Archive for Mining

Didn’t the BBC Used to Do Research?

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , on May 28, 2014 by awickerman

Someone at the BBC has managed to read the ONS report on jobs and is surprised that Westminster has the highest number of mining workers in the country.

Alas clearly that reading left them too knacked to fire up Google as that would have very rapidly revealed that BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo-American all have major offices and/or their headquarters in Westminster. But then that would have taken literally seconds of work, and those companies are only the first, second and fifth biggest mining companies in the world, so perhaps I’m just expecting too much.

In fairness on Spelthorne being the biggest by % mining community in the UK it was indeed the gravel pits. But as the writer then goes on to doubt the statistics, despite them being correct and him having quite clearly put bugger all effort in, he must then lose any credit he has gained.

Is it unreasonable to ask people to put just a little bit of work into this sort of thing, particularly when your calling it “Small data, curious numbers in the news”? Surely explaining it would help meet the BBC ‘Inform, Educate and Entertain’ mission. But then inform and educate are such hard work compared to just making a half arsed effort at entertain, so perhaps I am just being unrealistic.

Fun places to work #3

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , on September 21, 2011 by awickerman

The intermittent ‘Places I have absolutely no intention of working at’ continues and this time takes us to Africa and the sun blessed paradise of Zimbabwe. In particular the wonderful town of Zvishavane, whose name is derived from the ancient Shona word for “Hills full of deadly fibrous silica minerals” (This fact may not be technically true.)

An Asbestos Mine in Zimbabwe. I think that covers it really
If this looks familiar, well done. Most asbestos mines do look somewhat similar when viewed from above.

Being in the people’s paradise of Zimbabwe means there are a few twists to the usual logical contortions one finds at Asbestos mines. For starters the entire place is embroiled in an argument about who owns it, the government having taken it from it’s legal owner in one of those dramatic seizures the Mugabe government is justly famous for. Unusually in this case it wasn’t white farmers suffering but black industrialist, however the general thrust is similar. As you would expect it’s gone badly, almost as if government cronies know nothing about real work; production has collapsed and most of the workers have been sacked, so it’s not a pretty sight.

Following the typical pattern the locals are quite keen on Asbestos and have even roped in school children to look endearing and try and get the place churning our fibrey death again. However with a fairly racist empowered Minister of Mines in charge turning away offers of support on the grounds the investors are white and driving the rest away with barking mad mining laws I predict this situation isn’t going to change any time soon.

Now you might argue this is a good thing, after all most people do agree Asbestos isn’t good for you so while it’s a shame for the miners in the short term in the long term at least they wont die of a horrific Asbestos induced disease. There is but one flaw in that way of thinking, most of the locals are going to die of AIDS or Tuberculous before they get a chance to develop a long term Asbestos disease. Besides Zimbabwe has been importing vast quantities of Asbestos from Brazil and Russia in the intervening time, so I can imagine the locals thinking it might as well be local Asbestos being used as opposed to foreign imports.

On this basis I think I can safely say Zvishavane tops the previous efforts, yes its name might not be as amusing but the combination of AIDS, TB, Asbestos and Zanu-PF make it by far a less fun place to work.

The Mystery of South Crofty

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2011 by awickerman

South Crofty, the mine so good that no-one ever asks difficult questions about whether or not there was ever a North Crofty. Yes it’s back in the news as the PR monkeys there have found another metal they can claim to be mining; Indium. And this time the mine will re-open and employ hundreds ‘within two years’.

But this isn’t the first time that Baseresult (or Western United Mines as they prefer to be called these days) have said they’ll be ‘open soon’. They said the same in 2001 when they brought the place, then again in 2003 they said after but a year’s worth of pumping out water they’d be good, come 2006 it was two and a half years. By 2007 a cunning name change and the involvement of Galena Asset Management (or as it’s also known Trafigura, a company with a… mixed background in such fields as Iraqi oil for food, unconventional Ivory Coast waste management and blowing up bits of Norway) had produced Western United Mines who would be ready in two years by 2009. By the time 2009 rolled around they’d cut that figure to but a mere 12-18 months and found Indium (presumably they subsequently lost it, but have just found it again so they can re-announce it). It was in 2010 when they first discovered the ‘Announce metal find’ wheeze and declared they’d found gold, which again they’d already known about but decided to re-announce as a PR trick.

In amongst all this has been ongoing mysteries over planning, pumping out the flooded mine, quite what happened to all that pumped out water, re-development plans, threats of compulsory purchase, EU ‘Objective One’ funding and the constant tension between the nostalgic locals who’d quite like a tin mine to re-open and all the second home owners who really, really wouldn’t.

About the only think I can say for sure is that it’s worked out well for the two chaps who founded Baseresult; Kevin Williams and David Stone. They were there in 2001 and they’re still there now.

