Quick Flip

by kfrego

The mining companies hired college mining and geology students during the summer. The students would log the boxes of core recovered from exploratory drilling, make sure the cores were picked up at the drills for transportation to the core sheds, and observe the drilling on a regular basis. Summer in the high country was always a busy time for the mining companies and the students were able to gain valuable field experience. Once in a while the students would get more than their share of a learning experience. Such was the case of a student at Thompson Creek who covered the underground core drilling.

I was drilling a 700 foot horizontal core hole at the bottom of a long decline tunnel. The drill was located close to the dewater sump where the pumps pumped the water out of the tunnel. By tunnel standards the water inflows were not bad. Our drill was an electric over hydraulic Longyear 34. The location close to the sump allowed convenient access to the 440 volt electric required to power the drill. Cyprus mining had a student from the Colorado School of Mines named Bill. He was really good people. Bill was always on top of his work, loved the chance to get underground, and was sincerely interested in the core drilling. He visited our drill at least once a day to observe the drilling and look at the core.

I was using a prototype design head on the core tubes to pump the empty core tubes down the horizontal rods to the core bit. Every couple of days I would call the engineers in Salt Lake and discuss refinements of the design. Bill jumped right into the technical aspects of the new system and I welcomed his participation. We drilled through a water course making 400 gallons a minute out about 180 feet in the hole. We had no problem with the water, but as the hole deepened the water began carrying sand and fine rocks into the hole. We let Bill give us a hand cementing back the water in the hole. The next day Bill was on the drill early to watch the cement being drilled out of the hole. I was drilling and my helper was emptying the core tubes of cement. The horizontal drill rods were about four feet above our work deck and exposed for about four feet between the rock and the drill. Rotation of the rods while drilling was 1500 to 4000 revolutions a minute. Bill found an interesting rock in the cement and held it up for me to see from the opposite side of the rotating rods. As he lifted his arm the tail of his unbuttoned rain jacket got wrapped up in the drill rods. In a split second it was like a yellow flash of lightning hit and Bill was laying on the ground behind me with half his clothes torn off. The raingear and clothes were all wound up on the drill rods. Surprising, he wasn’t dead. He had just done a one and a half flip at world record speed. He was shaking like a leaf, but only had a few rub burns from the clothes being torn off him. He had no idea what happened to him.

Bill got the scare of his life……..and I never want to witness another flip at world record speed.