Working within the explosives industry for well over 10 years, but not having any actual underground mining exposure, I have always wanted to go underground. Why you ask? Many reasons, one being to acquire a better understanding of how MAXAM’s Riolfex Imatla is used underground, and second to experience the working conditions, constraints and hardships miners have to endure day in and day out.
And what better mine to undergo this experience in than at the world’s deepest shaft at Mponeng Mine, situated just outside of Carletonville, in the North West Province of South Africa. The mine is owned by AngloGold Ashanti and is easily one of the world’s wealthiest mines.
With an early morning rise and departure from MAXAM’s Head Office in Roodepoort at 4:45am, we arrive at the mine bright and early, with just enough time for a hot cup of coffee and quick but thorough induction. After a multiple of security checks and electronic tracking we are shown to the change rooms and I excitingly put on my overall, gumboots and safety gear. We are assigned a head lamp and an emergency breathing pack andare good to go.
After a brisk walk we arrive at the first elevator or cage as they call it. It’s dark and crammed with what feels like a 100 men. Okay a little over exaggerated perhaps closer to 20. The cage drops to level 83 at approximately 8m/per sec, with each level marking 100 feet. After disembarking and another short walk we search the Sub shaft and ride the second cage down to level 120. The ride down is dark wet and noisy with slamming of doors and bleeping warning sirens.
At level 120, or 3.6km below Datum (surface), this is actually 2,1km below mean Sea level!
One does not expect to walk into a very well lit opening, with vehicles, large equipment and railway tracks. It is very spacious. We are escorted to a waiting Toyota Land cruiser 4 x 4 which takes us further down our decent in an incline shaft to level 126.With the temperature escalating well over 34 degrees Celsius, I am none the wiser whilst sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned car. We reach our first site and as I climb out the temperature hits me, and I am now well aware of the heat and humidity. I am told that if the surface based cooling plant as well as its backup plant was to stop that the ambient temperature at this depth would rise to more than 65 degrees within minutes.
We are shown a mechanised drilling machine, with arms creating holes into the rock wall, I am allowed to briefly handle the controls and I feel like a 10 year old again playing in Dad’s car. Once drilling is complete these holes will be filled with MAXAM’s Dantex RIOFLEX Imatla explosive. Not only is RIOFLEX taking over the market, but it is doing so with many success stories to tell. The word “Imatla” means energy, with this product pushing out 3,000 MJ/KG the word is fitting. RIOFLEX Imatla is perfect for use in underground as well as surface for tough breaking conditions in hard rock mining such as Gold, Platinum, Chrome and other base minerals. The dual density ensures less product need's to be stored for perimeter blasting control. One of the many feature and benefit is its 100% water resistant, with borehole water not affecting its performance even slightly. And with high rock temperatures reaching 67 degrees Celsius, Our RIOFLEX Imatla performs under these harsh conditions with ease.
With a few more stops and we are back on our way up, and with this underground trip being fairly easy and comfortable the thought that its not so bad pops into my mind. And with Murphy not being on anyone side, our vehicle decides to have a breakdown.
With the cage having sets departure times, we have no choice but to walk the remainder of the way. Only 700m, the Section Manager, Mr Gordon Hutton says with a smile. That does not sound too bad, right? Wrong! 700m, 3700m underground with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, and a 20% incline is no walk in the park. I battled to keep up and at that time not only did I feel like a third wheel but a flat one at that.
We arrived at the cage, which felt like it took a life time, and emerged back on land, a welcome shower and a change back into my “comfortable” heels. I asked to experience the daily working conditions of miners, and that is exactly what I received. I am thankful for my work aboveground and that my major frustrations during the day are traffic, computer problems and excessive telephone calls.
Not only have I found a new respect for all mine workers, I now have a better understanding of all the time, effort and very hard work that goes into extracting 1 ounce of gold.
So ladies appreciate that gold ring and or earrings, a lot of blood sweat and tears have gone into extracting that gold.