Thursday, June 9, 2011

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather this week has gotten back to a more normal state for the North Pennines – cloudy in the morning, occasional sun during the day, often punctuated by a passing rain squall or two, followed by a beautiful clear evening. Unfortunately, the rain portion of the day has never been strong enough to wash away a large patch of mud left on the side of my rental car by someone freshly out of the mine the other day.

Dave’s helper Joe has been away this week for his end-of-term exams, so I have been spending much of my time at the mine filling in for him. This means I’ve been the loco driver (known as a “trammer”), assistant mucker, timber fetcher, ore car pusher, and general gopher around the mine. Driving the loco is actually rather fun, but carrying large heavy timbers up the stairs at the mine is definitely not, and certain apparently seldom-used muscles are complaining about it this morning. Despite this, we managed to get the main face mucked and timbered yesterday. Today I’ll take a water hose to the face and wash it down so we can look for any sign of fluorite pockets. If nothing much turns up, we’ll start the blasting cycle again.

Cal and Ian have been spending most of their time at the pocket recently discovered in the East Cross-Cut. This pocket is on the north edge of the Black Sheep pocket zone. We originally started the East Cross-Cut back in 2002 in order to see how far north this pocket zone went. Not much of interest was initially found here so we have virtually ignored it for several years. It just goes to show that you can never know what will turn up until you move enough rock. Though this pocket is not far from the Black Sheep pocket, the fluorite is quite different from much of what we found there. Most of the crystals are fairly large and untwined, similar to what we found in the Rat Hole pocket a few years ago. Though only a couple pieces found so far have been really good, much of the material when cleaned should be quite saleable. It is hard to tell just how large the pocket will be, but while crawling about in the mud I managed to find a tube-like extension to it late yesterday afternoon. One of today’s tasks will be to try to move a fair amount of intervening rock to get good access to it. Today’s photos is of Ian contemplating his assault on the pocket yesterday morning.

One of the joys (aside from the mud and occasional fluorite) of visiting the mine has always been the profusion of wildflowers that usually bloom through the summer in the quarry. A few years back the combination of occasional visits by a group of off-road vehicle enthusiasts and errant sheep eating much of the low-lying vegetation put a serious dent in the flower population. Especially hard-hit were the wild orchids that bloom in early June. For the past few summers I’ve seen very few of them, but this year they seem to be back in force. While walking around the quarry yesterday we found a patch in a boggy area with literally hundreds of them.

Because of current economic situation, which our government refuses to call a recession, I’ve had to take on a “real” job back home in order to help cash-flow. Despite the fact that we have been fairly successful at the mine, there is not enough money in it to pay salaries to either Cal or myself. As a result, I will be heading back home this coming weekend to return to work. Hopefully, I will be back in August. In the mean time, hopefully Dave can turn up a new pocket zone. We’ll let you know what happens.

More soon,


Jesse & Crew

Ian contemplating the best method of assault on the pocket.

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