Lapland Spring 2009 – 20th May

I  wrote about the mine after my winter trip http://naturallore.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/winter-in-lapland-2009/ but never expected to be given the opportunity to visit it as it is not open to public viewing.

We arrived at the mine just before six in the evening and had to visit security to check-in.  Because Ingvar only speaks Swedish, Finnish and Saami and I only speak a little Swedish and no Finnish or Saami, his brother-in-law Kjell would be my guide.

outside mine (Large)

Here is the processed ore which has been brought to the surface and is waiting to be loaded on to trains to be taken to sea ports at Lulea and Narvik.

piles of ore (Medium)

Here is a piece of  un-processed ore which I was given

ore

and here is the processed ore in pellet form

processed ore (Medium)

As we drove below ground I was not sure what to expect, but I did not expect two lanes of traffic (including large lorries) to be coming and going.  (Now I should mention here that although I got some really nice video footage, my digital camera did not perform as well as I had hoped!!)

inside mine

The two main haulage levels are at 815 and 1000 metres in the Malmberget mine (Malm as I understand being the Saami word for Iron ore).  At each of these levels there are huge crushers through which the mined material is deposited.

crusher

12 huge mine trucks are operated at these levels. I was fortunate enough to be offered a lift in one of these trucks with Veronica and Ann-Sofia.  The trucks are driven to vertical shafts where the driver (in this case Ann-Sofia) controls loading from inside the cab of the truck by remote control.  The fully-loaded truck is then driven to a discharge station and the ore is emptied into a crusher bin.  This is also controlled from the cab of the truck. The ore is fed into the crusher and crushed into lumps of about 100 mm in diameter.

The ore then travels along a 1700 metre conveyor belt and from there is lifted to the surface by two 23 tonne skips at 16m per second.

The huge machinery required for drilling, setting explosive charges, rock supporting, loading and so on (here’s me next to a Toro loader)

me in mine

has to be serviced and maintained below ground and so there is a very impressive workshop

workshop-1 (Medium)

workshop-2 (Large)

I travelled 7km below the surface during my trip and one of the things I found most surprising was just how hot it was lower down.  I only had a t-shirt on under my high-vis. jacket but I was sweating a lot.  There are a complex system of fans and pipes which provide fresh air and remove stale air.

The explosive used when development drilling is a water resistant emulsion, which is pumped into pre drilled holes through a plastic hose.   A scaling truck mounted with a hammer drill is used to remove loose rock after the explosion.  Reinforcing bolts are grouted in 27mm holes  to support the rock and shotcrete (a 3-5cm thick support layer) is sprayed over the hole rock surface.

In production drilling the charging holes are filled with kimlux a bulk emulsion explosive.  The charging operation is automatic once the hose is in the hole.

You can read more about the whole process here; http://www.lkab.com/?openform&id=443A

Many thanks to LKAB for allowing me to visit the mine and to Ingvar, Kjell, Veronica and Ann-Sofia for making my tour very enjoyable.

Lapland Spring 2009 – 18th & 19th May

I arrived at Gallivare airport at 21:20 having left my home at 07:20 the same morning.  My friends Teres and Jenny were there to greet me and took my to the home of their parents and my friends Anki and Ingvar.  They had a meal ready for me and after a brief chat with Ingvar he headed off to bed as his next shift working in the mine commenced at 4am.  I went to bed just after midnight and here is the view from their window at 00:15

P1020322 (816 x 612)

Next morning I was expecting to travel to my cabin but Anki had a surprise for me.  Ingvar had arranged for me to visit and go down into the mine to see how they extract the most important component for steel axe and knife blades…..Iron.  The visit was arranged for the following afternoon (Wednesday) and so I had an extra day to spend in Gallivare.

I decided to go for a walk in the nearby woods and soon found a fine example of True tinder fungus Inonotus obliquus, used for firelighting and to make a tea and treat some forms of cancer.

True tinder fungus (Small)

Fieldfares and Pied Flycatchers were also nesting in the trees.  Ingvar finished his shift at 14:00 and we headed into town to buy some alcohol as they were planning a party for my birthday later the same week.

In Sweden the sale of alcohol is state controlled and to purchase wine and spirits you must visit a “System Bolaget”

P1020323 (816 x 612) (Large)

This is from their website;

“Systembolaget, the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly, exists for one reason: To minimize alcohol-related problems by selling alcohol in a responsible way, without profit motive.

The first alcohol monopoly ever started in the mid 1800s in Sweden. It worked so well that the model was spread all over the country. In 1955, the local companies were merged to form a single, national Systembolaget company, a concept which still works.

Systembolaget’s product range is actually one of the most comprehensive in the world. It is being developed continuously to match changes in trends and in the consumers’ tastes.”

The rest of the day was spent chatting and eating and I went to bed that evening with the visit to the mine on my mind.  Not only because it was happening the next day, but also between 00:00 and 04:00 explosives are set off in the mine and you can feel the ground shuddering as this takes place!!