Friday, August 18, 2006

To The Mines

The company I work for has contracts with a lot of the maor mining companies in Australia, meaning their employees can move from one position to another with a minimum of fuss. Since the last post, I've been moved an hour or so south to Oaky Creek Mine.

Oaky is largely underground (although I haven't seen the underground workings yet). It produces about 10MT/y by longwall extraction. My jobs are to monitor drilling on the surface down to the seam ahead of the mining, to determine the coal's exact position, thickness, quality and gas content. Whereas we used to spend about two weeks on one site for the exploration drilling near Moranbah, here we punch down in a day or so. Geology at high speed.

The other part of the job is office work, mainly data entry and paper shuffling. There's a form for everything! It's strange working in a large office, with procedures, managers, meetings - although I know it's how most of the world works. Still, there's plenty of time out in the field logging chips, monitoring drill rigs, checking out future drillsites (GPS is essential here) and just breathing fresh, unconditioned air.

Everyone working at Oaky Creek lives in Tieri, a town about 10km away and owned by the mine. My first hitch was in a small house without TV or phone, with a nice modern kitchen but not as much as a spoon. We all eat at a canteen, which has great food, if perhaps a tad on the healthy side. I've managed to get into a house with one of my co-workers from the start of the next hitch, useful as we'll be sharing the ride to work and back every day.

I'm not sure how long I'll be at Oaky Creek, but it's good experience. People keep saying that the boom can't last forever, although it shows no sign of slowing, and the coal market is more stable than, say, metals. The world needs energy! Still, if it does slow down, production geology is a better prospect than exploration (if not as much fun). So, back to the mines!


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