The Mining Profession

Bang, Bang, Bang... For many years, the silence at the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine was disturbed by repetitive hits of pickaxes with which the DIGGERS (KOPACZ) carved the salt deposit. The working space was prepared in advance by the FURNACE DIGGER (PIECOWY), who drilled the "furnace" (the exploration gallery) and prepared the location. DIGGERS sold the excavated salt to the SALT MASTER (ZUPNIK) i.e. the Mine Manager. They were often accompanied by the CRUMBLERS (KRUSZAK), who broke large salt chunks into smaller pieces, and the PICKERS (ZABNY), who picked up the remnants of salt in an exploited excavation.

Kopalnia Soli "Wieliczka"How was salt ore brought to the surface? First it had to be transported to the shaft by ROLLERS (WALACZ), who rolled the salt lumps through long galleries, and HAULERS (WOZAK), who pulled carts loaded with smaller lumps. An important role was also played by TURNERS (OCIAGACZ), who operated the hand winch dragging the ore and GROOMS (TRYBARZ), who guarded the horses working underground. BARRELERS (BECZKOWY) then packed the salt into barrels and passed it on to eight or sometimes even ten BALANCERS (ROTNYM), who hauled it with winches to the ground with the strength of their arms. The barrel was received at the inlet of the shaft by the BANKSMAN (SZYBOWY).

Their work could not go smoothly if it hadn't been for CARPENTERS working at the mine, who timbered the shafts, lined the galleries and set up cribs and casing in the chambers. They also built underground treadmills and ladders, put up crosses and carts to transport the excavated material. The direction of mining the salt bed was determined by the SURVEYORS, also called MARKSCHEIDERS or ARCHITECTORS. Today this work is performed by MEASURERS, or underground surveyors; the mine also employs MINING GEOLOGISTS. Miners can breathe underground thanks to VENTILATION ENGINEERS, and are all taken down in lifts by SIGNALLERS, who first signal with the mining bell.

The mining work is overseen by the HEAD MANAGER, who organises work, controls the security and the technical condition of the mine. The TOP MANAGERS include the plant manager, chief engineers, department managers, and chief foremen. They communicate their orders to MID-MANAGERS: foremen, unit and shift heads. They in turn command LOWER MANAGERS - foremen helpers and chief miners.

Since 1368, when the mining ordination was drawn at the order of the King Casimir the Great, many things changed in the mine. Like other professions, mining developed and benefited from the advancements of technology. New underground features were developed while others disappeared naturally. One thing, however, remains true: for years, the noble mining profession has enjoyed great respect and trust among the citizens. The difficult profession, with traditions passed on from father to son for generations, has become something much more than just the daily commissioned work. It has become a real life style.


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