Monday, 31 October 2011

There and back again...A Lambert's tale

28th November... A new post.

My apologies for my absence. With so much going on at the moment I have let brain dump slip...always a messy thing and now am trying to redeem the month or so, if not more of time I have missed out on.

I have now been home for 3 weeks and how nice it has been. I have kept myself busy by moving around to see  some mates and going to visit Hannah. I went to watch Death Cab in Birmingham and have been learning to cook. I find the time out of work has allowed me to relax but am beginning to get itchy feet once more.

To recap my last few weeks in Mali were great. I completed all of my objectives with work and produced a report summarising the work completed. I completed an introduction to split bolt testing (making sure the bolts used to support the mine do the job) and learned how to scale (knocking all of the loose rocks from the walls and back of the drives to make safe the ground for further work...listen to that, somebody may think I know what I'm talking about!). I have also had the opportunity to witness a blast.

I made some very good friends during my time there and am planning on applying for a second contract with the company in the new year to continue the work and catch up with them.

For now I am enjoying my time focusing on other subjects than gold mining and geology. I am to keep brain dump going with any experiences that I think you may find interesting from now on...Watch this space...

Sunday, 9 October 2011

I can see the light at the end of the drive (Tunnel in mining talk)

Hello my fellow Brain Dumpers...

Its Sunday 9th October. I have been here for over a month now and the end is in sight. With 3 and a bit weeks left it is still a distant speck but it is there all the same. I have found myself really starting to settle in. I will be honest, there have been plenty of ups and downs so far and I expect a fair few more but on the whole it has been a good and worthwhile experience. 

Work remains much as it has this past month. I have a review next week to show the work I have been carrying out and have begun looking at learning a few of the computer packages on offer here. I have also been   given the opportunity to learn geological core logging as well as the geotechnical core logging I am already doing. This has been given under the condition that I do not allow the exploration department to steel me and make me a true geologist. As much as my geological tendencies pull I will remain a geotechnical student engineer until my contract is finished.

Food here is still of a high quality and plentiful and I have spend a few evenings off in the bar getting thrashed at pool. Unfortunately smoking is permitted in the bar, clearly the Malians don't take after the Welsh government, and so I try not to spend too much time within the lingering smog. There is however a comfortable outside area in which to sit if you brave the mosquitoes.

I have been very pleased with the Rugby of late. Wales are proving to preform very well in defeat and victory 'touch wood' and provide me with no end of enjoyment when people take pity on me for being English, to correct them to my true nationality. (Sorry to the English out there...) The only issues is that I am the only Welshman on site and probably the only one you will find within 500kms if not more. Since I am in a French speaking country with lots of French, South African and Australian work colleague it maybe prove detrimental to my health if I slag off too much about the Rugby.

Today I have been into Tabakoto Village. A fascinating place and the first time I have been of site. There is a market and stalls small shops from the fronts of little mud huts. I was very glad to have had the chance to have a look around such a place. With Mali being one of the poorest countries in the world, It really hammers home how lucky Britain is, despite the recent Riots and the fact that my equivalent is Bridgend...I joke =)...

Well that is all for today's brain dump I do believe. Who knows when I next take a Brain dump [ =) ] Wales maybe on the way to victory or on the way home...and I wont be far behind them. Until next time...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Scary-ia malaria

25th September 2011

Well today is Sunday and marks the end of my 3rd week here in Mali. Apologies for the substantial time lapse between my last post. It has been for a good reason (as the title suggests) and we shall discover the whole truth soon enough my friends, aren't we excited? Read on...

Well if the last few weeks can be described as anything it is eventful. As ever work is a constant, consisting of underground scan line mapping in the morning, for those who wish to know, a scan line is a length along the ground which you measure. In my case it is projected onto the mine walls. I record all fractures, faults, joints etc. that cross cut my transect to enable me to analysis the data at a later date...sorry I'll stop with the geology talk soon.

In the afternoon I head on over to the core logging shed for yet another action packed evening of fun! I sit quite still and record every fracture, fault, joint etc. within the >200m core (a column of rock drilled by a bad ass drill rig). It is tedious but some one has to do it and I did sign up for it I guess.

The food is still good, mainly meat and rice, with occasional spaghetti or pizza! I have learnt not to trust the sources the hard way. When I sat down to what I though was a lovely looking bolognese sauce (by the way google bolognese dog, its quite funny, anyways) I was met with horrified looks. In fact the red substance that I had mounded onto my pasta was one of the hottest...and I mean hottest chilli sauces I had ever tasted! =)
That is one way to ruin your evening.

One good thing to come out of my culinary mis-adventure was the apparent healing properties it had. Thus brings me to the meaning of the title that I'm sure has intrigued you to read my drivel so avidly. It has been a little while now but had you spoken to me several days ago you would have found me suffering from a fate worse that man flu. Now before I alarm you, the blood test came back as negative for Malaria. This however did not convince the doc here and so I have been on a shock treatment of maladrom that has kept my quinine levels way past my eye balls and allowed me to continue to work. I feel much better now, and am not convinced if it was Malaria. Only time will tell if it was or if I have fully recovered. I would like to put it down to an exaggerated, less entertaining, freshers flu. The chilli sauce seemed to help, as unexpected as that may be, presumably making my stomach etc. an inhospitable place for a short period of time...A lovely thought.

