Friday, March 28, 2008

Iron ore mining dredge

On Saturday (22032008), I sent my Xantia for repairs before the trip to Lawan Kuda and read about a mining dredge in Tanjung Tualang that has been partially restored, and it's open to the public now. Me, Bro, Sis, Dad, Mom, Yen & Tat went there after breakfast on Sunday morning.

The dredge is located on the 5th Mile of Jalan Tanjung Tualang; just descend the flyover in front of the bridal store in Batu Gajah town, do a right turn at the traffic lights, keep left to exit the town, and head straight for a few kilometres until you see a yellow signboard for the dredge in the left of the road. Keep your eyes peeled for a deforested piece of land with parking space on the left.

We knew we've got the right place when we saw this:
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I still remember seeing dredges operating just slightly down below the Smoke House in Cameron Highlands when I was a kid of 6 to 7 years old, but this is different; this is big, way bigger.

Entrance fee is RM10 for a walk around the lower pontoons, RM15 for a full and guided tour of the whole goliath. Full tour of course!!!

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Contraptions for rolling out rubber sheets were displayed under the trees, just by the entrance.

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HUGE, though probably not the largest of dredges.

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An improvised bell, does the job well; ring is distinct and loud!

The theme everywhere on this dredge is HUGE:
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Huge gears,

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Huge lock valve wheels,

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Huge generators,

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Huge clutch mechanisms (I think that's what it is, feel free to correct me :p),

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Huge chains, and the list goes on. This is where the buckets responsible for scooping up iron ore-laden earth goes into the water and subsequently, mud.

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The dredge is not only huge, it's pretty tall too; measuring roughly 5 storeys or 50 feet+ high.

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You do not want to be left hanging off the roof of this one, I know I wouldn't :p

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Weird well-like structures like this one are abundant on the pontoons..

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..they're supposed to lead under the pontoon but some have been flooded. I can hear water gurgling inside but dare not put my head in for a peek, it's scarily dark down there :p

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An equipment and supplies store room.

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One of the platforms leading to the upper levels.

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The business end of the dredge. Here, the buckets, having being filled with earth and iron ore deposits, emerge from the water and starts their journey up.

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I just dig huge constructions like this, something's very cool about the way these things look :)

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Lines, beautiful lines...

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So complex and mesmerizing...

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The cables remind me of some very large yatches I've seen, those have lots of cables attached to yaw and sails too :)

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An anvil! I wondered for quite some time what did the workers made with these back in those days... Btw, those dots on the cables in the background are actually birds, lots of em!

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Mr. Ng, our tour guide, came sometime later. He's also the person responsible for the restoration of this dredge, and formerly Kellie's Castle, too! Cool, now I know who's responsible for laying those fugly and historically-incorrect tarmac layers on the roof of the castle. Seriously, you can go drive go-karts on the roof of Kellie's Castle anytime now.

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Buckets, not your typical household ones; these are made from manganese steel, imported from England (like everything else that goes into the construction of this dredge), and weighing 2.5 tonnes each!!

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Pay attention to the rim of the bucket and see the welds. This is done to reinforce the rim against the abrasive effects of mud, sand and rocks.

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Buckets on the chain, lining up to reach the top. In a complete chain, there will be 115 buckets linked together, which adds up to 230 tonnes, for just the buckets. I know, wow. How they managed to achieve that linkage, I've no idea, the wonders of engineering.

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The business end, another side.

Mr. Ng lead us up a staircase and we got to see more of the dredge..
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The buckets, all they do is collect water nowadays...

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The control room; the movements of the dredge is directed from in here.

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A peek at a HUGE pulley with thick cables outside, I'm guessing the pulley is at least 40 inches in diameter. The cables and pulley work to lower or raise the lower arm, effectively controlling the digging height of the buckets where the arm is attached.

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The controls.

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Seriously old style gauge, things haven't changed much since, couldn't find the brand insignia on it, bet it's quality stuff though.

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This piece of pointed metal, together with the marked plank at the back, serves to display the distance, in metres, that the dredge has travelled in both sides. Of course, being a barge and all they don't call it left or right. It's the olde "port" to the left...

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...and "starboard" to the right :) Learn this well, aye, matey!

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Bakelite switches, the standard of an era long since gone.

