Through some stories we may learn a little more about the history of our area. 

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Driller's Tales - Jervis Sparks

Another of the “”characters” of Maleny is Jervis Sparks.    Jervis is a drilling engineer and is a freelance driller for mining companies in many parts of the world.

Having recently returned from a job in South America he is now completing a drilling survey in Laos. The company he is working for on this trip is Triple Plate Junction Mining Limited which is a London based company.  They are looking for copper on this occasion.

After spending January to March (2006) in Chile and Peru checking out the performance of Ingetrol’s Explorer Plus MD man-portable diamond core drill at elevations over 4,000 metres, Jervis gave his recommendations to Triple Plate Junction Ltd (of London), a mining company.

As part of the trip to South America Jervis revisited Papette.   Papette is the major city of Tahiti and the capital of French Polynesia.   This little city of 80,000 people is pretty recent as there were no buildings on its site when in 1769, Captain Cook first reached the Matavai Bay located 10 km away on the East Coast.    Since the 18th century, sailors realized how safe was its bay for their ships.

Jervis had previously lived in the Papette area during the 1950's.   He wrote about his previous life in Papettee in his book, "Vamonos, Let's Go".   This book is still available from Jervis and is a great read in the "boys own manual" style.   Jervis said, "Papette has lost all of its charm and I guess all my old girlfriends now will have lost their teeth."


Whilst in South America Jervis had a side trip to Robinson Crusoe Island.   Robinson Crusoe Island is in the Fiji Islands.   It is a beautiful tropical isle with a tranquil blue lagoon, fringing coral reefs, a long white sandy beach, swaying palm trees, traditional thatched bure, soft island music, fresh tropical fruits, abundant seafood and friendly pacific islanders.

The sacred island of Likuri also known as Robinson Crusoe Island has an amazing history which dates back 3,500 years to when the First Polynesians landed their huge outrigger canoes on the shores of the Fiji Islands.

Almost 500 years later, the next wave of people landed, these were the Melanesians.

Today the indigenious Fijians are descendants from a mix of the two cultures - Polynesians and Melanesians.

Easter Island was another place visited by Jervis on this trip.   Easter Island--Rapa Nui is a tiny speck of land in the South Pacific.     Formed by a series of massive volcanic eruptions, the island was only inhabited by sea birds and dragonflies for millions of years.     Its steep slopes, however, stood out like a beacon to a weary group of Polynesian seafarers.     Located in the South Pacific between Chile and Tahiti, Easter Island is one of the most isolated inhabited islands in the world.    Easter Island is roughly triangular and covers only 64 square miles.  


As a result of Jervis' recommendation Triple Plate Junction ordered two units (plus the ancillary downhole tools), for TPJ’s projects in Vietnam and Zambia.

Sonda Y Sur, the Peruvian drilling contractor for the Newmont Yanacocha mine (the largest gold mine in South America) used these Explorer MD rigs exclusively for their exploration projects, and were keen readers of GeoDrilling.   He enjoyed meeting Jervis in person after reading some of his articles, “The Drillers Tales”  series that had appeared in "GeoDrilling", a Drilling Industry magazine.


While they were being constructed and shipped across the Pacific, Jervis went to the T.P.J.’s Pu Sam Cap exploration area in Lai Chau province, China.   This location is some 60 kilometres south of Yunnnan, China, and 88 kms east from Laos, in north Vietnam.


(Photo left  - Map of Vietnam)


A helicopter-borne magnetic-radiometric survey had recently been completed over the entire Pu Sam Cap exploration license areas by Triple Plate Junction and its mining partners.    It was now time to do initial drilling to verify results of this survey.

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Photo Left:   Typical of the countryside in which Jervis was drilling


From the base of the PSC mountains to the field camp at 2,105 metres was a stiff three hour climb, and from there another 300 metres straight up to the drill sites.

T.P.J had utilised the services of a Lao WestCoast Squirrel helicopter out of Vientiane, Laos for their airborne magnetic survey.  

Vientiane is the capital of Laos and is Asia's biggest village.    Busy and hectic in comparison to the rest of the country, it is quiet compared with any other city in Asia.

Vientiane, as all of Lao's major cities, is situated on the Mekong river which forms the lifeline of the country.     Vientiane is the hub for all travel in the country.     The city has a population of 450,000, about 10% of the country.

