POLICE have hailed a 16-year-old “the luckiest boy in the world” following his rescue after falling more than 15 metres into a disused mine shaft in Black Hill last night.
Walkers on the nearby Yarrowee River Trail heard cries for help from an area of thick scrub and blackberry bushes shortly before 6pm.
Despite warning notices in the area, near the Black Hill Lookout, the teenager had climbed alone up a step incline to access the old shaft through an unlocked security gate.
He is believed to have slipped on the rocks around the hole and fallen more than 15 metres, receiving a large cut to his head and a leg injury.
The walkers who heard the boy’s cries for help told police they thought it was a prank, but eventually called 000 and alerted authorities.
Click here for Kate Healy's photos from the scene
Police, CFA, Ambulance Victoria crews and SES volunteers used generators and floodlights to mount the rescue operation, while the boy’s mother waited for news at the nearby footbridge.
CFA operations officer Bernie Fradd told
“We had a rope rescue team lower a stretcher down with some rescuers and put the boy into a rescue harness and then lifted him out of the hole,” Mr Fradd said.
“He’s got some moderate injuries, but nothing that is going to be long term, so it is a great result for everyone involved.”
His mother told police officers she had planned to tell her son to come home before dark but was instead alerted to the rescue operation taking place.
The area has many large holes cut into the rock face, with a former brick kiln having operating at a nearby site from the late 19th century.
Rescue crews were aided by a leading Australian ropes instructor who was in Ballarat as part of a training program yesterday.
Wearing shorts and a jumper, the boy faced a cold night alone in the mine shaft, had he not been rescued by about 7.30pm.
Nearby residents who watched the unfolding operation said the spot was a regular play area for children, despite the security fence and signs warning of serious danger.
Police overseeing the rescue said they would seek co-operation from the City of Ballarat to have the security gate repaired and access cut off to avoid future danger.