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My two older kids did their undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. I recall the old town, its beauty, its quaintness, and the many wooden boxes I found in the second-hand stores that line the streets. I recall average food, carelessly served by students, in old, bare-brick wall buildings. I recall cold winters and steaming summers as we blundered through Wal-Mart to get that which was constantly needed to feed and clothe them.
I do not recall any mines in the area that we drove through so often. I do not recall any talk of mining. I knew there were many excavations into the limestone and these now housed cold-storage and safe-storage companies. My daughter, who studied civil engineering, says that in class the civil engineers talked only of tractors, pigs, and corn. My son, studying political science, talked about those things that young men with ROTC scholarships talk about—and it is best I do not mention them here.
Now I have found a site put up by the Lawrence Journal, LJWorkd.com that has a long spread on mining in southeast Kansas, a part of the state I never visited. Go take a look at the site, as much for the stories it tells, as for the layout and graphics and utility of the site. It is worth a visit, regardless of your mining affiliations and afflictions.
How can you not love a city where you can do the following? Down the hill from home beneath a weak sun and through pusillanimous snow, tossed around like confetti at a desultory wedding, to an ugly shopping center. You know the type: cheap concrete bricks bespattered by beautiful graffiti, and down ill-formed stairs of dirty tile to a library of grubby-fingered books. Hence to a back room called, grandly, Meeting Room 191.
After setting out old metal & plastic chairs & tables, we settled down with a pile of colored paper in front of us. A fat lady (and most Canadians are not fat, so she sort of sticks out) announces that for the next hour we will have an origami lesson.
Here is a story that hit my e-mail inbox sent by somebody from somewhere. The publisher is AAP NewsWire. The publication is AAP Australian Sport. The author is John Coomber, Senior Sports Writer. I confess I do not know the places or the people of whom he writes. But the story is interesting and there is in it my favorite sting-in-the-scopion’s-tail: for who is to say that sport is less “dangerous” than mining? Here is the story as written by John Coomber:
The Iowa land is changed in every way from what it was before the coming of the farmers. Is this a lesson in sustainable development for modern mining companies? They came and cut the trees, ploughed the grasses under, fertilized the soil, dammed the creeks, and built houses. They established their farms that now produce corn and soya bean which in turn feeds pigs and chickens and ethanol plants.
Here is more on the Iowa farm house. It is early morning. The tulips outside my study window are white and pink awaiting the sun to open to their full glory. The birds are chirping and the geese are already fretting over their two new eggs. The dog, a small mongrel jack-russell terrier, is flashing around the lawn sniffing for signs of the feral cat and maybe the coyotes that visit in the night.
On the kitchen table built by me from old cedar planks pulled from the 1920s corn crib is a pile of fresh wild asparagus picked from the ditches at sunset; we will cut them and lightly cook them with cream for lunch.
Spring is coming and I go south and to Iowa to a farm. I will post less on this blog. Here is a description of what awaits me and why my writing and posting rate will decline.
Two and a half miles north-east of Belle Plaine along gravel roads is the farm: 160 acres of sodden land, ploughed and awaiting the spring planting of corn and soya beans. The natural grasses are green, the trees still bare, and the bird flock around the barns for last-years droppings. The pond embankment is falling in, a victim of winter’s freeze and the subsequent thaw. Pieces of the garage roof blown off by the winter winds litter the gravel drive and pieces of wood from the corners of the house lie amidst the sprouting bulbs soon to burst into yellow and purple.
Who can resist the human story that shines through the screen of a well compiled website? I cannot, so here is one site that epitomizes the human story and that is thankfully free of the guff that too often spoils things. What follows is a cut & paste with heavy edit from their site to tell you the story that fascinated me. This is, however, still Mr. Skinner’s voice.
I’ve been in mining since I was 12 years old pushing ore carts in my father’s mine. I learned the mining industry from the ground up. After high school I graduated from the Mackay School of Mines. I have nospent over 50 years in the industry.
Here is a brief survey of wages – are you earning enoughand salaries in Canadian mines in 2006. Hope this helps you in getting the 2007 remuneration you deserve and merit. The information comes via kind favor of Jennifer Leinart of Cost Mine whose compilation Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages & Benefits 2006 Survey Results provides all the data you could ever need.
Surface mine electricians are doing best. Their salary range is $22.50 to $41.35. Mechanics do pretty well with a range of $14.70 to $41.35. And so do heavy equipment operators who start at $13.50 but can also earn as much as the top-paid electrician and mechanic. One almost begins to pity the drill operators with an average hourly wage of $24.84, the truck driver at $21.61, and particularly the laborer who starts at $8.50 and can earn upto $24.58 for an average of $18.07. I mean, $8.50 is probably a lot less than the average grocery store shelf stocker. No wonder the mines say they cannot find workers.
How the world has changed. Can you imagine this: China is letting the United Nations in to launch a project to improve safety for Chinese coal miners. Here are extracts from the Canadian Press report:
The United Nations launched a project Tuesday to improve safety for Chinese coal miners, who average 13 deaths a day [there are more than five million Chinese coal miners.]. The US$14.42 million plan will train and educate miners in five provinces where numerous fires, floods and other disasters strike mines every year despite repeated government promises to improve safety.
Browsing websites can be fun. They open your eyes to details of the familiar that you had not previously noticed. And they can set you off thinking of family and fear. These trivial observations are occasioned by looking at the Firwin site. They make removable insulation systems. Not being sure what a removable insulation system is, I went deeper into the site. Here is what I found.
First to the military applications ( my son is right now floating around Iran as part of the US Navy presence that may yet free fifteen British sailors, or at the very least, contain crazy Iranian ambitions.) Do they supply the US Navy, and how is their product used? Maybe I should look more carefully at the Marine section.