On any given day thousands of miners worldwide head underground where they will spend their time working in the black bowels of the earth beneath tons of rock.
I spoke with Anthony Rivera, who gave us the low down on life as an underground miner.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be an underground miner? Also where are you based?
My name is Anthony “Tony” Rivera, I am 46 years old. I was born and raised in Silver City, New Mexico. I am a father of three boys and have 6 beautiful grandkids.
I began working at a copper mine called Cyprus Mining in Pinos Altos, New Mexico when I was 18 years old and have been mining ever since. I began as a security guard and later transferred underground as an underground miner.
I continued working with Cyprus until it shutdown. I then got a job in Sahuarita, Arizona at Asarco Mines. I worked at Asarco as an underground miner for about 5 years. I then moved to Elko, Nevada where I have worked for a few different Gold mining companies. I am currently based in Elko, Nevada and currently working for Jerritt Canyon Gold as an underground lead miner.
What does a typical day involve?
A typical day involves arriving at the job site, changing into our “diggers” (underground clothes). We then meet in a line out room to receive our daily line out, which is our assignments for the shift. Once we receive our line out we head to our assigned equipment or area to perform the job assigned. We proceed by checking heading status and safety as we descend into the mine.
My job is usually to bolt, drill and blast in assigned headings. Drilling consists of drilling holes in a specific pattern to allow the ground to be loaded with an explosive compound called ampho, stick powder and trim tecks. This is ignited withy fuses. The sequence in which the round is tied determines how the round blasts and also determines the depth, width and height of the heading. We are required to clear the are for blasting. After the blast we must wait 45 minutes to allow air to clear then the mucker operator (loader) comes in and begins to remove the blasted ore. As a driller I move to a different area and perform the same routine again.
The mucker operator loads dump truck drivers with the ore and it is transported to a designated are to be processed. We usually blast at least twice per shift. Once the day is over we head back to the line out room to turn in paperwork and report to shifter. After that we head to the shower rooms to shower and dress out.
After showering we head to the vans to bring us home. My day usually begins at 330 am. The van leaves the parking lot at 400 am and we return home at 730 pm. We are paid for a 12 hours 6a-6p.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing is going to work and being able to come home each day safely without incidents.
What is the worst thing about your job?
The worst thing is when we hear about incidents at other mine sites that end in tragedy. Another thing that is bad is when you hear from the company that you work for that they are shutting down.
Do you ever get scared working underground?
Yes, sometimes. There are times that my mind begins to overthink things and this increases my fear. During these times I would just like to go home to be with my family.
Do you have any advice for youngsters considering underground mining as a career?
Any young person that is considering mining needs to know that mining is a well paying job, but that it is a very dangerous job. It is not a job that can be taken lightly. All safety rules, policies and procedures in place must be followed for everyone’s safety. It is wise to listen and learn from older experienced miners.
Did you have to do a medical in order to become an underground miner and if so what tests do they do?
A medical physical is required prior to employment. Some companies have more extensive physicals than others. They require drug test, hearing tests and lung capacity tests as well.
Do you think mining companies are paying enough attention to the health and safety of their miners?
Yes, if there are any concerns with any chemical exposure all staff gets tested to make sure everyone is well. They are regulated very closely by MSHA. MSHA does regular inspections at all mining sites and give citations for any violations they discover.
Do you think underground miners get paid their worth?
I believe they get paid well, but in some places or conditions they should be paid more for the higher risks each person is taking.