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One of two multiple-bolted cables serving to release and retrieve an extended platform outside the control room, even Godzilla will have a hard time yanking this one off :p

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A mechanism used to adjust hook reach for a crane on the extended platform. The wheel is apparently made by "Morris", more proof of the dredge's heritage.

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Clean the roof and you'll have a nice surface to cook lamb chops on!!!

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Tranquil. It wasn't always like this, the water must have been really murky and filthy back in the heydays of mining, and the place filled with activity, tools, and dust.

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A view of where we came from earlier. These are not your typical zinc plated roof sheets. These are galvanised steel sheets of at least .38 gauge thickness. Tough enough to withstand corrosion for years, or in this case, decades. Some of the plates have since rusted and been replaced, but most are still the original pieces.

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The buckets, finally reaching the top of the dredge! Here's where the buckets dunk their load and start the journey down again.

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More steel shafts and cables, this dredge is quite an impressive monster. You can see the rusty roof here.

We've reached the refinery, in here is where the precious iron ore is extracted.

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Heavy duty valves that are tasked with locking and keeping water pressure in the dredge. There are no platforms here, so the workers will have to climb and stand on the pipes to operate the valves, so I'm guessing these ones have a rare need to be operated, and they are probably 8 inch inner diameter ones, I know, because I've been following Dad to the used iron and junk yards a lot lately :)

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The oscillating screens, or palong, as the locals call it. These trays move in a circular top, right, bottom, left motion, hence the name. The motion disturbs the water and mud mixed with iron ore. The heavier iron ore will sink into the small compartments while sand and other impurities, which is lighter, will eventually be washed out of the tray along with the water. This technique supposedly has a very high efficiency rate.

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The revolving screen. This is a cylindrical tube with small slits opening at the sides. During it's constant rotational motion, water will be sprayed at 15 psi on the cakes of mud, deposited in it by the buckets. The spray acts to break the cakes of mud, eliminating most of the useless mud, leaving only iron ore and a smaller amount of impurities, which will slip through the slits, and then distributed for further refinement at the oscillating screens.

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A safety notice on top of the revolving screen.

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Washed mud and other useless deposits from the revolving screen are unceremoniously dumped back into the pond thru this slide. Looks like a fun ride though!!!

And on top of the slide, where all the cables connect, is this:
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Staircase to Heaven? Or just a nasty fall into the water and a stay at the hospital?

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Overview of the refinery. Pipes, valves, ladders, platforms, screens, all business.

The refinery covers the final part of the dredge we need to see and we went back down after that.

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Yen being cheeky :D

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Dad made Sis try out her balancing skills on one of the pipes, she managed a few steps and slipped soon enough :D


Mr. Ng's a funny guy and he spent a few more minutes cracking jokes with us back on the pontoon, he also revealed to us he is inflicted by Leukaemia, and it's a rarity he conducts tours on his own, as he is usually too tired to pull it through, and so gives his employees the job. I admire his dedication and optimism. Heartfelt.

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Full view of the Dredgezilla!

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Camwhoring with Dredgezilla!!

After taking pics, we followed Mr. Ng into the office, where he showed us a video of smaller dredges working, and also a diorama of a typical mining site. Man, the dredge sounds scary from what I hear in the video! Lotsa loud creaking and grinding sounds as the buckets and chain move up the dredge! Mr. Ng also gave Sis and Yen a souveneir each, it's of Kellie's Castle :)

Oh, before the video started, we also saw this lizard on an old bicycle in the office. We clamoured over it for a while but it looks unfazed:
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A tin billet weighing 30 kilograms, this piece cost Mr. Ng RM1k+ when he bought it more than a decade ago.

We were famished after the dredge tour, so we had lunch at Toong Lok beside the Tanjung Tualang wet market, one of our favorites. Coincidentally, Mr. Ng was suggesting this restaurant too! He also gave us ice creams just before we left the tour site, nice guy :)

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First of many dishes to come, delicious!!!

We went back to Ipoh after lunch, I sent Bro and Tat to Simon's house, where they carpooled back to KL :) Bro and his friends will be back for class in Subang while Tat will visit his relatives in Kl before taking the Monday morning flight back to Hong Kong. It's been an interesting and fun weekend with Bro and Tat back around :)

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