Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A tale and pics of underground mining

Lyndon Grieve, is a name I will never forget, he was the only fatality at the mine site during my contract, killed by a rockfall. From 1988-89 I worked at White Devil Mine, Tennant Creek NT. The Beaconsfield Mine accident is about a place most people never go, underground. Having been there and done that I have put in the pics of what working underground looks like. What is it like a kilometre underground? For miners it is no different to any other workplace, for a person visiting only an experience that is unique.

Some visitors when invited for a tour declined and honestly admitted that it was fear and even when people with them told their tales of the visit did not show any change in their attitude. The first thing you notice is that there is nowhere to go except where the tunnels lead. For those who are having the visit as an experience and not work, they comment on the feeling that they know there is nothing but more rock behind the walls and no open space. The temperature, humidity and amount of water surprises many. White Devil was in the middle of a desert yet we had 3 underground dams with pumps running regularly every day clearing the water out to stop flooding. Hilarious in retrospect because when it rains in the NT it pours and being water it runs down. As you can see by the wide pic of the mine it is the little hole in the wall at the bottom of an 'open cut' and a flood of water running down the walls and roads all leading to the entrance does create a bit of a rush for more pumps.
Accidents do happen in the first 2 weeks, I did 3 trips into the Hospital with injured miners from rockfalls, I also experienced being in my first earthquake at Tennant Creek. I was above ground at the time, if I had been underground that would have scared the life out of me, I think. The job being done from the loader bucket is
similar to what I understand the the survivors in Beaconsfield were doing. Putting up steel mesh and rockbolting to stabilize the mine roof and prevent rockfalls. Rockbolts are various lengths 2-3 metres long and screwed into the rock with an 'airleg' simply a drill that operates with compressed air.
These are pics of the Decline which was large enough to drive the ore trucks into and other heavy machinery and not showing the smaller 'drives' which only measured about 2m x 2m big enough for a man to get into and nothing much else.
It's loud when drilling and working underground but move away from the activity and the silence descends in the eeriest fashion. I once walked from halfway down the decline to the surface, all you can hear is the air being pumped through ventilation tubing and the occasional 'plink' as a pebble falls off the roof, onto your helmet. The ones that miss make no sound at all except the bigger ones, when they hit the floor.

Thankyou for your time and attention, Geoff

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