Swing Thirteen: Mud masks and more

It’s pretty hard to sum up this swing. After six months, I think I am slowly getting used to the FIFO lifestyle and the operator world. I am still far off from operator logic being second nature but I think this new career has changed me in certain ways – even if it has only been six months. Having ventured so far out of my comfort zone has made me stronger in my convictions and a bit more positive in my mind set. Knowing that I have a choice between going down the negative or positive path has never been clearer. How my day turns out and what I take out of this experience is entirely up to me.

20130522-061453.jpgThis was how I looked before 7am that day.

Anyway, enough of the soul searching drama and lets now get into the nitty gritty of what happened this swing. Swing number 13. Lucky number 13, right?

The swing started out pretty uneventful really. I looked after the reagents area for the first few days as the operator looking after it was not due in until midway through the swing. There is a bit more going on in that area now, especially with the wear and tear of the pumps and valves resulting in a lot of product ending up on the ground and having to be hosed down. The highlight for this part of the swing was nipping a gland on a pump. Basically, this means having to tighten a couple of bolts on the pump when it starts spitting out mud. Why do I consider this a highlight? Basically it’s something I didn’t know how to do up until this swing. Anything new is a highlight in my book. Nipping a gland requires using a shifter. Any excuse to use a tool and I’m there. Like I said to my superintendent, I love it when I use a tool, instead of just being THE tool!

20130522-062523.jpgFree mud mask. This is what happens when you nip a gland.

At the start of the swing, I had a special visit from B1 (of B1 and B2 fame, unfortunately she doesn’t wear pajama’s, fortunately she’s a lot better looking than them bananas). I worked closely with B1 back in the recruitment days and it was great to show her around my new workplace. I haven’t had a chance to show any of my mates from the office my new workspace. When the girls come for a visit its usually flying visits so we just have a quick lunch and that’s it. I turned into a full on plant nerd when I was showing B1 around. It wasn’t until that point when I was showing her around and explaining how it all worked that I realised how much of a plant nerd I am. Listening to how excited I was getting when I was explaining things to her and the detail that I went into was a bit of a surprise to me! A pleasant surprise of course, but I don’t know what effect this plant nerdiness will have on my overall awesomeness!

20130522-062508.jpgWith B1

After a few days of looking after the reagents and the thickeners, I was shifted into yet another new area. This time I am right up the front of the plant in the crushing circuit, looking after the area with two very experienced operators, who had strict instructions from the supervisor as to how to put me through the paces. Basically they were instructed to break me. Fun!!!! The crushing circuit involves more shovelling and picking up big rocks with your hands work. So first up I had to change my gloves to proper hard core shovelling gloves. I’m guessing you didn’t realise the right gloves varied depending on the area right? Well, I definitely didn’t.

20130522-062535.jpgWorking on my balancing act while hosing. Coming to a Circus near you!

The crushing circuit encompasses a few areas which make up the first chunk of the processing plant. Once the mining guys blast the side of the hill, they get the big loaders to take the big rocks into the big primary crusher. The primary is the first part of the crushing circuit and it sits on the side of the hill, 150 steps up. The not so big rocks (still pretty decent sized rocks though) that come out of the primary then go on to the secondary crushers wherein they are crushed to a smaller size. These rocks then go to the secondary screens. The rocks which are small enough for the next stage go through the screens then off to the high pressure grinding rollers (HPGR) to get crushed even smaller which then gets sifted at the HPGR screens. From the HPGR screens the rocks then go on to the magnetic separators and the milling area of the plant. I can’t tell you too much about that because I haven’t played around there too much except for the very short stint looking after the intermediate magnetic seperators. So how the milling area works is a discussion for a later date.

20130522-062607.jpgPlant nerdiness in full bloom.

I spent the first couple of days in the crushing circuit following a speedy Critter around. Critter only has one speed – FLAT OUT! There’s a lot of steps and very high conveyors around the area and I struggle to keep up. The famed CV12 is in the area, along with the 150 steps to get to the primary crusher and the equally high CV3, CV9 and CV10. Thank God Critter is very considerate and turns around every few minutes to check that I am still there and I haven’t passed out or anything.

20130522-063636.jpgThat’s the almighty CV12 right there!

Aside from a lot of walking, stair and conveyor master step exercise regime, there was a fair bit of shovelling this swing. The most shovelling I have ever done in my life. Not that that sort of statement means much since I cannot even remember the last time I held a shovel. A few times during my shovelling moments, I was so huffed and puffed and sore that it felt like I had been going hard for at least 20 minutes, only to realise that I had only been shovelling for a pathetic three minutes! Being so weak is heartbreaking during times like this. Heartbreaking I tell you!

20130522-062545.jpgHmmm…. Guess which one works in the office…

One task this swing involved picking up rocks around three inches in size, putting them in a bucket then throwing them into the feeder. Sounds easy enough but the rocks are so heavy that I can only lift the bucket if its only a quarter full. Thankfully, the job only last a few minutes but it was so bad that it prompted the manager to ask my supervisor what I had done wrong to be set to do such a horrible task!

20130522-063623.jpgA quick photo opp before Super Beibs puts me to work.

This swing I made the special request to drop the “y” in lady. Having sat through numerous pre-starts wherein the guys feel bad for referring to the whole group as lads and then having to excuse themselves for not mentioning the lady in the room, I finally made the special request to just be able to blend into the group. Being the odd one out in most meetings, all I want is to blend in and not stand out. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that the guys are trying to do the right thing by acknowledging that there is a female in the room but… I would definitely be more comfortable and feel more part of the group without the special mentions. I don’t know where my take on this matter sits with the feminist movement but all I want is to be part of the “you guys” or “the lads” when people refer to the crew. I am well aware that there are key differences and I will never be a 100% lad but it would be very much appreciated if I could just blend into the crew unnoticed.

20130522-063630.jpgAnother beautiful sunset on site. It never fails to amaze me, even after being on site for six months now.