I know what you are thinking… I have been a big fat slacker when it comes to blog posts. I promise that the majority of my tardiness was caused my severely poor internet at the minesite. The internet didn’t even want me to check my emails, I swear. However, another turnaround has come and gone; three more weeks of awesome work at the mine is complete! So what did I learn this time?
As this promises to be a lengthy blog post, let’s begin with the task that presented itself immediately upon my arrival at the mine site. For once, I was able to meet my cross-shift (person who does my job when I’m not there) who had the joyous (he really was happy, although I’m sure this was more to do with the fact that he was going home) task of explaining our Waste Audit. The waste audit is the student project for the summer, something we get to design and implement and control and all of that good stuff. I know what you are thinking, “that’s so awesome, they’re letting you do something completely on your own!” Although I cannot deny that being granted this amount of freedom by my employers was gratifying, I assure that a waste audit is nothing more than glorified dumpster diving. Our task consists of collecting the waste from a selected location each week, sorting it into separate waste streams (paper, plastic, organic, metal etc.), estimating the volume of each waste, weighing it, and depositing of it in the proper location. I’m sure that sorting garbage is on the top of your to-do list too. I was lulled into a false sense of security when my first week consisted of sorting water bottles and paper towels from the rec center. But fear not! My notorious bad luck did not fail me, as I spent my second week sorting the waste from the accommodations, yipee! Let me tell you, you sure do learn a lot about your co-workers by going through their garbage (people are gross). For example, the preferred soap is undeniably “Irish Springs,” people really dislike fish sandwiches (why would you choose this in the first place?), and most workers seem to share a common love for microwave popcorn and candy bars. I assure you there were many more gruesome discoveries, but I will spare you all along with myself, as I certainly do not want to relive those horrors twice. As if that wasn’t nauseating enough, my last week at the mine I got to audit the Kitchen garbage! Admittedly, I did not have to sort the garbage as this was already done for me, but I did have to venture into the oh-so-smelly garbage room. In this room, the food waste tumbles down the magical garbage chute and lands in an oversized plastic bin. I then get to lift the mystery food waste out of the bin, weigh it and lift it into the truck for transport to the incinerator. I do not think my work jeans will ever forgive me for the abuse they received during this part of the audit… RIP!
Of course its not all fun and games at the mine, and I’m certainly not allowed to spend my entire day playing in garbage. In my first week I also learned how to take measurements from slope indicators and piezometers. These measurements are taken around the tailings pond areas and are used to measure seismic activity. These measurements are crucial since there is an underlying fault line, which could cause the tailings to liquify should an earthquake decide to occur. The fun part about taking these measurements is that for some of them, we got to scale down the side of the tailings pond with our gear to get measurements. I have to admit that I did feel slightly 007 while working this job… Sadly, the harness and security rope definitely give us away. The picture below shows the technician and I scaling the slopes:
This turnaround I also got to do some work on the old tailings ponds, the area which is currently being used as the boneyard. There is a monitoring program in place for these tailings ponds (1&2) which I was lucky enough to be able to participate in. There is a series of 9 wells drilled around these two old tailings ponds which must be tested during the summer to ensure that the area is stable and there is no possibility of tailings leaching into the river, located downhill. All of these wells are around 20m deep and must be hand pumped. The glorious hand pump is nothing like what you are thinking, it does not look anything like the water pumps at the camping grounds. These “pumps” are basically a very very long piece of hard tubing, with a foot valve attached to the bottom, inserted into each one of the wells. In order to pump, one must repeatedly lift the hose up and down to coax the water up the hose. Thankfully, the wells need only be purged of three times their volume, which takes anywhere between 1 and 3 hours to accomplish. Needless to say, I did find that the song “Give it to me baby” worked very well while hand pumping, not to mention my singing and dance moves kept my supervisor very entertained throughout the process. In this sampling, we also had the interesting pleasure of sampling lisometers. The latter are little tiny wells inserted only a small way into the ground that we pressurize with a bicycle pump, wait 24 hours, then take samples from. This task received more curse words than singing on my part, as pressurizing a tiny hose to 60 psi proved much more difficult that anticipated!
The next fun thing I have to boast about is my very recent experience with hydrology. One of my supervisors is completing her master’s degree in hydrology and is performing a practicum at our minesite. This means that I get to be a part of the new hydrology program and learn all about it! We did hydrology all along the river and some creeks that join to the river in order to get data in the daily flows and temperatures, water and river profiles, and the effects of runoff, rain etc. We have hydrology stations set up along the bridges at the mine site, where we set up an intricate winch on the back of our truck to perform the measurements on the river bed and the water level. We have stations along the bridge where we measure the water level, the depth, and the velocity of the water at 60% of the water column. All of these measurements are used to make a profile of the river at different locations. At the stations that are not on a bridge, we get to don our waders and use what my supervisor call a wading pole. This pole takes the same measurements as on the bridges but is intended for shallower waters (i.e. waters you can wade!). Here are some photos of bride and river hydrology:
Along with all of these new things to learn, I also had an opportunity to see much more wildlife while at the mine. I even gained experience in warding off and chasing away grizzly bears from the camp site. I was even allowed to shoot the flare gun, which is loud and awesome (who thought letting me handle that was a good idea?). However, being in the chase I was not able to get any pictures of the beasts to show you. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you could always google “grizzly bear” and click on the image tab, that would give you a pretty good general idea of what I got to see almost every day. For the most part, the bears don’t bother us or really come near the camp, but when they do, boy do they get scared good!
Another awesome thing about being up at the mine is the weather. As we are very very high up in the mountains, the weather here is incredibly temperamental and there is absolutely no truth to weather forecasts (they are all lying, really). On July 12th, we received this lovely blizzard, and the temperatures ranged from -5 to 5 degrees celcius. To give you an idea of what that day was like:
Thankfully, the grass stayed somewhat green and the snow didn’t stick. In fact, the next day it was a balmy 17 degrees celcius, positively lovely as far as mountain weather goes!
Thats all I can think of for now folks, until next time!