June 15, 2017

First Several Weeks at Barrick

Hello again!

Once again I'm consistently bad at writing these posts to keep up with my life.  But of course, now that I've been hit with a cold I have time to sit down and catch up with stuff.

I wanted to play catch up with my first several weeks at Barrick!

The first week was all training.  While the material was for the most part pretty dry stuff and it was a lot of slideshows in a dark room (zzz...), our trainer was an awesome guy who did his best to make it interactive and not boring.  This was very appreciated haha.  The scary stories people told about mining accidents and how easily they happen was probably the worst part... But it makes you think about everything you do.  It makes you realize that something you take for granted that might not immediately affect you, could kill someone else.  And while that is scary to think about not only your life but the lives of friends being in your hands, it is important.  It really fits with their motto, "Everyone going home safe and healthy everyday."

After training we took a tour of the mine.  The mine sits in Golconda, NV, but originally the land around it was part of the tiny town of Getchell.  We toured what remains of the town... there are a total of like 4 buildings, including a school house on Barrick's property.  The mine operation at the Getchell mine started in the 1930's, originally as an open pit gold mine.  When WWII started it was the only gold mine that stayed open, but not for gold purposes.  Because of the geology of the area there are a lot of hydrothermal minerals, including arsenopyrites.  In layman's terms, this means that we have incredible high levels of arsenic in the rock.  Therefore it was used for mining arsenic for the war.  While its no longer mined for this reason, the extreme levels still pose a hazard to all the miners in the form of dust.  Every miner is required to take a urine test for these levels on a regular basis to check if they are too high.

After a while, other companies purchased the area and started the underground operations.  These were very dangerous in those days, not only because of the technology used to mine the area but because of the ground itself.  The area is well known for its very unstable and gravely terrain.  After killing just as many miners in the surface pit as underground (which is a very high statistic), it became known as the 'widowmaker mine.'  Kinda scary right?  Well thanks to modern technology and shotcrete, the underground is a much, much safer place... the surface pit is no longer used because of instability.

Touring the underground was like a giant maze.  Let me just tell you, there are a lotttt of tunnels and headings and station names that I'm still struggling to remember.  As a geologist though, the mine was much less exciting than I thought.  All the walls (ribs) and ceilings (back) are covered with shotcrete to make them stable, so there is not very much real rock for me to look at.  Except at the headings (headings are the ends of the tunnels where they dig the ore out, btw).  The headings are orange and black streaked with white sometimes.  The black is the carbonaceous ore, the orange is orpiment and the red is realgar, while the white is usually dasite which is a granite-y type rock.

My official project this summer is to study and fill in gaps related to the high carbon values in our mine.  Why it is there? We don't really know.

Anyway, hopefully this has been a good catch up! Hope nobody else is fighting a cold during the summer (which, by the way, is the dumbest thing ever).

Stay safe, friends!

(Disclaimer: None of the images belong to me this time.  Rare, I know.)

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