Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather remains anomalously good here. Temperatures have been high enough that is unpleasant to be working outside for long, particularly when suited up in our waterproofs, so much of the days have been spent underground. But then, that’s where the fluorite is, after all! I read on the BBC website that it has been so hot in the South that portions of the tarmac on some motorways has melted and that rails on some train lines have been warping. Glad we’re in the North.

Had some local visitors at the mine on Sunday, so we all went in for a bit. After Ian and my finds on Saturday, Cal needed some digging time, while Kerith spent some time sorting through the numerous bags of single crystals we’ve been collecting. The zone in the new Northeast Crosscut continues to be productive, and after taking turns at it for several hours, we had recovered several more nice plates, along with numerous more bits and small specimens. The productive area is quite a jumble of mud, ironstone and fluorite, and at first glance I find it hard to believe that any intact and undamaged specimens could be in that mess. Fortunately for us, at least some seem to have survived relatively intact. By early afternoon, Cal took his leave to drive Kerith up dale to the Killhope Lead Mining Museum, while Ian and I carried on for another hour or so. After getting out another few specimens, we got our selves washed off and headed back for a pint at the Blue Bell, and Ian caught part of the Tour de France broadcast.

Dave is off for a few days for a motorbike race in Belgium on Wednesday, so yesterday he drilled and shot the roof in the crosscut alcove, in order to give us some new collecting ground while he is away. Unfortunately, the rock did not break to the ceiling level as well as he had planned, so several hours after the blast were spent trying to bring down some fairly large and rather uncooperative rocks. By end of day, Dave had managed to get the ceiling squared up and a timber roof installed. Much of the mucking remains to be done today, however. Today’s photo is of Dave getting ready to drill in the crosscut.

While I was inside the mine with Dave, Cal and Ian tried to get the chainsaw going to cut up a few larger specimens. Sadly, the hydraulic power unit did not cooperate. Despite the fact that when not in use we disconnect the negative terminal of the battery, it is constantly going dead on us. As we put a new alternator on it last year, we are assuming that there must be some sort of ground short in the wiring that is draining the battery. Unfortunately, none of us are particularly good at troubleshooting electrical systems, so we will likely need to get someone who is to come and have a look at it. It’s only money…

Last year we installed an electric fan and air bag to get some fresh air to the face, which is new the better part of 300 meters from the portal. The fan does not have a very high capacity, so last week we ordered a new one, which arrived yesterday. One of our tasks while Dave and Joe finish mucking out the crosscut today will be to get the new fan installed and working. With the increased air movement, we should be able to clear the air at the face fairly quickly after a blast. This, in turn, will mean that we are no longer tied to blasting at the end of the day and letting the air clear over night. In an operation such as ours, this is what one calls “progress.”

Stay tuned for more…

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal and Kerith

Dave getting ready to move some rock.

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