Visitors to one of Sweden’s most popular tourist attractions, the Sala Silver Mine, are now enjoying a unique opportunity to see the working interior deep below ground. Two specially made ALIMAK SE lifts whisk visitors 155m below the surface, into the heart of the old Ulrika Eleonara mine which dates back to the 1600s. For Alimak, which has extensive experience of installations for the mining industry, this is one of the first lifts it has delivered for use by the general public in a mine.
During the upcoming tourist season, over 30,000 people are expected to visit the culturally important Sala Silver Mine, situated in the middle of Sweden, some 120km from Stockholm. After years of work, the mine’s 155m deep Knekt shaft was opened on 1 January, 2006. This shaft leads into the Ulrica Eleonara’s extensive and well-maintained mine system, which gives visitors a unique insight of a spectacular environment. Blue lights guide visitors through small chambers and enormous caverns in a mine first opened around 1690. A number of the wooden ladders used by the miners of yesteryear still remain. Visitors can also see the mine’s water level, which has created the stunning underground Christina lake. And, naturally, the Sala Silver Mine has its own supernatural resident, a ghostly apparition of a woman!
Designed for Comfort and the Physically Impaired
Alimak has installed raise climbers, platforms and winches for shaft excavation as well as inspection lifts for the mining industry around the world. However, the Sala Silver Mine is the first underground environment where an Alimak lift is being used by the general public. The two ALIMAK SE 2000 FC lifts, each with a lift capacity of 2,000kg or 26 people, provide superior comfort for visitors. An alternative to using a lengthy and sometimes difficult winding concrete and spiral staircase, the Alimak lifts move passengers at comfortable speeds, and ensure anyone with a physical impairment can also enjoy the descent into the depths of the mine to explore. A special large window in the lift gives visitors a close-up view of the hand-shaped shaft walls outside the lift. Today the Alimak lifts have two landings but an third landing has been prepared at the 90m level.
Increased Safety Thanks to Passage Lock Between Lift Cars
The harsh climate in the Knekt shaft, with its extreme humidity and limestone environment, has placed huge demands on the design and reliability of the lifts. The mineshaft stretches 300m below the surface but it is flooded from 155m down. As a result, the lift mast has been anchored in beams fastened to the shaft walls. The large flow of visitors has led to Alimak developing unique safety solutions. Should an accident happen causing a lift car to stop in an inaccessible location, the second car can be driven down or up and docked securely with the immobile lift car. Both lift cars are equipped with an extra door that enables a lock to be opened between them, enabling people to be evacuated from one lift to the other. In the event of an electrical failure, there is back-up equipment in the machinery room at ground level. Inside each lift car is an alarm that connects directly to the safety services. All safety functions are tested regularly together with the mine’s guides, who have been trained to drive the lifts.
More Visitors Expected
The addition of Alimak lifts are expected to boost the attraction appeal of the Sala Silver Mine. In 2007, an extra 7,000 visitors are expected, mostly from companies running corporate events in the mine.
“We are happy to contribute to more people getting the opportunity to experience a very special slice of Swedish mining history and the physical environment of a mine,” says Greger Larsson, head of sales for underground construction and mining at Alimak AB. “The Sala Silver Mine is an important cultural location which is beautiful and interesting both above and below ground.”