Pole to Pole
Day 126: Johannesburg
'This is Anglo-American standard, the model mine's the South Mine. They all drive around in Land Rovers down there.'
Temperatures at this depth are around 50 Centigrade, and so Anglo-American have had to air-condition the earth's crust to a maximum of 28.5 degrees . . . 'the limit set by the human sciences laboratory'.
So far the experience has been curiously undramatic, the surroundings clean and spacious. Then quite suddenly there comes a point where underground car-parking becomes potholing and all Anglo-American's environmental cosmetics cannot disguise the realities of mining.
The shaft narrows to a slippery rock passage, full of water. The only light is from my helmet, and footholds are not easy to find. A scramble up spilled rock-fall leads through to a narrower chamber. The noise of the drills makes it difficult to hear instructions and it is no longer possible to stand upright. Away from the air-conditioning the heat quickly rises and the sweat begins to run. We edge carefully through into a man-made cave with little more than three-foot clearance where crouching miners are at work on the rock-face. There is great heat and terrific noise when the drills are in action.
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