Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A Tin Mine, Me and the Indonesians

'This the first time we meet lady mining engineer,' the little Indonesian man told me.

I smiled at him. 'I am not a mining engineer. I work on The Mining Journal.'

'Ah yes. The Mining Journal. We know.'

This was in the mid-1960s and The Mining Journal, a weekly magazine, in those days was air mailed around the world. It was also a time in history when the British Government and Indonesia were not officially on speaking terms. Where were we? In Cornwall and about to go down into one of the last (maybe the last) working tin mine.

We were all very stylishly dressed - overalls, boots and helmets. On my arrival I had had to sign a disclaimer absolving the company in the case of accidents, then handed overalls and shown to a room where I could put them on. Knowing it would be hot underground I took off my trousers and shirt and discovered that the overalls were rather too large and missing buttons. Fortunately I had a supply of large safety pins in my bag. The dishy looking man who was taking care of me grinned when he saw the pins. I should confess that at this stage I was unaware of the presence of the Indonesians and looking forward to going down into the tunnels with Handsome.

Then it was time for the boots - about four inches too long - and a helmet. This was okay until the lamp was fitted onto the front and my neck disappeared into my shoulders. Was it ever heavy! Then came the fun of putting on the webbing belt to hold the battery - large and heavy - at the back of my waist. I think my knees buckled.

Following my introduction to the Indonesians we were given various instructions before getting into the cage and dropping down into the depths of the world. Then it was walking and climbing up and down rungs set into the walls. My feet weren't much help there as the boots were too long but at least Handsome stayed behind me, presumably to catch me if I fell.

It was all very eerie as the only illumination was from our lamps. When one of the Indonesians realised my lamp didn't always point in the right direction he made me take off the helmet, made an adjustment to the fitting strap and I put it back on. It fitted! Until then my head had moved around inside it.

I shan't bore you with the details of tin mining. We were shown seams of tin ore and various other minerals and had it all explained to us.

Eventually we returned to the surface and divested ourselves of the helmets, I said goodbye to my Indonesian friends, then went to change back into my own clothes.

Hmm. No date with Handsome. Well he was probably happily married.

Later, whenever I thought over that special visit, I thought that I and my little men must have looked like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs! I did enjoy myself but wouldn't want to go down another mine thank you very much.

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