Coalite..Bolsover, Derbyshire, October 2019

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Mikeymutt

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I made two visits to this site. Once solo going up to Scotland, then returned with my usual exploring friends. They wanted to see it as near and on first look around there was workmen working on one half the site. Normally you would not bother with this. It's literally a few tanks and a few other bits. But I went for the usual fab graffiti by Coloquix and co. It's like an outdoor art gallery. Navigating the sludge proved fun after someone had stolen parts of the tanks, allowing quite a nasty sludge to flow into the ground.
Seen a few reports from around 2008 when the site was whole and would of been a cracking explore then.
The coalite company was formed in 1915 with a production unit at Barugh near Barnsley. Two more plants were opened in Askern and East Greenwich.

The main plant at buttermilk lane in Bolsover was opened in 1937. It was the largest of its kind in the world at the time of opening.

The company produced coalene by 1939 as well as other fuels. This continued during the war and into the sixties. It supplied the royal navy and royal air force during the war.

The group consisted of several companies by the 1950s and 1960s. Coalite and Chemical products being the holding company.

The demand and for solid fuel started to decline in the 1980s and several plants were closed. The company was bought by Anglo United, and borrowed heavily from the banks. They started asset selling the company to pay back debt but this did not even cover the debts. They even raided the pension fund ( a little bit naughty I think). In 2002 Anglo was bought out by a consortium of local businessmen. Sadly the debts remained and went into administration and finally closed in 2004. A lot of people were made redundant and pensions were pitiful.
Anyway on with the pics.


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A collaboration between Coloquix and I think fauna.

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BikinGlynn

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Iv still not been here but gotta do it just for the graff
 

HistoryBuff

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Those graffiti are just amazing. Why not on canvas?
 

Hayman

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Mikeymutt - you say "The company produced coalene by 1939 as well as other fuels". Sasol in South Africa also produced petrol, etc from coal, since all petroleum products had to be imported.
 

colz

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I worked on the refinery side when the redundacies started.
Was made redundant because was only there for nearly two years, was long enough i think for knowing dangers and health risks.
Was a yardman so had too clean some horrible chemical spillages, your photos make it look a lot more colorful than i remember it.
One job i hated were to cut the the tops off chemical drums with a tool that looked just like a giant tin opener, the cut lid would drop to the bottom of the barrel and drench you with whatever chemical dregs that was left in it, then we would fill the empty drum with spillages of other chemicals, mixed with tar, lime or whatever it leaked in, then it was disposed too god knows where after that.
Another thing they made us do one time was send us yard lads across too the battery side too clean up a chemical that had just been banned, cant remember the name but sure had a W and T in the name.
All we wore were the white paper coveralls, no masks or other saftey gear, had too push it out of square concrete tanks with wooden rakes.
Can remember the back end of the refinery had a section that made clay pigeons, black and orange ones, wasnt aloud near that part, but always thought they must have been made from a bi product from the tar.
So if anyone explores fields or old buildings around this area and find clay pigeons they probably came from coalite, so carefull touching one, could be highly toxic.
Especially the orange ones they were really bright like high viz, dont know how they got them like that.
 

colz

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I think i have just remembered the chemical that was banned mentioned in the last post, I think it was called DDT.
 

HistoryBuff

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I worked on the refinery side when the redundacies started.
Was made redundant because was only there for nearly two years, was long enough i think for knowing dangers and health risks.
Interesting story from actual personal experience. DDT turns out to be a banned chemical used for/as insecticides. Do you think the place is still hazardous?
 

colz

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Well they have spent a long time cleaning the grounds up and now say it is clean, but visited friends last year who just live up the road and could still smell the same the same stench as when i worked there, even after a good shower could still smell it on myself and clothes, you could always tell who worked at coalite, they gave off a certain smell.
If they have cleaned it up like they said then where is the smell still coming from, there must be a chemical to give the stench off especially on a hot day, my friends say they smell it on a regular basis.
 

colz

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Can always remember, being shown around on my first day the man walking me around past a certain point and said "this is where the famous tank exploded and rattled all the windows of nearby residents", well after hearing that i was always wondering if it was going to happen again while i was there, luckily it never did, but pleased it was closed down as was like a ticking time bomb, about once or twice a year Bolsover residents could hear the siren from Coalite, remember my mum closing all windows just in case was a chemical leak, (maybe a drill, but who knows we never got told if they were having one).
 

