Saturday, July 30, 2016

New Mexico Mining Museum, Grants, New Mexico

The inspiration for the New Mexico Mining Museum came from a casual conversation between Marian Barber and Ray Gunderson in 1964. Ray was discussing a problem with an old leaking swimming pool.  At some point in the conversation, Marian got the inspiration for creating the only Simulated Uranium Mine in the World. The mine was never built on top of the old swimming pool, but the inspiration from that conversation opened the doors for the creation of the New Mexico Mining Museum.

This drill bit was used at Crownpoint, New Mexico to drill at 10 foot diameter shaft 2,234 feet. The drill cutter weighs 30,000 lbs. Total assembly weight is 443,000 lbs. One third of its weight was used for cutting purposes. The rest of the weight as a pendulum to keep the drill stem straight in order to drill a straight shaft. A large drill rig was used with a load capacity of 100,000 lbs., a 112 foot mast and two 615 horsepower diesel engines powered the drill.

The New Mexico Mining Museum was opened in the later part of 1986. A simulated mine was built in the basement of the museum. The primary purpose of the museum is to provide a realistic experience of underground mining with the excitement of being able to visit one of the only simulated uranium mines in the world.

Touring the Mining Museum provides an educational understanding of uranium utilization from the initial processing to the finished product of yellowcake. Authentic equipment was used to create a very realistic mine shaft.

Look how many are in the Chicago area

There are over 120 nuclear power generators in use in the United States and over 400 in the rest of the world. Toward the middle of the century, the primary interest in uranium and its ores centered around the associated radium. The radioactivity of radium makes it essential for medical purposes in treating many types of cancer. Early experiments in radioactivity were conducted by Pierre and Marie Curie. They shared the 1903 Nobel prize in physics for these experiments, and Mrs. Curie won a Nobel prize in 1911 for the isolation of radium.

Early uses for uranium lay in the ceramics and metallurgical industries. Uranium oxides, added to glass, produce colors ranging from pale yellow to a distinctive green. A considerable amount of uranium found its way into ceramic ware in the first third of the century. It was so common as a coloring agent that it was utilized in making most inexpensive kinds of glassware. Today, this early glassware can be identified by the way it fluoresces when placed under an ultraviolet light. It is also used in industry to measure the thickness of metal.

The Station

This is where workers and materials enter and leave the mine. They are lowered or raised through the shaft in the cage. Here ore is loaded into the skip to be hoisted out of the mine. A station will have ore loading and unloading areas plus shops, a lunchroom, and an area for material storage. A mine with more than one level would have a station at each level.

Slusher and Stope Drift

A slusher is powered by an electric motor. It winds and unwinds wire rope cables by pulling them through shieve blocks (pullies) that are attached to the rock by six foot rock bolts. A scraper that is attached to these cables is dragged back and forth. When the scraper (slusher bucket) is dragged toward the slusher it carries ore with it toward an ore pass situated directly in front of the slusher. The slusher bucket is directed toward the ore by the position of the shieve blocks. The operator controls the backward and forward motion of the slusher bucket with levers. This drift (tunnel) is called a stope drift. It is driven in the area where the ore is located and is used to block out the ore. After blasting, this drift is cleaned out by the use of the slusher and slusher bucket.

Long Hole Drilling. It is important to know where the ore is located. This machine helps locate the ore. The long hole machine is an air-operated drill capable of drilling holes into the rock several hundred feet deep. It is capable od drilling in any direction. The hole is usually 2" in diameter. The hole is deepened by the addition of threaded long hole steel in between the drill bit and the drill. After the holes are drilled, they are checked with radiation sensors to check for ore location and ore grade.

Loaded Round. Blasting is done by placing dynamite in drill holes. A round consists of several holes grouped together in a certain pattern. The blasting caps embedded in the dynamite are set off with electricity.  Each hole is set off at a different time (milliseconds) to break the rock to a desired size and to move the broken material in the desired direction. The center of the round is usually blasted first to make room for the rest of the round to move into. The bottom holes are blasted last resulting in a movement of the blasted material away from the drift face. All loaded rounds are connected and set off from a central blasting area, usually the station, through the use of electrical wires. These rounds are usually six feet deep. In large mines many rounds are set off at the same time.

Drilling. Blasting the rock requires that holes first be drilled into it. This air-operated drill is used to drill holes in the rock. The drill is heavy and is lifted, pushed forward and withdrawn by the use of an air-operated jack. Blasting the rock by the use of drill holes allows for driving drifts in the desired and keeping waste and ore apart. The back is supported by a roof jack or stull during drilling to prevent a backfall due to the vibrations of the drill machine.

Tales of seven golden cities to the north, called Cibola, intrigued the Spanish explorers. Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and three others, who spent eight years wandering westward from the Gulf of Texas, arrived in Mexico in 1536 with stories of the cities. In 1539, Fray Marcos de Niza traveled up the west coast of Mexico in search of Cibola, guided by Cabeza de Vaca's companion, the Moorish slave Estevan, who traveled some distance ahead and was killed by the Zunis. The next year, Fray Marcos accompanied the expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Cornado, which on July 7, 1540, took Hawikuh, the southern most of the Zuni Pueblos. 

In 1604, Juan de Ornate traveled westward far beyond the Hopi villages, on his way home in the spring, he stopped at El Morro and carved on it the earliest known inscription there: "Passed by here the Adelantado Don Juan de Onate, from the discovery of the sea of the south (the Gulf of California), the 16th of April, 1605."

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