How to Talk like a Miner

It’s hard not to be confused and kinda left out of the conversation the first time you talk to a “real” miner. They have a distinctive vocabulary that was developed by prospectors and hard rock miners over the years. At times it is almost like hearing a different language when a miner describes his work day. Translate the following conversation and you will be an expert!

The old mine isn’t played out like everyone thought, yesterday we put up the bellows on the east adit, there was some
bad air beyond the cave in ’bout half way down the tunnel. Johnny was the mucker shoveling into the conveyor in the
stope but he was spooked ’cause he kept hearing tommyknockers. We were all glad to get the shaft cleared and shored up. This should get us back to the the good ore and that one quartz vein that has all the little vugs in it. Sure be good if we didn’t have to nurse the equipment while we drill and blast another shaft.

  • Adit: A horizontal passage driven from the surface to access or remove water from a mine.
  • Bad Air: Air that does not have enough oxygen in it to breath. This can be caused by methane build up or CO2 build up among other reactions with the minerals that are exposed to the air.
  • Cave in: A collapse or subsidence of ground in the mine creating a blockage restricting access in the mine.
  • Mucker: The laborer who shovels ore or rock into the mine cars or onto a conveyor clearing the loose material from
    mine.
  • Nugget: A mass of metal, such as gold or silver, found free in nature, usually associated with placer mining.
  • Nurse: The action of carefully handling drilling tools to conserve on wear and breakage costs.
  • Ore: Rock and minerals that can be mined for a profit.
  • Play: A mine at idle, as in played out.
  • Tommyknocker: The term originated with Welsh and Cornish miners, who believed leprechauns or tiny elves, wearing standard miners gear, committed mischief such as stealing tools and food in the mine. Their name comes from the knocking sound on mine walls that occurs just before cave ins happen. Some believe the sound is the elves warning the miners to get out.
  • Shaft: A vertical access to the mine.
  • Stope: The underground opening from which the ore and muck is extracted.
  • Tunnel: A horizontal underground passage that is open to the atmosphere at both ends.
  • Vein: A mineralized filling of a fracture or fault.
  • Vug: A small cavity in rock often lined with crystalized minerals.
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