13 October 2010

Bob Haldeman Interview (5)

A Nearly Fatal Accident in Bad Air 

Haldeman: From "41 to '44 I started working hard. In 1942 I almost 
disappeared from the map. I was going up to check a chimney 
raise we were running about thirty meters up; they call them a 
zigzag. It's about a 50 angle, and you go zigzagging up. Then 
you ran a drift thirty meters high into an area of a 
block-caving that had failed to cave. It was all hung up in 
there, and we wanted to find out what was wrong with it. The 
night shift put in the log book that they had broken through to 
this cave area. The rule was that the shift boss had to go 
ahead of everybody and make sure the working areas were safe. 

So I took my number one head straw boss--capataz, they call 
the man the two of us went up this ore pass hand-over-hand, on 
a big one-and-a-half -inch manila rope. We always carried 
carbide lamps, because of possible oxygen deficiency. This ore 
body was made up of copper minerals and had a lot of pyrite in 
it. Pyrite oxidizes when it's exposed to air and consumes 
oxygen. You'll get in places where there is oxygen deficiency, 
and your lamp will go out. Going from 16 to about 12 percent 
oxygen, the flame grows real large, and then pffft. That's the 
point where you have to get back where you were; otherwise you 
will faint. And that's why the bosses always wore .carbide 
lamps . 

I was shinnying up this thing, with my friend behind me. I 
can remember that my flame all of a sudden went pffft, and I can 
remember my head going down gently on the floor of the drift. I 
fainted and tumbled back into his arms. He went to grab me, and 
I was so heavy with only one hand [free], both us went 
head-over-heels, bouncing down this thing. 

The El Teniente layout (cross section)

At the bottom, when we get out on this drift, there's a 60-meter open ore pass below us that has two track rails across it, where they have little one-ton cars that they can push back and forth. I didn't quite get there. There were what they call spuds, two- inch steel about twenty- inches long. You drill a hole in the rock and put two of these in with a board on top, and you can set the rig up to drill the next blast. They keep carrying this, relaying it up. One of these spuds was there, and it happened to catch me on my shoulder- -here, you can see. Swent: You still have the scar. Haldeman: I hung up there, and my hard hat continued down. There happened to be a workman passing by that ore pass and that drift, and my hard hat went "tic, tic, tic," down with my lamp. Well, he knew something was wrong, and he went and got another boss. They came and saw me up there, and my friend was hung up, too; he was unconscious. They pulled us out and got us over to the tool shed- -they call it a bodega , an underground tool shed- -where they had first aid and a stretcher. First aid was like a bandage. 1 lay there in pain. What the fellows had done was to put a bandage around me like this [demonstrates], and of course they pushed the bone in. When you have a broken collar bone, you're supposed to pull back and get the bones away. 1 was a horrible mess; my eye was all gouged, and 1 was scratched up all over. 1 felt like somebody had been beating me to death. The mine superintendent finally showed up, and he said, "Get this bandage off," and he pulled my shoulders back and tied them back, it was a wonderful relief. They took me and my friend, my capataz, out to the hospital. I had a fractured collar bone, and they set it. 1 had a gouge out of my right upper eyelid, and for almost half a year I couldn't sleep; I could see the light out of that little hole. I was out of service for about a month and a half. We were so very close to being killed. My friend, the capataz, in his fall somehow completely tore his tendons on his right arm and shoulder. They couldn't repair them, so he lost the use of his right arm. But he was alive. That was in '42.

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