Living in Mount Isa - the town with the largest network of underground
mine development in the world - most of us are in some way connected to
the Copper or Zinc operations here. That being said, not all of us really
know what it is like working underground.
How deep underground do they work?
The Copper mine's internal shaft reaches a depth of almost 2km.
How do they get underground?
Mine workers descend into the mine in a large cage which holds 94 people,
and it travels at about 16 metres per second (60km/hour).
Miners usually work 10 or 12 hour shifts and rosters vary. Some miners
work up to 7 days on / 7 days off, and some work night shifts as well.
As you can imagine, they do have adequate ventilation systems, but it can
still get hot down there. Temperatures in most of the working areas of
the mine are air conditioned to around 28 degrees Celsius, but there are
high levels of humidity.
Visibility can be challenging, and in the ore body area your headlamp is
often the only source of light.
Some of us might perceive mines as dark, challenging and secluded places,
but from my conversations with miners, that isn't entirely accurate. The
tunnels are about 5mx5m and it is possible to drive through these tunnels
that lead to the underground workshops and working stope areas.
Although miners can be tough, they like to laugh and tell stories and it
is that community which makes the atmosphere more open and inviting.
Is it for you?
If 2.5 hours underground sounds more up your alley than 10 or 12, Mount
Isa has a replica mine which is open to visitors.
Make sure to stop by Outback at Isa on Marian street and book a
tour in the Hard Times Mine. You can experience going
underground in the cage (only 1 level down), wind your way through the
tunnels and enjoy refreshments in the crib room. I've heard they have the
best corned beef sandwiches!