Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Starting the Mine at White Devil NT and pics

It is something to think about when you are in a town and the people are wearing T'shirt with slogans saying they were there and survived the latest earthquake and drinking beer out of stubby holders saying the same. And you have arrived to start digging a decline going 1.8km underground. As I said in my last post I was in my first earthquake in Tennant Creek but it was just a tremor and not a big one. It was a Sunday and to describe it, I first thought there was a train hurtling by which considering the nearest train station was in Alice Springs over 600km away at the time is a bit of a worry because it sounds like a very big fast train coming right a you. We started the digging a bit later and in a different place than planned. Where we were meant to start in the Open Cut was filled in when one side collapsed. There was actually a guy working in an excavator at the time and when he heard the first rocks hit the cabin roof he opened the door leapt out and ran. I met him a few days later at the pub and he still looked white as a ghost. And somwhere in my photo album is a pic of the arm of that excavator sticking up out of the ten or so metres of rubble it was buried under. Still the job had to go on we weren't on site to get a good tan. After it was deemed to be not safe to go where the collapse had happened, a new entry point was chosen and (1st pic) a Tamrock, (the Orange tractor with the Preying Mantis arms) drove up to the rock face and started drilling the holes for the 'first blast'. As you can see in the 2nd pic the result is just a chip in the rockface about 1.5 metres in. The iron rods are rock bolts which were drilled in to control the blast's effect so the rock is blasted out and not shatter the face and end up with a great mess.
The third pic has Hienz up on the adit's supporting girders and the steel plates in the face around the opening are all on rock bolts up to 3m long drilled in to support the surrounding area and prevent collapse. Leaning on the face on the right the Yellow 'thing' is an Airleg with a Panther Drill still attached, with a rockbolt alongside it.
The pic of Hienz standing on top of the girders was taken a couple of days later. Behind him is a hole packed with timber. Not long after I took the pic of him and the crew working on the adit three of them were standing in the bucket of the loader. Hienz with a steel girder across his shoulders and the space now packed with timbers is where the rockface collapsed cracking a few ribs and burying them all in rocks.
The last pic is how the opening looked after it had all been shotcreted and the Tube is the Ventilation duct for getting fresh air into the mine. This was all spruced up as the Corporate bosses were coming out for a visit and the sign says White Devil Mine Australian - Development Ltd., the company we were contracted to. Its been a bit of a fun day today reminiscing and going through the albums seeing all the crew again. Hey, it was not all work and injury we did play and hard at times too. I may even post a few of those pic's this week. Hell I reckon my liver still has stretch marks from some of our escapades.

Thankyou for your time and attention, Geoff

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