At various points I’ve been convinced it’s a property deal based around re-developing the site into housing under cover of the mine, a cunning scheme to dump hi-risk waste into the old mine workings (not helped by a previous PR stunt  where the mine owners proposed using the site to store fly ash from power stations) or a bunch of deluded Cornishmen pursuing a dream in the face of all logic. Honestly it’s probably been a little of all of that at some point, though what it is now I’ve no idea.

However I will predict this; in two years time it will still be about two years away from full production, the fundamentals are just too unfavourable. Still it gives some old Cornish miners something to do and keeps the BBC website supplied with stories, so it’s not a complete waste of time.

Fun places to work #1

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, Mining, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2011 by awickerman

The wonderful town of Asbest, a Russian one-industry town dedicated to the mining of Asbestos, the clue is in the name.

Leaving aside the whole ‘It’s an asbestos mine’ thing Asbest manages to be particularly horrific as the mine is on the edge of the town.

Beautiful hey? As an added bonus read this old article from Slate,where every local appears to be intent on boring the reporter to death by explaining the many different types of Asbestos and why you wont automatically die just by living in the town. All of which may be true, they certainly mine the least dangerous type of asbestos, but it is all a little ‘The lady protests too much’.

So there is Asbest, a town where the only industry is mining and processing Asbestos and the entire population will bore you to tears trying to desperately convince you the place isn’t instantly fatal. Yet another place to avoid seeing before you die. And to avoid after death as well to be frank.

The Inevitable General Election Post

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by awickerman

Having resisted for much of this seemingly endless campaign my will power has snapped, in this vital last week I now present the official Wicker Man electoral guide. Dismissing such common sense ideas as analysis or indeed actually reading the manifestos we will be using the tried and failed technique “Counting the words in a manifesto and pretending that has any relevance to anything”. You may think this is a stupid idea, and you’d be correct, but it hasn’t stopped the ICE from pissing my money against a wall by doing it.

For this exercise I will be using the keywords of “Tunnel” and “Mining” and limiting ourselves to only manifestos. I did also check for “Wicker man” but sadly, if not surprisingly,  absolutely no-one included it. So onto the summary;

  • Almost Every Party – 0
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain – 1
  • The Official Monster Raving Loony Party – 1
  • The English Democrats – 1

So therefore your choices are; Loonies, Communists or the only party publicly committed to moving Monmouthshire from Wales to England. Having actually read said documents it comes down to the Communists want to keep the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in public hands, the English Democrats wanting more Tin Mining and the Loonies wanting the Channel Tunnel to be a no fly zone.

Frankly from that shower of  ideas I have to go Loony. As far as I know nobody is proposing sell the CTRL (if nothing else who would risk buying it after Labour illegally nationalised RailTrack?) while deep level Tin Mining died out for a reason; there is no cheap tin left, if you want to restart that industry you will need massive subsidies to compete with dirt cheap dredged Malaysian tin.

So there you have it, the Wicker Man advises you to vote Monster Raving Loony Party as they have the best (and possibly only) policies on tunnels.

Coal Glorious Coal

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Rantings with tags , , , , on March 15, 2010 by awickerman

No more of this London centric transport rubbish, it is time to broaden my horizons and move up ‘tut north with some UK coal mining related news.

UK Coal, the people who optimistically brought the remnants of British Coal, have decided that turning a regular stonking loss isn’t a good idea (it didn’t work well for British Coal so they can’t say they weren’t warned) and so are looking at ‘expanding their options’. Or in other words being brought out by someone else.

In the finest British Coal traditions the deep mines are haemorrhaging cash, digging out ~6 million tonnes of coal but contriving to lose £14 million while surface pits churn out a mere ~1.5 million tonnes but make a profit of over £10 million. To put in context quite how awful the coal mining side of the biz is look at the market cap (£170 million) and compare with the valuation of the property portfolio around all the mines they’ve shut (£420 million). Thus the coal industry is valued at approximately -£300 million, all of which is almost certainly due to the loss making deep operations. Of course the 2009 results could be a stormer, but as only the first half interim report is available (and it looks even worse than the figures above) I doubt it.

While it’s always nice to see even more confirmation that deep coal mining in the UK is a damned stupid idea I fear the Guardian, despite reporting this news, will fail to learn anything from it.

To conclude I bring your attention back to this picture from the Guardian article;

A closed mine

The quite delightful Wistow mine which as the Guardian correctly notes is on the site of the Selby Mine Complex. However the slight problem is that both the Wistow Mine  and the entire Selby Complex are closed and has been for many years. Whether this is ignorance, incompetence or just an excellent illustrative picture of the problems with UK Coal (all their mines have been shut because they lose a fortune) I know not, but on past Guardian form I’d guess one of the first two.

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