Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Greetings from Weardale.
The weather here in the North continues to be exceptional. Forecasts predicted clouding and rain by mid-week but mid-week is officially here and it looks disgustingly nice outside this morning. Some broken clouds did move in for a bit yesterday but only succeeded in raising the humidity a bit. This being the North Pennines, I am sure that it will change soon enough, but we’re all enjoying this while it lasts.
Monday was the official opening of the mine for the season. The compressor was delivered in the morning as scheduled, the plumbing was re-installed without problem, there was enough petrol in the generator to get the loco’s batteries charged, and we’re set to go. Usually, there’s some sort of problem rearing it’s ugly head at us, such as a leak in the plumbing or a piece of equipment that won’t start. We’ve come to expect this sort of thing after leaving the place idle over winter, and I’m feeling a little nervous that nothing has gone wrong yet. But just as I’m sure this glorious weather won’t last forever, I’m sure this situation will change soon, as well.
The one opening day chore that always faces us each year is clearing all the mud and rock that has washed down from above the portal over winter away from the mine gate and off the tracks. Monday was a fairly hot one for all the required pick and shovel work, but taking turns at it, Ian and I were able to get most of it over the side of the landing onto the tip. While standing about proudly surveying our accomplishment, Dave came out of the mine and without a word picked up the shovel and tidied up after us.
Yesterday morning Joan had to return home so I was up early to drive her to the Newcastle airport. Quick flight to London, then a long one back to San Francisco where she will dive into preparations for a large biotech conference she’s attending later in June. Back at the mine, we spent much of the day mucking out the main face, and then drilling for our first shot. We are expecting a powder delivery this morning and if all goes as planned, we should be able to shoot the face to day. Afterward begins the mucking and timbering cycle, and then we see what, if anything, we have uncovered. There is a promising exposure of fluorite on the west side of the tunnel right at the face. Hopefully, when we push the face forward a bit we will have better access to this area. Today’s photo is of Dave drilling the face.
Another promising sign is that the condition of the roof in the tunnel appears to be improving as we move forward. Last summer we were working in an area that was highly fractured, and constantly dropping large mud-covered rocks, along with an almost continuous slow-motion avalanche of muddy debris. This required a lot of extra timbering to keep stable and safe, and was a constant problem while trying to collect. We always need to support the roof in the mine, but that stretch of the tunnel was particularly troublesome. It will be good to be past it.
Time to get moving and see what the day will bring us.
Jesse & Crew
Wednesday, May 30, 2012, part 2
Well, I mentioned feeling a little nervous because nothing had gone wrong yet. Now I can rest easier. Nothing really disastrous, however, more like just an annoyance – so far. We received the powder delivery just before noon, and after filling out all the requisite paperwork I selected what we needed for today’s shot and placed the rest in the magazine. Upon delivering our day’s supply to Dave, he noticed that the dets did not look right. A quick call to our supplier confirmed that they had given us millisecond delay dets by mistake, rather than the half-second ones we usually use.
Good thing Dave noticed before loading the holes. This happened once before and he didn’t until after the fact. The combined force of all the holes firing at virtually the same time blew out several sets of timber. If that had happened to us this time we would likely have had a collapsed roof in the dodgy area just back from the face where we were working last summer. That would have been a disaster. After returning everything to the magazine (and filling out more paperwork) we’re back early to the cottage. Our supplier has promised delivery of the correct dets tomorrow, so hopefully we won’t be put back by much. Hopefully, they will come through as the upcoming weekend here is the Queen’s 60th anniversary jubilee and a four-day holiday. If we can’t get the correct dets before the weekend, we will be cooling our heals with little to do for about a week.
Jesse & Crew
Dave drilling the face.