Friday, July 12, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather this week has been remarkably summer-like, particularly for here in the North Pennines. Temperatures have been in the mid 20s C (high 70s – low 80s F), and there has been no rain what so ever. The air has also been fairly still, which encourages the midges to come out hunting. Despite this, we actually managed to have supper outside on Tuesday and Wednesday. This morning dawns warm, muggy and still. Perhaps a good day to be underground.

Wednesday morning we had our annual visit from the constable who issues our blasting permit. This time he brought along his supervisor, who very likely has never seen anything like what we are doing here. Dave had drilled the main face for a blast on Tuesday afternoon, so after getting suited up everyone had a chance to see how the face is charged and shot. I’m sure all this was quite a change from their normal workday routine, and hopefully instructive as well. I’m sure that they have no one else in their jurisdiction running a small underground mine.

After taking a long lunch to give the air at the face time to clear a bit, Dave and I set to mucking while Cal and Ian got back into the new crosscut to do some more collecting. Joe was off for the day so I got the job of driving the tram while Dave used the Eimco to clear out the pile of debris from the face. By the end of the day we had the job mostly finished, and the others came away with a fair haul of new fluorite. The quality is not really top as many crystals show etching, but it appears to be improving as we dig eastward away from the vein and the old watercourse.

Yesterday we got in pretty much a full day collecting in the crosscut. The area at the head of the tunnel is still rather small so only one person can collect at a time, while the others keep the muck shifted back and carry out specimens as they emerge. The area we are working is remarkably like the old West Crosscut. Unlike the Penny’s Pocket Zone we have been in the past few summers, the new flats have several smaller layers of fluorite going at once, which are giving us smaller specimens, for the most part. The ever-present mud is also much more amenable to washing out with the water hose, so we haven’t had to spend as much time scraping away at it with wooden spatulas as was required last summer in the Giant pocket.

By the end of the day we had recovered another good lot of specimens. The mud in this area is also full of loose crystals and bits of fluorite, so our customers for the bags of what I call “aquarium gravel” should be happy this coming Tucson. An ever-present issue with collecting like this is that, as we dig forward we are undercutting the pocket zone roof, which must continually be supported. By around 1630 Ian and I decided that a large rock hovering over the excavated area was not looking too friendly, and decided to call it quits until Dave can get in there this morning and put some timber under it. Having these pillars in a small pocket area gets in the way of digging, but is definitely preferable to having loose rocks in the ceiling. Today’s photo shows Cal at work in our muddy playground.

Today we plan to get the crosscut roof supported so we can continue collecting. As we have now had two blasts on the main face since we began the crosscut, Dave is planning to a couple exploratory drill holed into the roof to see if we still have the fluorite layer high up over the tunnel. If it is still there, then we will need to decide just how best to get at it. I, for one, wouldn’t be looking forward to collecting over my head from a scaffold again, as Ian and I did last month. If it’s still there, hopefully we can figure out a way to get at it from the side.

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Cal in the flats at the head of the new crosscut.

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