About My Work

At the moment I am working in a tar sands mine in northern Alberta.  It’s an interesting operation, and certainly the closest I’ve ever been to anything of this scale. I spend my commute to work dodging the attention of the “world’s largest trucks.”  My client is expanding the mine site and the pit, as well as the tailings pond, so they are drilling some exploartory and instrumentation holes to see what is under the ground, not in terms of resources in place, but in terms of “what can mess up our expansion and construction.”  It’s a new slant on things for me, being concerned with the waste rather than with the ore, but it’s interesting. Mostly.

This also means that I have to live in a camp near the mine site. It’s basically a bunch of ATCO trailers stacked like lego bricks, with a kitchen at one end. It’s not terrible, but it’s not exactly fantastic either.  The camp is populated by folks who work at any one of the many mines around the area, or in construction on the new highway, or work for the camp itself. It’s a mixed bag, and an interesting demographic. It’s predominantly male, of all age groups and usually of what would be perjoratively known as the “low class” segment of the population. Lots of blue-collar workers, general labourers and trades people. Some who are doing this because they love it, some who are doing it because they can’t find gainful employment anywhere else. The oilsands industry is booming right now, and employers arent picky.

Albian Muskeg River Mine

Some terms:

“log”: both the geophysical record of the conditions down hole and the geologist’s description of the core.

“heavy hauler”: large truck (some of them the largest in the world) that are used on the minesite to transport the ore and the waste to where it needs to go.

“tailings”: a slurry of water and clay and refuse. Basically whatever is left over after the oilsand ore has been boiled and chemically treated to get the oil out. Fondly known to us as the “death slurpee.”

“core shack/temple”: the 100ft quonset hut where the geologists work and where the core is stored and described.

“driller”: a generic term I use to apply to the whole crew of the rig.

“oil sand”: It’s sand. With oil in it. It’s semi-lithified right now (sort of rock, sort of not) and so its able to be mined in a open-pit type setup, very much like your run of the mill coal mine.

“well or hole”: simply – a hole in the ground. I’m not usually talking about porducing wells, which are ones that oil or gas comeout of, what I’m doing right now involves exploratory wells. These are drilled for coreing and geophysical measurements. Usually three or four feet in diameter.

“geo laydown”: around here, a ‘laydown’ is any sort of area where you store and ‘lay down’ all your tools and equipment. Because our drillers use the laydown where all us geologist types hang out and do our work, the area that contains the Core Temple, the yard where are the core is stored, the drill company office trailers and the general junk pile and parking lot is known as the geo laydown.

One of my colleagues is back in school and blogging about geology and school and life in general. It’s not a Warcraft blog so I didn’t put it in my blogroll, but if you’re wanting to read more about geology, then you should check out GeoGirl’s Blog

The Field Seasons – A Story Told In Pictures:






  1. September 18, 2009 at 7:49 am

    […] this biochem paper when I can match animals against the clock? When I was away earlier this summer (Field Season 3: The Search for Scotch) I had no internet connection on site and loads and loads of free time. So when I was back in my […]

  2. November 2, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    […] won;t be gone long, (Field Season 3.5 The Search for OH GOD THIS CAMP IS DRY OH SWEET JESUS WHYYYY????) but I don’t know exactly […]

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