The Miner's Hall of Fame

Drilling in antiquity ..... did you know the Ancient Egyptians used drilling techniques in the construction of the pyramids from 2550 BC?
The Chinese used a technique, known as Spring Pole Drilling, involving the repetitive lifting, dropping and rotating of coupled bamboo rods to drill holes of up to 100 metres.
It is believed that using this method, drillers would work for days to penetrate just half a metre through the rock.

Rapid development of drilling methods and equipment occurred during the nineteenth century.

Manual drilling techniques, such as "Hammer and Taper" - where one man would hold the sharpened drill steel while two others would hit the end with a sledge hammer - soon gave way to motorised drills. Steam, electricity or compressed air was used to power these modern drills allowing drilling to greater depths and at much faster rates.

Drilling is also used to obtain rock samples from below the surface, providing vital information in the identification of resources and planning the development of a mine.
There are four main types of exploration drilling techniques:
• RAB (Rotary Air Blast): This is the cheapest and least penetrative type of drilling.
• AIR CORE: One of the cheaper forms of drilling, less likely to provide contaminated samples than RAB drilling.
• RC (Reverse Circulation): More expensive drilling technique, able to drill 500 m below the surface.
• Diamond Drilling: This is the most expensive drilling technique, allowing greatest penetration and recovery of whole cores of rock, providing the best indication of mineralisation patterns.

Commonly called mechanical boggers, compressed air powered loader were introduced to the Eastern Goldfields at the end of the 1920s.
They stood on rails which could be progressively extended forward as the rock in front was removed.
After a shovel full was picked up, the ore was transferred straight back over the top of the loader and into an ore borrow drawn up behind.
This allowed them to work in quite narrow spaces, but that was also the most dangerous situation for the operator who stood beside the machine to handle the controls and who could easily be crushed if it tipped over sideways whilst in operation.
Such incidents were not uncommon.

The ore was then transported on the borrows through the tunnels, dipped into vertical shafts and at their end collected in large buckets that were winched up to the surface.
The ore was then transported to the State Battery.

At State Batteries the hard-won ore was crushed.
Foundries as far away as London churned out dozens - no, hundreds - of these early processing plants.
Most had either ten or twenty "heads" though some had as many as forty.
Multiples of five ensured that intervals of raising each stamp-head could be carefully set to establish a balancing rhythm to the battery's operation.

This type of ball mill was commonly used for dry crushing ore on the Golden Mile in the years before World War I, but thereafter wet milling types gained preference.
The crushing drum carried a charge of loose steel balls and is lined with an arrangement of hardened steel plates, overlapped to create a stepped profile which increases the crushing and grinding effect of the steel balls as the drum rotates.
Ore is continuously fed into the drum through a chute entering on its axis and when finely enough ground, passes out underneath through screens.

Pans like these were once commonly used by mining companies and State Batteries to extract gold from other material by mercury amalgamation.

Mercury has an affinity for gold and for some other metals.
Upon contact, it will unite with clean free particles of them and form an amalgam which can easily be treated to obtain gold.
Part filled with gold bearing material and a quantity of mercury, the pans rotated so that steel balls or contoured plates would crush the material, liberating the gold.
A regulated flow of water into the pan and overflowing out of it carried away the finely ground depleted material but not the amalgam which, because of its density, remained on or near the bottom of the pan.
The mercury was later removed by roasting.

An interesting display is the explosives magazine.

In 1894 explosives were shipped from the icy factory, Nobles Explosives Company in Scotland, unloaded in Fremantle and then transported to Kalgoorlie by camel train or horse drawn wagons.
The transport from the factory to the mine took 4 - 6 months.

An explosives magazine was constructed in Kalgoorlie to prevent theft and to keep the explosives cool and dry.
The building had an outer and inner skin with vents to the interior. As the sun heated the roof, cool air was drawn from under the building into the ventilation system.
There were no windows build for the sunlight to enter and artificial lighting was strictly prohibited.
Only the magazine keeper had keys and nobody entered the magazine without him.

The explosives were moulded to Dynamite cartridges first by hand later on by machine.
Today the explosives are made at the mine and delivered immediately into the blastholes.

The next interesting stop is the National Bank of Australasia Ltd (now the National Australia Bank Limited ).

Although it was the largest bank in Western Australia when the 1890s gold boom began, the National Bank shunned the risk of opening branches in the goldfields.
Finally in August 1894 it had to open branches in Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, to protect its mercantile connections in Perth and Fremantle.
The reasons for restraint was the debt being carried on the Midland Railway, which was one of the most worrying transactions in the bank's early history as it was forced to carry £150'000 debt for the project for many years.
Also a worry was the eastern states recession, which saw a number of banking institutions crash and severely reduced business for those that survived.



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Last updated: Friday, 04.06.2010 12:17 PM