Tuesday, June 14, 2011

the dalli manual mines

this mountain has been mined for 53 years now, and we are told the iron ore will last for another two years or so. then they will abandon this mine, fill up the hole, and plant trees on it. "leaving mother earth as we found it" is how the assistant mines manager explains it to us.

we are standing on a hill overlooking the dalli manual mines which is a sight to make you pause and catch your breath. the open strip mines here are enormous, leading far down into the hole, where dumper trucks look like miniature lego toys. and small white square structures with a conical top that i mistake for temples (why so many in one area i wondered) turn out to be blaster shelters. the person laying the charge to the dynamite that will blast the rock from the mountainside sits inside this to protect himself before he lights the fuse. each layer is called a bench and is 5 metres high - the limit of the sweep of the excavator. the ledge is as wide if not wider. these mines are completely mechanised now but are still called by their original name of manual mines.

strips of white among the prevailing rust red are where there is no iron ore, and this has now to be removed to get to the ore under it. the iron content here is over 60%, and the mines produce 1.2 million tons of iron ore a year. a sign tells us that on 31st may this year, the mines have achieved 929 accident-free days.

i cannot help wondering how much earth it will take to fill a hole this size, and where it will come from - will it not leave another area somewhere devoid of its topsoil, or make another hole?