Sunday, July 12, 2015

Greetings from Weardale.

The weather here for much of the past week can be described as “changeable,” which is really how it is here much of the time. Yesterday began sunny and clear, with hardly a cloud in the sky. By early afternoon it was up to a tropical 22C (around 70F) when clouds started to move in. By late afternoon the winds came up and it dropped back to around 13C, and by nightfall it was raining. This morning it is still overcast, windy and cool, but the rain has been reduced to the occasional sprinkle. I make no predictions as to what it will be like in a few hours.

The productive pocket zone we have been harvesting at the mine for the past couple weeks appears to have come to an end, though one hopes this is only temporary. On Thursday we ask Dave to scale a bunch of dodgy looking rocks from around the pocket zone, so that we could continue to dig without fear of unwanted guests dropping in from above. While this was going on, Ian, Cal and I continued to work at scrubbing and packing our recent take. Each day over the past week we have been able to completely fill our 17 soaking tubs with specimens from the previous day, after scrubbing up those that had already been put to soak. This has been incredibly productive for our little muddy hole, particularly compared to this time last year.

Unfortunately, as is said, “the only constant in life is change,” and Thursday afternoon the zone changed on us. After Dave got the face scaled and mucked out, we returned with water, bars and hammers only to discover that the fluorite seams were becoming very tight. By the end of the day we had managed to collect about half a bag of single crystals and bits, but little else, so decided to turn it over to Dave for another round of drilling and blasting.

Friday was largely consumed with Dave and Joe drilling and shooting the face. The rest of us busied ourselves with more washing and packing specimens, and by mid-afternoon we had filled enough blue shipping bins to make our third pallet for the season. It’s amazing what one can do when you don’t have to suspend mining for three weeks to fix broken equipment. But then, this summer’s mining season is not yet over with, is it? Dave fired the shot mid-afternoon, and as our little air blower is not strong enough to clear the fumes from around the face in anything approaching a timely fashion, we shut down a bit early. Back up dale, everyone had a chance to get cleaned up, have a rest, and still make the pub at opening time!

Saturday the cleanup began, but a good bit of time was spent putting in an extension on our compressed air line. Taking off from the compressor parked down on the quarry floor, we have a 2-inch (5 cm) line running into the mine, and connecting to a couple air tanks along the way. Near the face the 2-inch line, which is not very flexible, steps down to a 1-inch line, which is much more flexible, which then connects to the Eimco working at the face. Unfortunately, we have driven enough tunnel in the past two years that the Eimco is now at the limit of the one-inch line, so a new section of 2-inch line needed to be installed near the face. This done, the Eimco is now back in action and the mucking can carry on. Which is what will happen on Monday.

Dave will be away for his annual bike race at Chimay in Belgium next Wednesday, so hopefully this latest shot will get us back into collecting. If not, we’ll have about a week to figure out just how much rock we can move by hand in search of the fluorite. All should be revealed by Monday afternoon when we (hopefully) will have the face cleared. To wrap this up on a hopeful note, today’s photo is of the last nice bit we got from the pocket zone before sending Dave back in.

Stay tuned for more.


Jesse, Ian, Cal & Kerith

A parting gift from the latest pocket.

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