Hayman

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I recall when working for Rio Tinto in Australia, the tops of 44/45 gallon fuel drums being cut off using an oxy-acetylene torch. We filled a drum with water to the brim, so that there was only a small pocket of vapour to be ignited by the flame. There would be pops as the vapour was ignited. Without DDT many more millions of people would have died from malaria had it not been sprayed on tropical swamps. There were many byproducts from coal, most of them non-hazardous if used correctly; the most obvious one being coal gas.
 

colz

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After writing last post, did a search as too what chemicals Coalite used, was shocked to the amount of byproducts from coal like you rightly said, we were not told about any of these when working there and what chemicals to be aware of.
Just got given a brush, shovel, some rubber boots and told too clean whatever up, hated going into tanks cleaning soft tar in some and solid tar (had to use jigger pick for the hard stuff) in others, health and saftey was terrible.
All the yard lads cleaned the tar off boots with high pressure steamer while wearing them, so me like an idiot followed suit, and ended up in medical room, as took skin off my ankle, steam had gone down side of boot, another lesson learned
Never used that again.
Was constantly using eyewash, as when windy would blow lyme, with other sandy dust from ground, wonder what was mixed in with that, eyes stung like mad though.
 

Mikeymutt

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Interesting story from actual personal experience. DDT turns out to be a banned chemical used for/as insecticides. Do you think the place is still hazardous?
When I made my visits. Near the tanks someone had stolen the metall caps. Leaving quite a nasty fluid pouring into the ground.
 

colz

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Was lots of nasty liquid a lot of it ended up in the doe lea river flowing down the side of the plant, seen a few barrels floating in it while i was working there, think they did get into trouble at some point for tainting the river, infact thinking about it, i can imagine some of the heavier stuff still being there under the river silt, such as the heavy tar, would have sunk to bottom at the time, not sure if they have dredged the river, while trying too clean the plant, but think they should.
Used to be rainbow trout further up when i was a lad, infact was clean enough too bathe in then, wow times have changed, feeling old now im looking back to those times lol, cannot believe how so much has changed in my own time.
 

colz

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I was sure i had a couple of old pictures on a disc somewhere, so after an hour of searching have found them, so hear they are, taken from top of field under bolsover castle.
You can see remenants of bolsover colliery and coalite with its towers, on the right, (went up one of those once, hate heights).
The exif does not have the dates on, has name of camera, so just done a google search, these were sold in supermarkets for around 60 pound in 2006, the camera was a 618Z3, so i prob bought it at that time, so should imagine pics were taken within that year, digital cameras advanced really quick then so was always updating what i could afford.
Not the clearest of pics, just sharpened them a bit.
Hope it helps give you a hint as too the bearings if the land.
 

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Hayman

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When I worked at the Christchurch (New Zealand) coal gas works c 1977, I drove a lorry that took the coke from the production plant to the storage area. Some of the coke was used to fire the boilers that provided steam at the site. I also took 'waste tar' in a tanker to the local rubbish dump where I opened a valve to let it pour out over the ground, to be bulldozedin with the rest of the mixed commercial and domestic refuse. I well remember the trouble cleaning the tar off my hands. I took ammonia cylinders to the railway station for transporting by goods train to businesses that used the ammonia in various processes. At some time before I worked there, one of the gas holders had collapsed from structural failure! The wreckage was still there to be seen!
 

colz

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If anyone wants too know what the tar was like, just watch the movie Venom, The alien reminds me of that when in its soft state, stuck to anything, like i said earlier, we had to steam it off our boots, and when set solid had too jigger pick it (horrible stuff).
 

Hayman

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If anyone wants too know what the tar was like, just watch the movie Venom, The alien reminds me of that when in its soft state, stuck to anything, like i said earlier, we had to steam it off our boots, and when set solid had too jigger pick it (horrible stuff).
How true! One day at the rubbish dump I got my hands and clothing covered in the stuff. As you say, it sticks "to anything".
 

gtwibell

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I believe the worst chemical pollutants here were PolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) which can lead to cancers and the disfiguring skin condition Chloracne which some of the locals contracted. I worked on a neighbouring local paper and knew the Derbyshire Times reporter who covered the story and as a consequence earned the nickname 'Cloracne Kid'.
 

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