Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Greetings from Weardale,

The weather here has been rather warm (for the North Pennines) and still – perfect for midge swarms. So far I have been able to avoid too many of the little buggers, but haven’t yet spent any time lounging about in the open.

Arrived back in London on Saturday and met up with Ian Jones, who doesn’t seem to have had enough of getting muddy and wet in his spare time. Drove up North on Sunday and have quickly jumped back into the mining routine. Yesterday morning Ian and I headed to the mine while Cal and Dave were tied up for a bit dealing with an auditor from the company we purchase our explosives from. Seems they have lost track of a single detonator and are spending much effort trying to pin responsibility on their customers rather than accept that they may have made an accounting error. Fortunately, our record keeping on the subject was in order so no luck for them with us. Dave later told me that Cal gave the guy a severe ear-boxing for wasting what has amounted to a good bit of our time over this to little result.

Meanwhile, at the mine, Ian and I got to inspecting the currently productive zone near the current face, while Joe and Andrew began the joyful task of hand-mucking a crosscut just back from the face that had been shot last week. I guess that’s what young backs are for. What appears to be a new section of flats has appeared on the west side of the drift, and has so far yielded a number of good and a couple really good specimens. All are rather large and will need to be sent home for trimming and preparation. The flat strongly resembles the Crushed Zone that we worked last summer in that it is very tight and much hand-work is required to extract specimens. The good news, however, is that the specimens, unlike those from the Crushed Zone, have not been seriously abraded by past geological activity. Hopefully, with a few additional hands we can get some production from this zone in our remaining time here this summer.

Along with the cross-cut, Dave had also shot the face last week, but had not yet mucked it out. There is a lot of clay mixed in with the rock at the face, which is exceedingly difficult to muck out if it is wet. In deference to Dave, Ian and I spent a good bit of the day digging at the zone, but without water. We did manage to get one fairly nice bit out, but not without me getting a good wack to a finger with the digging bar. After returning from their meeting, Dave started in with the mucking, and with the help of both Joe and Andrew had much of it done by end of day. The last muck tub of the day, however, did not go as planned. After being informed by Joe that “there’s a problem outside” we found that instead of tipping it’s load of rock and mud down the muck pile, the car, which had been secured to the track with a chain had pulled up the track and was now hanging over the edge. Today’s photo shows the unfortunate situation. Try as one might, things like this are a fairly regular occurrence when mining “on the cheap” and I suspect that there are very few screw-ups we will encounter that Dave has not had to deal with before. In very little time he had used the hydraulic wench (known as a “tugger”) to pull the thing upright, and even managed to keep the tub on the chassis during the process. Unfortunately, just as all this was getting underway we were blessed with a torrential downpour and everyone got a thorough soaking. At least it washed of some of the mud.

This morning dawns still and overcast, much as we have seen the past few days. As much of the day will be spent underground, I suppose it really doesn’t matter too much. I just hope we don’t get more heavy rains as this quickly turns the quarry into a mud pit. But I guess that’s how it goes here in the North Pennines.


Jesse & Crew

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