Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Not today

Winter travel can be interesting.  When we were planning this trip, I feared Wyoming in the winter.  Been there when they closed I-80 behind us after a brutal morning where we nearly skidded off a cliff at the surface mine.  But this time, Wyoming was great and the drive from there to Kentucky was fine.  Now, in Kentucky, we have encountered an ice storm.  
Yesterday they were not ready for us at the mine.  So, we charged batteries, worked in our rooms and rested from the long two days of driving.  Our hearts sank when we woke this morning to find the truck encased in ice and expected that would mean staffing problems at the mine.  But we loaded up all the batteries and headed out.  The less traveled roads were crusted with 2 inches of ice.  Lucky it's pretty flat here in NW KY but we had to drive around a semi at a traffic light.  He stopped for the red light and couldn't move.  The worst leg was the last two miles of side road into the mine site.  Little traveled and not plowed, it was best to stay in the packed tracks and avoid the crusted, slushy sides.  Even 4 wheel drive can't keep you from being tossed around when you get caught up in the slush.  
At the mine we soon learned that our section was not running due to staffing.  So, we did the required hazard training.  It began with a well produced video providing an overview of the mine and the equipment they use.  This is a slope mine - meaning we ride a slope down into the mine.  No elevator.  They ride in on a "mantrip" that would remind you of an a theme park ride on tracks.  It's a bit lower than the west.  We'll sit in the little train to get to the bottom.  Then they have diesel vehicles to get to the section.
In addition to the video and review of the mine map, the safety guy had two CSR's - self rescuers - that are used at this mine.  First is the one we carry on our minebelt.  It's chemically based.  We reviewed the steps to opening it up and donning it.  It will last an hour.  Then, this mine has a larger CSR on all "mantrips" and every 5000 feet along the escape route.  The larger CSR contains an oxygen tank.  On both CSR's, the mouthpiece and the basic use is similar to scuba gear.  There's a clamp for your nose and there are goggles for your eyes.  He had me practice how to transition from one CSR to the next.  
Then we reviewed the rescue rope.  If the mine becomes smoke filled and you cannot see the reflective markers showing the primary or secondary escape ways, you follow the rope.  It has cone shaped markers, smaller at one end and bigger at the other.  If you hit the bigger part first, you are going the wrong direction.  This mine also has foam markers and a rope down to lead you to fresh CSR's.  Finally, he showed us electronic tracking devices that we will carry, as does every miner here.  I had heard about these but have never been in a mine that uses them.  They are a bit larger than a 50 cent piece and about 1/2 inch deep.  The miner's have them permanently attached to their hard hats.  We will latch them on ours.  With these, they can follow our progress and monitor our location at all times.  This was one of the best hazard training's I've ever had.  I am impressed with the investment this mine has made in safety.  The CSR's are not cheap and I'm certain the tracking devices are not either.    
As the safety guy said, "I pray you will never need to use this"  but while I've been doing this 13 years now, I am always thankful for the time spent in hazard training.  I know that mine disaster's in the US are, much like flight disaster's, far and few between.   But when they do happen, it often makes the news.  What makes the difference is the training of all involved.  And these guys are good.
Let's hope the weather is better tomorrow and we can get our job done and head home.

1 comment:

  1. i remember those little mine trains from an episode of scooby doo!!!