Stairs, stairs, stairs, and more stairs. Hang on, did I mention stairs? Yes, stairs. Yes, the scary sort I have previously mentioned. That’s what this swing was all about. Well, stairs plus mud plus a bit of rain with a smattering of freezing cold to let us all know that summer is well and truly over.
I had a short swing as I didn’t fly in until Wednesday. The crew were already two days into the swing when I came in. I knew changes were afoot when Supervisor Beibs (clearly, not using real names here as Justin Beiber would never cut it in a processing plant, much more as a supervisor. I could list down several reasons why I don’t think that’s a plausible scenario but I digress….) refused to reply to an sms I sent asking if I was still in the floc area. Another hint was when I got an sms the day I flew in asking to get in contact with him before I went out to the field. Suffice to say, I was packing it. Very much so! I was convinced that his news would be along the lines of “Hey, you know that really high conveyor you are too wimpy to go out to? Well, that’s your area now! Have fun girly.” If you have read any of my previous blog entries wherein I regale you with wimpy stories about my fear of heights, you would understand the terror that goes through my whole body with this prospect of a new area involving extra high conveyors. Thankfully, the change did not involve scary conveyors, just a lot of scary stairs instead. Trust me when I say this, the new area is the better option even if there was a slight shiver of fear that did go down my spine when the news was delivered. Why? Because of the aforementioned stairs, scary stairs.
When I say I am moving up in the world of processing, I mean it quite literally in this case. My horoscope did get it right this week. Moving up on the ladder it said. They got pretty close. I was moving up – moving up through lots of stairs! We are talking about 164 steps from bottom to top level and thats not counting the walking in between, thats pure stair steps. The new section encompasses magnetic separators (mag seps) and cyclones. In terms of the stage in mineral processing, the new area is pretty early on, before the thickeners and the floc/reagents. Basically, the magnets and cyclones are two different methods of separating oversized and undersized ore, as well as waste product. Oversize means it has to go back to grinding before it can go on to the next stage of processing. The cyclone oversize goes back to the ball mills, whilst the undersize or fines go into the next stage which is magnetic separation. As the name suggests, this is where the magnetic material is separated from the non-magnetic which is the waste or tails as previous entries have highlighted.
As much as I have whinged about how scary and bad these stairs are, I must admit the exercise is great. I now understand what all those pilates and yoga teachers were going on about when they said work those glutes. I am working my glutes on a daily basis now, several times a day to be precise! The height is also a good thing. Yes, I never imagined I would say that. But this swing I managed to get a pen and paper out AND write something whilst up at the mag seps – thats steps about 130 steps up for those of you counting. The first time I went up to this area I couldn’t move without hanging on to both sides of the of handrails. Now I can go up and down without hanging on to the rails for dear life. I couldn’t believe I got that pen out. I also managed get up and down stairs carrying a hose. Again, not your garden variety hose but the 25mm 10 metre long variety. A very big improvement since my first plant outing, so big I had to give myself a pat on the back. And of course, learning a new part of the plant is exciting beyond words.
I don’t know my new section as intimately as I would like and there is still a lot of learning to be done. If last swing was bad because of how it started, this swing was great because of how it started as well. I was on a high all swing thanks to unblocking that chute on the first day. The lowest point was with the Sikaflex. An old injury and a niggly neck (thanks to my chiropractor taking a holiday during the previous break), I couldn’t plow on with the Sikaflexing. And when we came in the next only to find out that all the hard work the previous day didnt make a difference. What did I do? I put the blame on the person who helped me, it wasnt meant to be in the mean, I will hang him out to dry way, I was trying to be funny but it came out wrong. I spent a good couple of hours apologising and STILL feel bad about it! I guess trying to be funny before 6am just isn’t my thing. New rule: two coffees before trying any funnies in the morning.
This week also brought the dirtiest day since I started. I actually thought I was extremely dirty the first day back. Having unblocked the chute I ended up with dirt on my teeth. Unblocking a chute is no mean feat and I was so stoked to have done it myself. It took more than 10 minutes and I nearly lost a metre steel pipe and the hose connected to it in the process but I managed to do the task. Didn’t think I had it in me but that was a pleasant surprise. One I celebrated for the rest of the swing and well into the break. Of course, I ended up wearing most of the dirt in the process of unblocking the chute but hey whatever, at the end of the day I unblocked the chute – it was a big win for me. But it wasn’t the dirtiest I would get during the swing. A few days later, after sinking ankle deep into mud, hosing the stacker, hosing myself in the process, and the rain helping us out a bit, I got rather filthy. Filthy and drenched to be precise. Thanks to the lovely autumn sprinkle, we ended up slip slopping all the way back to the crib room. Not slipping on that walk was also a big achievement! Probably bigger than unblocking the chute. I am still surprised I managed to stay upright that whole walk.