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Smallcleugh Mine - Digging the East End of the 2nd Sun Vein, (22/01/06-25/02/06)

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After seeing the collapse on the east side of the Second Sun Vein we decided to have a go at carrying out our first attempt at doing some digging - admittedly this was a easy choice, but you have to start somewhere. The passage here only goes to the forehead and so there is nothing too new to break into, but we felt it was going to be a good grounding for future digs.

22/01/06 (Charlie, Karli, Mark and Mike): Mark and Karli had made a number of useful digging tools and these were put to good use on our first attempt. The collapse was due to the roof falling in and the material coming down was not good - a muddy mix of shale, clay and sandstones, the type of stuff that keeps on falling and filling in. Charlie and Mark started some excavation work whilst Karli and I stacked some of the bigger rocks - making a little culvert to keep the water flowing, whilst doing this we discovered a sand bag containing some rope and a little plastic scoop - not the first ones doing this. After a while it became apparent that some sort of shoring up would be needed as more and more material was coming down filling what we had excavated - the biggest danger being large rocks that had a habit of falling from the top of the collapse. At this point we took a lunch break and Karli came up with the idea of trying to unblock a choked hopper with the view of climbing up and over the collapse.

We examined the hopper and I was of the feeling that it was going to be full to the top, sealed with deads, Karli thought otherwise and we ended up giving it a go. Using the aluminium pole we had brought along we took turns levering the deads out of the hopper, one, two, three at a time, shortly the rate increased and the pole broke through the choke - Karli's gut feeling had been right, it was just a choke at the bottom. We cleared out the rest of it until we were able to get in. The hopper was not just a straight forward circular lined shoot, but a walled one with stone arching. Looking up to the top we saw our favorite friend - hanging death. The top of the shoot was choked with deads and wood. It looked like the shoot had been finished with and had been covered with wood and had deads stacked on top of it.

This was as far as we took it for this trip. What we needed now was to clear the choke at the top of the shoot and then try and climb up into it, hopefully getting up into the stope above - what would it reveal and would we be able to get past the collapse without having to bring in shoring? A possible alternative that came to mind was bringing in a bit of 450mm gas pipe to put into the collapse, a couple of metres should do it.

25/02/06 (Charlie, Karli, Mark, Mike and Ryan): Just over a month since we where last here, this time we where going to try and unchoke the blockage at the top of the ore shoot rise. Using some angled poles so that the operator was out of the way of any rocks we had a go at ramming the choke, this wasn't too successful as it seemed to be very well lodged and all we managed to bring down was a handful of pebbles and more mud. However the good news is that the choke is not deep as Charlie could definitely see a level up there. We really need to get it down somehow.

As the choke situation was a no brainer Charlie and Karli started digging the collapse in the passage. Since last month it has filled in again, but the good new was that there seemd to be less material in the cavity. They carried on doing some more digging and discovered a vertical support beam inside the cavity - our original guess may have been wrong, the beam may be a roof support or part of a rise. Anyway the cavity was now much more clear and maybe no more debris would come down. We need to have another look on the next treip and see if we should get some shoring in.