There is little modern in Vientiane.    Old French colonial houses are being restored as offices and as restaurants and hotels.     There are only a handful of modern buildings which sometimes look remarkably out of place in this quiet capital.


Jervis was able to grab one day’s use of the helicopter to lift the 10 tonnes of drilling equipment, and himself, to the drilling site which is situated in a very rugged part of the country.

  Only a seven minute trip by helicopter but would take days without it as there are no roads where whe were going and everything including the drilling rig would otherwise have to be carried in by hand.   This photo was taken at Lai Chau, north Vietnam.

Normally, Lao WestCoast were fully engaged on U.S. MIA missions, as were the Russian Mil 18s helicopters in Vietnam.    United States M.I.A. Missions is a project to repatriate the remains of United States Servicemen killed during the Vietnam War back home.

This was a quick project to drill some 250 metre + angle holes to test the prospect before the South American rigs arrived.    For this, TPJ employed the same local contractor, Drilling & Mining Technical Company of Hanoi (DMTC), a company that Jervis had been using in Vietnam since 1997.    This gave him local knowledge as to how that company worked thus saving him many headaches.


Photo Left shows the motor section of the drilling rig

whilst the photo right shows

The drilling rig being set up ready for action.   Remember that generally all the equipment has to be carried in and out by hand thus the equipment used on site is kept to an absolute MUST HAVE


The drill used was an XY-2B Chinese made (Russian clone) rack-back rig, weighing 1.2 tonnes, and easily broken down for the 600 kg long line heli lifts.    The XY-2B is a vertical shaft drill - mainly used for diamond bit drilling and carbide bit drilling of solid bed.    It is also used in exploring drilling and base or pile hole drilling.     The rated drilling depth is 300 meters.    Its compact size and lightness in weight along with its ease to set up and transport in mountain area makes it ideal for this type of drilling work.

  To bring the diesel fuel to the drill sites mountain ponies were used.     Like the llama in Peru, they had stict load limitations.     Here they could carry two 20 litre jerry cans astride their pannier, and not a gram more, from the base of the mountain up to our field camp.    From there to the drill site, a single Hmong porter could carry the two jerry cans in his back harness.

This was a conventional drilling operation, one which was similar to those that Jervis has carried out in many other isolated parts of the world.   He is well used to working under extreme geographical and climatic conditions.   Whilst he was one of 14 men in the camp he was the only expat.   The rest were all Vietnamese but for one Indonesian.

The working week was 7 days continuous, week in and week out and this stage of the project went for 10 weeks.   No days off in this location.   This camp was a very isolated and the living conditions were very difficult.    As it was the rainy season, there were continual showers, day and night.   Life was spent continually in the clouds, so it was quite cold.    The temperatures varied between 6 degrees, and the highest being 14 degrees.

The drilling crew lived in plastic huts, ate mainly noodles and vegetables.     Jervis went to bed at 2000 hours to keep warm.     One necessity was an L.P.G. gas heater for a warm shower.

Once the rock samples were obtained and packed they needed to be sent to be assayed.

Local Hmong Girls were used to bringing the soil and rocks to the heli-pad at the first drill site for subsequent transport away.    These Hmong girls are paid nine U.S. cents per kilogram, and could carry up to 35 kilograms per load.

The Hmong are around the eighth largest minority group in Vietnam where they are also known as Meo, Man Trang and Mieu Toc.    Traditionally those people farmed rice for subsistence.

(The photo right shows Hmong Girls waiting, ready to carry out drilling samples.)


When working in such isolated areas communications are vital.   In this instance the only means of communication was by satellite phone.   This is a standard means of communications today but think about how such communications was carried out only a few very short years ago.

Jervis says, "There needs to be a lot more drilling done to confirm a mine."

Following his 10 weeks he returned to Maleny to rest and spend valuable time with his wife, Bridget.

He siad,   "The best thing about Vietnam are the people, and the worst thing is the bureaucracy, as it is communist, which means slow and corrupt."

After a short break he is off to another part of the world to continue on with his exploration work.

Jervis is just another of those people who make the fabric of Maleny different and special.

Books that have been written by Jervis can be found by clicking on this link

I am sure that there are many more of you out there who have bits of
information that would be of great interest to the rest of us.  

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Like the naked city there are a thousand stories in the
Sunshine Coast Hinterland

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