I'm happy because a) I enjoy what I do and b) what I used to do is getting a bit risky.
I used to be a sub-editor. At a newspaper. And before that, this one. If you were following the news about a month ago you'd have heard how subs are starting to become an endangered species, with Fairfax announcing plans to axe 82 subbing positions from its newsrooms. I hadn't worked for Fairfax, but am still a bit relieved I got out when I did. However if/when the gold market goes belly-up, I will be smiling on the other side of my face. Because I now work at a gold processing plant.
I started as a stickpicker. Boring and pretty well self-explanatory (picking foreign material out of ore as it trundled by on a conveyor). Then I moved to the gold room. Sounds much more glamorous and exciting than it was. More of the boring, as well as lots of nasty chemicals. We were responsible for the pouring of the gold bars, though, so that bit was impressive.
And now I've moved again - into the lab. Which I love.
Granted, it is neither as exciting as it sounds, nor as flashy as it is in TV land. For example, it's nothing like what Abby does on NCIS. There is no death metal music. No goth boots. Not even a white coat. Definitely no storming through the building yelling 'Gibbs! Gibbs! I know who the killer is! It's not the boyfriend - it's the mother-in-law!'.
And sadly no workmates a la Tony DiNozzo:
|May I see your, uh, badge, Agent DiNozzo?|
Image source: www.ncis4eva.freevar.com
Though I will say concede of the guys could be worthy candidates for that Australia's Hottest Tradie comp. However, in my experience so far, these have been limited to contractors who come out for a few days and then disappear again, drat it.
Not that a lack of DiNozzo types is altogether regrettable. After all, as uniform and safety rules (among other things, i.e my thighs) decree that I look like this...
|The work ute and me (looking slightly possessed |
due to my efforts in willing the camera remote to work).
Rather than this...
|Agent Ziva David: Smart and smokin'.|
Image source: www.israellycool.com
Anyhows, I know all my former news colleagues (well, two of them. Maybe) are hanging out to hear all about my change of career. So here is what I do now.
An average day in the life of a lab tech at a gold mill
5.45am: Arrive at work. Huddle in designated smoking area for change-of-shift meeting. Try not to breathe in too much second-hand smoke (am not a smoker).
6am: Go to oven/dry-sample prep area next to lab and divide up samples of crushed ore collected by mill operators during past 24 hours. Take buckets of resultant ore into lab and divvy up into relevant trays/bags for testing for moisture content and sizing (done by us) and gold content (done by commercial lab in town).
6.10am: Go outside and up to top of leaching and absorption tanks where samples of slurry have been collected during past 24 hours by operators. We put these samples through air presses which separates the solution - the liquid - from the solids. Collect the solution in pre-prepared bottles and solids in prepared bags and oven trays.
Repeat with remaining samples (depending on the client and circumstances, number of samples here can vary from three to about eight. Usually). Also collect extra slurry samples, which I later put through sieves to determine how finely the mills have ground the ore.
Measure 'density' of slurry in stipulated tanks by weighing exactly one litre of slurry from relevant tanks.
7.30: Finish pressing samples and take everything back down to the lab. Put trays of solids in ovens to dry. Do the above-mentioned sieving. Collect a sample of 'process water'.
7.45: Now for the nifty bit! Prep solution samples. This involves drawing out set amounts of solution from the bottles using sciencey things like pipettes and squirting it into test tubes. Mix in chemical that draws out the gold from the solution so it sits, conveniently, on top of the solution. Just like oil sits on top of water.
Some time later (depending on how organised I am and how long everything has taken): The interesting bit! The chemical has done it's gold-collecting thing and the solutions are ready for testing. Boot up assay machine (a very complex bit of equipment that I don't properly understand and so won't even attempt to explain) and attached computer. Use assay machine to test gold content in each of the samples. Print out results. Also, test pH of some of the solutions.
9am or thereabouts: Take dry solids out of oven and weigh so can get data on moisture, sizing etc.
9.15am: Enter results of all the testing and weighing into spreadsheet and email to relevant big wigs. Fill in rest of paperwork required. While sitting at a computer desk for a few minutes take the chance to have a quick bite to eat - it's been a long time since breakfast at 5am.
9.30am: Bag up all the samples designated for testing at the commercial lab in town. Finish up any other jobs.
10am: Find out from office people what jobs I need to do in town.
10.15am or thereabouts: Drive to town - about 30km. Drop samples off at commercial lab. Complete other jobs - eg picking up supplies from various outlets that service the local mining industry.
By the time all that is done it's usually early afternoon. I return to site and get everything ready for the following day. As well as anything else required to keep the lab gear and supplies stocked, clean and in working order. All sciencey-type jobs, which I find myself enjoying. But don't tell anyone or they might decide to stop paying me.
4pm: Go home.
Doesn't that sound like fun? What's the favourite part of your job? And your least favourite?