Thursday, August 2, 2012

Greetings from Weardale.

Yesterday morning began fairly sunny and warm, but by early afternoon heavy cloud had moved in, the temperature dropped, and the rain began once again. It was off and on through the afternoon but by evening it became fairly steady, though not a heavy downpour. This morning, when I got up about an hour ago the sun was out, but that has since moved on in the face of more heavy overcast.

No real collecting has been done at the mine yet this week as Dave and crew have been in the drill, blast, and muck part of their work cycle. Having both the current cross-cut and the main face to deal with means this cycle takes several days to complete. On Tuesday he began with the cross-cut, which was fired at the end of day. Yesterday morning Andrew and Joe got much of the resulting muck shifted out of the cross-cut onto the main drift floor, while Dave replaced a couple timbers that had been rearranged during the blast, and generally made the place secure for more collecting. Ian spent a bit of time in the cross-cut during the afternoon, but as Dave was using the water while drilling the main face, not too much collecting was possible. Much mud remains and some fluorite is showing, which we take to be good signs. Meanwhile, Dave drilled the face and the shot was fired at end of day. Dave says that the character of the rock is changing in the drill holes. Previously, we have encountered hard, fairly competent limestone lower in the face, with the zone of alteration being up high. This allowed us to blast underneath the zone of alteration and then work up into it by hand. The rock drilled into yesterday seems to becoming much more altered. This is a good sign for mineralization, but this type of ground is much more difficult to drill, and Dave was having trouble with some holes collapsing while he was loading them. Guess we’ll see what we have later today.

While on hiatus from collecting, Cal and I decided it was a good time to do some equipment maintenance. The fan belt on the hydraulic power unit was getting loose because of wear. We initially thought we might need to change it but on inspection decided that we could simply tighten it by extending the alternator to the end of its positioning arm, and hopefully get it to last through the season. Today’s photo shows Cal and Ian contemplating the task.

Yesterday morning we tried to start the thing with plans to saw up some large pits lying about the mine, but the battery was not up to the task. We have been having problems this year with a dead battery on the unit, and as the battery is fairly new and seems to take a charge when we put it on a charger overnight, the logical conclusion was that the alternator needed replacing. Easier said than done. The unit has been with us a few years now, and was likely cobbled together from various sources when first built about 15 years ago. Cal took a photo of the alternator, showing the plate with manufacturer’s name and part number, and to our good fortune, the fellow at the auto repair shop we frequent recognized it as being like one that was on a tractor he uses. An internet search turned up a likely replacement, which should be there today, but we needed to bring to old unit in to make sure it matches. Back at the mine while trying to get the alternator off the power unit, the rains began in earnest. Fortunately, I was dressed for going in the mine so the net effect on yours truly was simply to wash off some of the accumulated mud. Years of sitting around the mine had inflicted a goodly amount of corrosion to the various nuts, bolts, and electrical connections that needed to be undone, but after a bit of effort and much WD40, we had it out. A close inspection revealed that the electrical connections were quite corroded, which may have been the source of our original problem. Along with the alternator, we will most certainly need to replace these today. Hopefully we can locate the correct type of socket for the wiring (something one can not count on in a remote place like Weardale), and hopefully I can come up with the appropriate tools for the task. Mine are, unfortunately, currently residing in a toolbox back in San Francisco.

Stay tuned for more…


Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

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