Some researchers say that if the mine were to be left without any safeguards, it could cease to exist after 160 years because the excavations are constantly contracting. But don’t worry, nothing like that will happen! Due to its unique historical and natural values, the “Wieliczka” Salt Mine is under constant care. Nearly 400 miners work daily in Wieliczka’s chambers, ramps and shafts to protect the Mine from the powerful forces of nature.
How do we protect the underground spaces?
There are several methods used at the Mine at the moment. The first – and oldest – consists in the construction of wooden structures supporting the ceiling, called “box cribs”. The second method consists in drilling long holes in the workings walls, even more than a dozen meters long, and placing special glass-epoxy anchors in them. Another way is complete or partial filling of underground spaces with the so-called backfill – a mixture of sand and brine. Using the process of backfilling, the so-called post-mining voids are eliminated in the unexploited areas of the Mine.
An important task for miners is also to monitor water leaks and protect the Mine from the effects of fresh water, which could dissolve salt rock. Since 2003, the water has been discharged to the state of the art Zakład Utylizacji Wód Zasolonych (saltwater treatment plant). Previously, it was used for the production of salt in the Count Wacław Zaleski Saltworks.
Nowadays, when salt is no longer mined in Wieliczka, the numerous tourists are the greatest treasure of the Mine. Therefore, renovation works are constantly carried out in historic excavations, wooden structures are rebuilt and the chambers are restored to their former glory. The most beautiful places are systematically restored and made available for sightseeing, the most spectacular example of which is the reincorporation of the Michałowice Chamber into the Tourist Route. The visitors’ delight is the greatest reward for the miners who have been restoring this working for 25 years.
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