grit. It was here, to the north, that he found the great Hucklow Edge Vein, and along it lie a number of shafts that were sunk for around 700ft down to the limestone. From East to West they are Stoke New Engine (said to have been sunk to a depth of 1000ft), Ladywash, Brookhead, Haycliffe, Top Twelve Meers, Middleton Engine, Black Engine, Moorwood Engine, Slaters Engine, and more shafts west to Milldam Mine at Great Hucklow. All are now abandoned, but the vein is still worked via a new drift at Milldam at Great Hucklow .
Subsidiary veins or 'scrins', in smaller joints, run under the village itself. At the east end, between the New Road and the track up to Riley Graves, lie the two shafts of Aaron's Engine Mine on Bull Hole Pipe. Starting back into the village, a row of terraced houses lies on the right. Behind them is Shoulder of Mutton Close, through which runs Sheldon's Vein, believed to have an old shaft on it. Green Leys level, with its mouth just off Mill Lane, runs north westwards to intersect it.
Behind the Tea Rooms lies Smithy Shaft on Green Scrin. Perhaps the most unlikely one lies on the north side of the Square, half under the road and half under the pavement, visible as a half-diamond on the road surface. It came to light on 18th October 1986 when the sets were laid in the Square. It is a very old mine, predating the Square itself. It is 105ft deep, continuing down a narrow fissure to 165ft. A very narrow working runs out to the middle of the road. We have no name or any historical record for this mine.
Just above and opposite the Spar shop is a drive by a mound. On top of the mound is the Glebe Mine, on White Rake, itself crossed at right angles by Phillips Pipe and Paul Pipe running north west.
If you walk up the village past the Hall, there is a road to New Close on the left with a lorry park on its immediate left. This is the site of Cussey Grove Mine. Onwards out of the village to the west you pass many small mines, notably Dusty Pit Mine at Echo Gate, and then the Black Hole Mine, now occupied by the Fine Grinding plant.
An idea of the number of mines in the area can be gleaned from the fact that within a 3 miles radius of the village there are 439 known mines drained by 49 drainage levels ('soughs').
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution the increasing costs and difficulties in mining at depth (water etc.), the industry waned and by the late 1800s cheap imports, from Spain in particular, killed it stone dead.
The subsidiary minerals in the veins, collectively known as 'gangue' were waste, and were left in the mine where possible, or cast in great heaps round the shafts. This, by mineral law, was the property of the landowner and not the miner.
Technology advanced, and World Wars pushed it on. Steel was in great demand, and one of the waste materials, fluorspar, was found to be the perfect flux to reduce the temperature needed in smelting the iron for steel. Demand for oil increased, and a use for another waste product, barytes, was found in the production of heavy drilling mud. One of the most common gangue minerals, calcite, had been found useful for chicken grit to improve the hardness of eggshells. Later it was used in the manufacture of high quality paper for printing.
The industry that died in the late 1800s was back at the turn of the century. Small fortunes were made in exporting the contents of the rubbish heaps round the village to America during the 1st World War, and refinements and advances in the Chemical industries ensure that mining continues today.
Today the miners have gone underground again, mining veins not rich enough in galena (lead ore) for the old miners (T'Owd Man) to work, but rich in minerals that would have been waste in the early days. What is left of the surface 'hillocks' is still brought in by tributors, small operators with a lorry or two. Lead is now a by-product, and the principal mineral extracted from the Hucklow Edge Vein is fluorspar.