Nathan's Laserium: Having a Blast

Considering how huge the machines are that we use, it's kind of surprising how often mining grinds to a complete halt because some stupid little piece of crap part has fallen on the ground.

Happens alla time.

Once I had to move a drill from one pit to the other, so my buddy and I went to the shop to grab the prime mover, which is just a converted 190-ton truck that now has a flat-deck trailer for hauling heavy equipment. Instead of a dump box, the truck has this huge hydraulic goose-neck for lifting the flat-deck. It's got a remote control with three buttons, easy peasy, attached by wire to the goose-neck. Buddy backs the truck out of the shop. At that moment I can't seem to find a hook to hang the remote on, so I quickly wrap it around something and tell Buddy to meet me up at the yard where the trailer is.

Few minutes later he comes around the corner, dragging the remote control behind him, which is now missing three buttons. Shit! Oh and it's nightshift and the sun is about to set. Long story short, it took us four trips with our heads hanging out of a pickup like hound dogs but we found the little fuckers just before it got dark. There was absolutely no way I was going to call my foreman and tell him I couldn't move that drill because I lost all the buttons. And it turns out the remote control has this handy magnet in the handle so you can just stick it on the goose-neck and it will just hang there. Now you know!

Anyways yesterday we were blasting. I'm not a blaster, my job is more to get everything else ready- get cables out of the way, move drills and shovels, whatever needs to be done so it doesn't get blown up. Days when we blast are busy fucking days. Luckily it'd been snowing all week so the ramps were all slippery and the trucks shut down a bit early, so I thought we could move our big digger out of the way early. It's always a pain moving it, especially when you add in the slop from the snow and ground water.

Foreman vetoes my idea and calls me up to the blast pattern. Weird. Troubling, even. I get there and he's got his hands on his head and I can tell he's not having a good day. Another foreman says "You're wearing rubber boots right?"

Yes. With a hole in one of them, but yes. I double bagged my foot so it wouldn't get too wet, so long as I stayed out of deeper puddles.

"Good. This here is a 'delay'. They put it in the line to make delays so each hole explodes in order. [Or words to that effect, it's all gobbledygook to me.]" Shows me a bright green plastic and metal and wire contraption, small and innocuous looking. "Now, it technically can explode but it really shouldn't happen. We have to account for each one of them and one is missing."

By law, so that they don't fall into the wrong hands or whatever. I guess normally when a blaster drops one by accident they're easy to find, being fluorescent green and all. But this blast pattern is under a foot of water from all the snow and the fuckers don't float. The pattern is all tied in and ready to be shot but if the delay isn't found, they will have to untie and nothing will blow up, other than the shit, which will blow skyward directly towards the fan overhead.

Well, for the next forty minutes there's a posse of miners and engineers looking all over for that little green delay thing. When ground water pools in a coal mine, the water turns all the different shades of black. Let's see, there's black, and pretty black, and really fucking black. In a loaded blast pattern, with the odd unmarked drill hole to make things interesting. There was no hope in hell of finding the thing. But then the surveyor shows up to do a quick survey thing, and kicks it up first try. The day is saved! Shit is blown up! Nathan is soaking wet and doesn't get a coffee. Situation fucking normal, in other words.

So it turns out it was only a minor delay for a miner delay.

- Nathan Waddell