On a lighter note, I am making some good friends here. Everyone goes out of their way to help and I have successfully hunted down the majority of people aged 30 or below. A hard task. In fact if truth be told they found me and were kind enough to invite me to small gatherings or movie nights despite my lack of french linguistic skills. I have been trying to learn more french but I find it quite a challenge.

Today I have been to the mill for a guided tour. The mill is the set up of crushers, mixing tanks, and ovens where the ore is turned to gold bars. One of which I have held if you care to look at my fb. It is quite possibly the single most expensive thing I will ever hold in my grubby little geologist mits.

Thank you for your persistence and patience as I took you for a slightly more elongated tour around my brain dump. Until next time...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

1 week on and still going strong

It is now the 13th September 2011 and I am one week in from my 8/9 week stint. Reading my last post before writing this makes me realise how much has changed. I did make it down the mine in the end...lucky really seeing though it is my job =)

So now I am becoming a veteran of the mine site things are a little easier. I guess i'm still the new kid but i'm coping far better with day to day life. I know when breakfast is, which is useful as it means that you can catch a lift to the office a few miles down the road. I know enough people now to get pretty much everywhere I need too and have even passed my 4x4 site driving test which allows me to dive any of the land cruisers on site, so long as the person who it belongs too gives consent...very important point that.

I have completed several morning shifts down the mine consisting of sampling and mapping the walls, face and backs...that's mining talk...i'm learning! The mine is hotter than I could ever have expected, to the point that the 360C on surface is a welcome breath of fresh 'cool' air. With the depth and the machinery etc. it makes for a fairly unpleasant start to the day. Saying that, I am starting to get used to it a little and have to admit I do enjoy it.

I have learnt to log core samples, something that would have been very easy and useful to have learnt in uni...alas we were spending our time on far more complex and advanced things than a lowly and humble student geotechnical engineer has to deal with. A new core will be arriving soon and I shall be given time to log it if I can under the watchful eye of the exploration geologists here...hopefully. The good thing about logging core...(apart from the obvious best things about sitting looking at hundreds of meters of rock) is the view from the core shed. It looks out over an expanse of vegetation that cuts sharply into a stunning crop of blood red flat topped short mountains. Its a sight to behold.

The weather is just as breath taking as the land it covers. During the days, the land is scorched by the sun, often framed in a bright and near clear blue sky...why i'm not tanned yet I have no idea. Apparently in a few months time it will reach over 500C during the day! But often by night the clouds form and we get lightning storms on the horizon that are more spectacular by the day. They are often followed but thunder and hammering rain and wind. This often makes it hard to sleep for the noise.

I have also been assigned a project dealing with an open pit and the slope stability, mapping and data recording of its walls. A bit of a daunting task seeing though i'm the only geotech guy on site...

Luckily with such work keeping me occupied and the beauty of the place the days are becoming more and more productive and are passing easier. maybe I will be OK here after all. Here's hoping...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

What is mine is yours

6th September 2011

Two days on from my last post and I am still being put through protocols and inductions. There is more to working in a mine than you would expect. Although I am not allowed to drive heavy machinery here I have had a crash course in their operation (Pun not intended or make your mind up). Two days of dos and don'ts, reading manuals and passing tests and I feel like if I've been a trucker all my life! Unfortunately I am yet to go down the mine as my guides for the day were in fact busy mining. Tomorrow I have been promised a the tour with all the stops right after I finish the induction lecture...yay.

The last few days have honestly been a culture shock. A strange place, hundreds of people who suddenly all know my name despite the fact that I swear I've never met them. Which makes it increasingly difficult to then introduce myself to learn theirs. The food is good hear, plentiful and mainly rice and a variety of meat to choose from...goat is wonderful this time of year. not to mention the grey red stuff I had last night with no label. =)

My office is nice, that's right I have my own office! With my very own air con and hand me down dusty computer that has the french version of Microsoft office installed. Making for an interesting time of doing anything...that will be sorted out tomorrow as well. Fingers crossed.

The days are starting to pass quicker of late as I am working 11 hour shifts and cannot wait for Sunday where I get to decide if i fancy a half day off or if I should really be in the office don't get paid for naught.

Anyway everything is going well so far and hopefully Ill finally be able to make it down the one place that I've come here to see. Until tomorrow...

Sunday, 4 September 2011

A new job, a new continent, a new start

Good morning world from Mali! Today is my first full day in this beautiful country and I am here to begin my first real job as a Geotechnical student engineer. It is Sunday 4th September and therefore technically a day off leaving me a little confused as to what I should be doing and thus I find myself sat in my apartment Brain Dump-ing.

I departed from Heathrow  at 10am bound for Paris after an early morning drive from home in South Wales. From Paris I then changed and on to Bamako. I stayed in the Plaza hotel in Bamako for the night and the next day I found myself on an internal flight to a dirt landing strip at Tabakoto and the mine site. Proper Indiana Jones style. The view was spectacular, no words can describe and the turbulence was an experience. =)

The mine site is 'small' and everyone is welcoming and friendly. I have my own apartment with on suite etc. It is basic but comfortable and home for the next 2 months. I am waiting for an induction tomorrow and then hopefully I will be able to get on with some work to keep me occupied.

For now I am just revising work from uni and working out where things are and what is going on. With the induction tomorrow, I wonder what the next few weeks will bring...