Big Bed Quarry

 

Once the slate is extracted, it is lifted by a massive motorized steel cable system that can lift up to 9 tons. The operator of the motor cannot see the slate he is hoisting out, because of how deep the quarry is and uses a system of signals and bells to guide the operator and crew in the quarry. The piece of slate is lowered onto a truck to be transported to another part of the quarry where it will be cut, split and shaped. The company’s processing mill at the edge of the quarry is where slabs are cut into blocks, split (often by hand) and separated to be made into a custom product. The company owns several custom machines that polish, cut and punch slate into desired forms.

Slate, though durable, must be treated with care during extraction, movement and processing. Unfinished pieces are kept constantly wet to prevent them from drying out and splitting in an undesirable way. Now, about half of all slate quarried is not high quality or has imperfections, rendering it useless and meaning higher prices for quality slate. Piles of unused and discarded slate lay all over the quarry and the town of Slatedale.