This paper is concerned with the complex subterranean geopolitics of lead mining in the Derbyshire Peak District. It focuses specifically on the implications of lead mining ‘soughs’ – underground channels driven to drain water out of mines to allow for mineral extraction. Built during the 17th - 19th centuries, soughs were substantial capital and labour intensive projects which served a key function in the refashioning of subterranean and surface hydrological landscapes. They were driven at a time when water was both a major hindrance to mining endeavour and the primary energy source for industrial expansion, such that historical disputes surrounding sough drainage were common. The paper considers (post-)extractive spaces as hybrid geographies with new configurations of ‘valuable’ and ‘waste’ earthly materials, and examines the changing practices related to the perception of the inner earth. Drawing on unpublished historical legal records, it explores the ways in which vertical conceptualisations of space were central to the discourse over soughs. It also addresses recent claims for more ethnographic detail in studies of verticality by considering the people who legally and physically negotiated sough conflicts below as well as above ground.
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