International student mining competition hits campus March 17

3/16/2011 - By: Mike Wolterbeek
Students Hand Mucking Mining Engineering students Chris Faiman, left, and Zach Zastoupil practice hand mucking, one of the events in the upcoming International Intercollegiate Mining Competition, March 17-19 on the Univ. of Nevada, Reno campus. Photo by Jean Dixon

Setting tracks for ore cars, hauling muck and hand-drilling rock is part of the old-time mining contest that brings students from around the world to the University of Nevada, Reno March 17-19 for the 33rd International Intercollegiate Mining Competition, hosted by the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering, one of the premier mining engineering and geologic science schools in the world. 

“The two days of competition are a flurry of action as the teams are on the field all at once hauling sand, pounding steel drills into rock with a hand sledge, setting railroad ties or drilling with a jackhammer,” said Danny Taylor, chair of the mining engineering department and advisor to the student club that organizes the event. “The competition was invented by students and is run by students. It’s all historic mining techniques, and is fun to watch.”

The events are:

  • Jackleg: drilling into a vertical rock or concrete face using a pneumatic jackleg drill
  • Handsteel: drilling a hole or holes into a 36-inch-thick block of concrete, using a 4-pound sledge hammer and a 7/8-inch-wide steel chisel)
  • Survey: Reporting coordinates using an old fashioned vernier transit, a plumb bob and a 50-meter steel tape
  • Gold Pan: panning five BBs from a 1-pound coffee can of dirt and rock
  • Swede Saw: sawing through a 6-inch by 6-inch piece of pine timber with a 36-inch bow saw
  • Trackstand: Setting up and tearing down a 5-meter section of track, including sleepers, rail, connecting plates and bolts.
  • Mucking: Pushing empty ore cart down a 75-foot section of track and back, then shovel "muck" (rock, clay sand and mud) into cart until full. When full, team must push ore cart down and back again.

The competition will be held at the University next to Peccole Park off Evans Avenue on March 18 and 19. Thirty-three teams from 15 schools, including one from Great Britain and three from Australia, will begin competition with a shotgun start each day. The competition is scheduled to run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, with the women’s, co-ed and alumni competitions on Friday and the men’s competition on Saturday.

“The most exciting events for me are the mucking and the track stand,” Taylor said. “I’ve been going to this event for 32 years and it’s still great fun to watch.”

The Nevada team has won the event four or five times over the years, he said. They were dead last in their first competition and three years later took a first place. Last year, in the competition hosted by the West Australia School of Mines in Kalgoorlie, the men’s team (while notably beating out every other American team) took fifth-place overall in a field awash with Australian competitors. The women’s team took the overall win for their division with first-place finishes in hand mucking, sawing and gold panning.

For more information, search for The Mackay Muckers on Facebook.


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