Sunday, August 10, 2014

Good Morning from Weardale.

The weather here has been cool and breezy, but mostly sunny for the past few days. We have had a couple overnight rains but the winds have kept the quarry reasonably dry. Looks like we might be in for a change today, however, as an Atlantic storm is reportedly headed for Southern England. The sky is dark with clouds this morning, and I expect rain is on the way. Unfortunately, our neighbors Roger and Fiona had planned a barbeque for this afternoon. I hope they have a “Plan B.”

Having had a good day collecting on Wednesday, we had a fair number of specimens soaking, so Cal went in a bit early on Thursday to begin scrubbing the mud off and get them ready for packing. With this latest addition to our summer’s finds, we will now make at least two pallets of specimens to ship home, and with any luck in the few days remaining may get at least a partial third. All-in-all, rather meager compared to the five pallets we sent back last year, but this year’s specimens are generally quite attractive and hopefully we will have enough to fill the room at Tucson next February.

As a result of our collecting, the area around the face was a bit of a mess, so the first order of business for Dave and Joe was to get it mucked out and ready to be drilled again. After helping Cal shuttle scrubbed specimens to the drying table, I went up to help them with the mucking, while Ian and Cal handled dumping the full tubs as they emerged from the mine. After lunch, Cal left to pick up visiting friend Tony Potucek from the Darlington train station and Ian and I spent the afternoon helping Dave with the drilling. Cal and a rather jetlagged Tony arrived back at the mine around 1630, just in time for the shot to be fired.

Friday was devoted to mucking the face after the blast. The past couple times we have fired the face we were able to get it mucked out, timbered, and ready for collecting in one day. Unfortunately, it did not happen that way this time. While all our timbering was intact, the shot had pulled an unexpectedly large amount of rock, which needed removing. On top of this, much of the job had to be done from the temporary rail (called “sliders”) extending to the face. Sometimes the Eimco just does not get on well with the sliders and this was such a day. As a result, the beast was continually jumping the rail and Dave was forced to spend a good bit of his time dealing with it. Adding to this, the muck tub decided to jump all four wheels off the track while being dumped on one occasion, requiring Dave’s attention to get it back.

One of the joys of driving tunnel through the pocket zone is that the resulting muck has a lot of mud mixed in with the rock. This mud makes a particularly good adhesive, which tends to hold a lot of rock to the bottom of the tub. After a while one must scrape and wash the stuff out by hand, and today’s photo is of this process – Cal with the water and Tony beating on the bottom of the tipped tub with a length of steel pipe.

Mucking was finally complete by late afternoon, but rather than begin timbering, Dave decided that it would be best to put a new permanent set of rail in where the sliders had been. This took much of the remaining day, but Dave was able to put a temporary support to hold the center of the ceiling at the face, which was looking particularly dodgy.

We had originally hoped that Dave would be available on Saturday to finish the timbering. Evidently Sandra had other plans for him, so we made do with temporary support. While the support held the center of the ceiling, there were a number of large rocks to either side that were left exposed. Collecting in the pocket zone is usually done with water, allowing us to wash away some of the mud and see what we have. Unfortunately, the water spraying about also tends to loosen the mud-filled cracks around rocks in the ceiling, and with so many exposed we decided that it would not be a good idea to use water until the permanent timbers were in place.

With so little time remaining this summer, we did not want to loose a day of potential collecting, so we had at the face anyway. An alternate arrangement quickly evolved, with Ian and Cal digging out mud-coated rocks from the pocket zone, Tony shuttling them back up the tunnel to a washing screen where I would spray the mud off to see what was found. Despite not being able to tell if the collected rocks had any fluorite or not, we managed to get a decent take of specimens with this process. Cal says that the specimens were coming from a wider area in the face than previously, so we are hopeful that the pocket zone is expanding. We won’t really be able to tell until we can get water to the face and wash it down, so I guess that will wait until Monday.

After putting our finds in the detergent-filled tubs to soak, we headed back up dale around 1600. Fortunately, we were just late enough to miss the local football club, who had stopped in at the Blue Bell that afternoon. As a result, we were able to have a couple peaceful pints, and a bit of chat with the crew from the fluorite dig at the Greenlaws mine, who showed up shortly after we did. The evening was spent with all visiting our local friends Jeremy and Phillippa for dinner.

Largely thanks to the dodgy ceiling rocks in the pocket zone, today will be our first day off from the mine in a few weeks. After sending off this report I may treat myself to another cup of coffee, or maybe I’ll just go back to bed.

Until next time,

Cheers, Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith



Washing out the muck tub.

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