Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Greetings from Weardale.

Since I arrived back here in the dale last weekend, the weather has been cool and cloudy, but only occasionally have we had rain. As a result, the quarry is not the mud pit I had feared. This morning starts much the same. Thankfully, the constant winds have kept the midges at bay. At least most of the time.

As many of you have likely heard, Byron passed away rather suddenly last Thursday afternoon. When I left at the end of June he seemed in fine health. Evidently upon his return from a family reunion back in the US at the end of the month his condition seemed to worsen and within three weeks he was gone. His cancer, which we believed under control must have turned very aggressive very quickly. As a result, things at the mine have been rather chaotic here since. Byronís brother Greg, who was here in June has returned, and he and Cal have spent the last few days dealing with making all the necessary arrangements with local authorities. One often thinks of British and American cultures as similar because we share a language, but this is really not the case. British custom surrounding funerals and such are much more complicated than one would expect in the US, so this has been yet another learning experience. Not necessarily one I hope to make use of again, but I guess it never hurts to be prepared. Todayís photo is one of the last ones I took of Byron last June, taking a break from collecting in a pocket.

Things have been rather slow at the mine as there has not been much fluorite showing for a few weeks. We have pretty much scrapped the back of the Rat Tail pocket, and we know that we are really to the inside of the quarry face as daylight is poking through around a few rocks. Plan is to back-fill the end of the pocket to prevent any possible collapse from the outside. Similarly, the Crushed Zone, which Byron and Greg worked early in the summer shows only scraps of remaining fluorite. The roof of much of the zone looks rather dodgy, so we are leaving it be. Late last week, blasting at the main face revealed what turned out to be a rather small, collapsed pocket containing some large, green over purple fluorite clusters. Cal and I went in to the mine on Sunday to collect it, but sadly, the pocket collapse had damaged or crushed much of the contents, so everything will be destined for wholesale flats.

Work at the mine this week has concentrated on drilling and blasting both the forward east cross-cut and the main face. The cross-cut was fired on Monday, and Joe and Peter spent much of the day yesterday mucking it out. There is a fairly large pocket exposed along the tunnel wall, which is completely filled with thick sticky mud, reminiscent of the stuff that made collecting in parts of the West Cross-Cut a complete joy some years back. Cal and I pulled a few damaged purple fluorites out of the mud on Monday, before the blast, so perhaps I will get back in there today to see if there is anything of interest.

Today will see a full-scale mucking operation at the main face, and by end of day we should know if anything of interest has been turned up. The zone we are in, having pushed the tunnel past the Crushed Zone is heavily altered, but so far only a few small isolated pockets have been found, and not the flats we are hoping for. The compressor, upon which we depend to run the drills and mucker has been somewhat of a problem throughout the summer, and began acting up again yesterday. Fortunately, we do not own this piece of equipment, but hire it in. This is rather expensive, but as a result, we can call for service rather than spend hours fussing with it ourselves. Cal is off early this morning to meet the serviceman at the quarry. Hopefully it will get sorted as it will be getting some heavy use today if all goes as planned.

Forward in all directions,


Jesse & Crew

Byron takes a break from digging.

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