I haven't been underground for about 15 years. I made my return this week in Red Lake to identify some bad parts that had failed in the field. As soon as I stepped into the first headframe, the smell brought me right back to my short career at Hemlo Gold Mines. Exposed rock has a pretty unique odour. The trip down the cage, picking up your vehicle on your level, and tooling around the drifts and ramps all seemed so familiar in spite of the time that has passed.
That was the first shaft. We came back up at lunch and went straight back down the second shaft. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw the cage. We managed to get 8 people in the cage and it was a tight fit. When we stepped off on our level and entered the drift, there were rails running down the drift. That boggled me. We still mine with rail cars? That seems so Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. No little Kubota runabout on this side of the mine. We trudged along heading for the next drill to check and the supervisor says "This will be the worst one to get to. 90 ft of ladder." My response? "Fuck off". Apparently he was serious. I'm not good with heights and I'm worse with heights on ladders. But I managed the climb without shaking off only to find that the drill couldn't be disassembled for inspection because of some stuck rods. Fuck.
One more drill for the day and that one was actually working. I don't begrudge these drillers a single penny. That is some hard, messy, thankless work. So I came to surface (in the wee tiny cage) with a much greater appreciation of my desk job. Stay in school kids. Tomorrow should be a fairly easy ride at the third mine. Underground: nice place to visit, wouldn't want to work there.