Things are moving right along. In the last post I shared with you the challenges of opening up our new excavation. It’s nothing but mud, broken slate, and a pain in the neck.
With our new rock base, we we able to start testing the material. It looked good, really good. The gold is bigger, and there is more of it. The only problem is, we could only dig into it with the excavator, which is also what we use to load the trommel. Imagine the frustration of finding a spot that’s twice as good, but you can only run it half as fast! We’d have to spend half the day staging, drive the excavator to the wash plant, and then spend half the day running material.
For some time we’d been considering another excavator, then our backhoe started exhibiting the same problems it spent all winter in the shop to resolve. Decision made, we had to find an excavator.
I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this. We have never borrowed money to buy equipment. As far as I’m concerned, debt is the main reason that miners fail. You’ve got to be able to weather the breakdowns and the times the pay runs out without worrying how you’re going to make your next payment. That philosophy though, does make buying equipment challenging, the used equipment available in Alaska is sparse, overpriced, and usually in need of repair.
What an adventure this search lead us on! We took an atv ride to visit an excavator that had lived it’s life on the beach. It ran perfectly, but we ultimately passed on it because the cab was nothing but rust.
Then around the campfire, searching craigslist on my phone, I saw it. The exact model excavator as our beloved kubota. We have a whole trailer full of spare parts for that model. Only one problem, it was 500 miles away.
Alaskans are used to driving. If you ask one how far to get from one city to another, you will usually get an answer in hours, not miles. We were looking at at least 7 hours each way, hauling a trailer over mountain passes with no cell signal and virtually no services.
We left at 5 the next morning. I forgot how beautiful the drive is. We passed a glacier and several spectacular vistas. We found the seller’s home and didn’t even haggle on the price. It was perfect, it even had (sigh) an enclosed cab!
It took a while to close the deal, it turned out the owners were miners. If there’s one thing miners like more than mining, it’s talking about mining. Eventually, we bid them fairwell and headed back home.
It was a caffeine fueled, white-knuckle trip back. My husband got us home at three in the morning. I had long since become so tired I was not only seeing things, but hearing them too.
Armed with “cabbie”( as we named the new excavator to differentiate it from the other one) we were able to continually keep the washplant stockpiled and running. When the choke on the trommel motor started rattling loose, we jammed a stick in it and kept running.
That’s probably enough for one post. I’ll tell you about the cleanout next time. In movies and in books I hate cliffhangers, but here I’m going to do it to you anyway.
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