Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Underground Mining - PART 3

(Return to – PART 1, PART 2)

Drilling up-holes suck. Getting soaking wet is unavoidable. There’s also the added danger of several hundred kilos of slippery rods spearing out of the hole if the brake fails to hold them to consider. This could be especially hazardous when we used additives. Elephant snot, a mucusy, slimy liquid meant to stop water loss and lubricate the barrels and rods, makes core retrieval easy and rod handling difficult.

I was always extra-keen to get to the change rooms and out of my wet overalls at the end of up-hole shifts. I should mention the ‘dirty’ side of the change rooms could almost make you vomit at times. Most of us wore the same gear for a week at a time so you can imagine the smell with heaters going full blast even in summer.

Our cross shift liked a joke. They found my soaking wet overalls which I’d hung from ceiling on a pulley as was the custom here. Instead of feeling sympathy for my hard shift, (didn’t expect any really), they tied a tight knot in one of the legs and rehung them to dry.

Now you should understand that underground water is loaded with minerals and salts. When the water dries, your clothes become so stiff you can hold them out horizontally like a piece of cardboard. Clothes tied in a knot when wet aren’t going to be easy to undo when dry. When I discovered what they’d done the next day I tried everything to get that knot out. Eventually I had to admit defeat and soak that leg in water to free it up. I started the shift with one flapping wet leg and the other stiff starched. Bastards. My boss got his boots filled with gravel.

We had to retaliate. At the end of our shift my boss shows me a trick. We overfilled the rig bearings with grease and leave everything else neat and tidy. Our changeover is all hearty laughs about their funny jokes with our clothes. HAHAHAHA. Next shift we see our amigos covered caps to boots in a fine spray of black grease. You can sure tell who doesn’t bother with safety glasses. We are cool about it so they don't twig but we double check all our gear before we start. Pay backs are a bitch.

The cross shift aren’t real annoyed as they get a monstrous 51 metres for the shift. I’m pissed off. I’d finished a long hole, pulled down the rig, set up and collared the hole for them the previous shift. Totally rooted me for a minimal meter bonus. They waltz in, drill cream 4th gear ground of soft greenstone and unbroken core for the entire shift. At $8 a metre not a bad days work. I bitch a bit but placate myself with what comes around goes around.

Later I found out they used 21 metre barrels and three metre head rods, a risky gamble that can damage the equipment. My boss made over $7000 for the day so he tempered his annoyance at the abuse of his gear. He’s a bit old school. A careful, by-the-book driller. He looked at the plod book and said “Cowboys”. I filed the information away for later.

(PART 4)

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