Boom! Did we get to wire 5,000 pounds lb of explosives? YES! Did we get to blow thousands of tons of rock off the mountainside? YES! Did we get to use huge machines and crushing grinders to process 100 tons of rock? YES! This was a big kid’s dream.
Massive drilling rigs that drill three-inch holes up to 60 ft deep, excavators, front loaders and rock-crushing jaws are just a few of the things that we got to play with. But first and foremost: Safety. Before we were even allowed to step foot near the quarry, the entire crew took a four hour safety course following MSHA rules. You’ve probably heard of OSHA — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration… Well, the mining industry has MSHA — the Mine Safety and Health Administration — and they’re even more hardcore than OSHA. We had a rep, Kim, on site every day to make sure that we were adhering to the rules, and he turned out to be both awesome and helpful. Standing there looking at the 300-400 ft wall of rock surrounding us was almost overwhelming. There was a wet, muddy, super-steep road from the base to the top, where we were drilling, that we had to walk up every day — sometimes twice. I’m in pretty good shape, but if I never have to climb something like that again, I’d be happy. As always, a huge shout-out to our filming crew who pushed through in the freezing cold, rain and mud.
Geek that I am, I loved learning about the explosives. There’s a crucial method to properly preparing the holes before the blast. We had to include an extra step in the process because of the rain, which was pumping the water out of the 30 holes before we could prep them. Ed ended up pumping, while I followed behind rigging the explosives and packing the holes. As we were working and when we were done, Brad, our blast master — not to be confused with Mad Max’s Master Blaster, ha — checked and rechecked our work. My favorite part, as I’m sure was Ed’s, was the actual blast. Standing safely wayyyy off in the distance, Ed used the blast initiator to detonate the explosives, and before you could speak, BOOM! Our eyes saw it, and a split second later, we felt the massive shockwave. An extremely unique experience.
Once the rock had fallen, Ed used the loader to move it to the crusher, which I got to operate. That crusher was mean. It’s super-daunting to stand on a platform and see a massive steel jaw crush enormous rocks. There’s a fluid pace that we had to keep, as the crusher couldn’t run without rocks in it. The jaw crusher could, but not the secondary cone crusher. It can spin too fast and ruin the bearings — not a cheap or easy fix. Overall, the entire process rocked (no pun intended) and I gained a new respect for the guys who work in these hazardous conditions every day. We had a blast with the quarry crew: Kim, Greg, Brad and Randy. Yes…. I said blast!! Boom!