“And nothing’s as precious, as a hole in the ground”
Blue Sky Mining – Midnight Oil
Gary contemplates the Mount Isa Skyline, pleased to be back above ground
The photograph shows me as close to an underground mine as I ever want to work! Today’s three hours underground at the Hard Times Mine, a dummy mine especially dug to show tourists what mining was like, was enough to convince me that miners are worth every dollar they get. I can recommend the tour highly – all the guides are ex miners – Bill was ours and he had spent more than 30 years working on level 19 as a supervisor and then had spent 3 years building the exhibit, which was very realistic and must have cost millions to build.
There is more than anyone could ever want to know about Mount Isa Mine here
The real underground mine, just across town and up the hill, has 34 levels, each 60 metres apart making it the deepest mine in Australia (1800 m) and one of the deepest in the world. If you hear that miners work in air-conditioned machinery, that is because the temperature outside is 65 degrees C! The water that continually tries to flood the mine is so hot it would scald you. This water is pumped continually up to it’s own lake on the fifth level to be recycled for use in the mine. This lake is big enough to need its own boat. Underground is like a city with roads, enormous workshops, storage facilities, railway lines, massive machinery , 200 Toyota diesel utes and a lift that can move nearly 200 workers from 20 levels (1200 m) in 60 seconds. That’s a fast way to get to work!
The mine runs on a permanent double 12-hour shift – 12 hours is a long time to spend illuminated artificially. One thing that hasn’t changed much is the tiny light on a miner’s helmet, except they now need a 12 hour instead of an 8 hour battery.
I like the sunshine too much myself – I will leave the underground to the dwarves, because after-all even Gandalph feared the deep mines of Moria because “The Dwarves delved too greedily and too deep…”