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Archive for May, 2007

It has been a record dry season in southern California. You would not know this by looking at the lush vegetation, abundant flowers, and vast pools of the townhouse complex and everywhere else in this piece of paradise. The beach is cloud-covered all day long as the desert heats up pumping great masses of evaporation inland and keeping local temperatures in the 60 to 65 degree range. We left Iowa partly because of record heat: way up in the 95s with humidity and strong winds. Most unpleasant. And then to the mining news and this strange report: 

The axing of 160 jobs at a south-east Queensland coalmine because of the drought is just the first of a wave of job losses set to hit the region, the state opposition warns.  But Premier Peter Beattie says he does not expect mass job cuts as a result of the state’s worst drought on record. Tarong Mine today announced the cuts, which it said were unavoidable after dwindling water supplies had forced a scaling back of operations at Tarong and Tarong North power stations—which the mine supplies.

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Travel with kids

On a whim, we left the farm in Iowa and set off across country with three young kids in a new Ford Focus piled high and packed to the brim. We followed the old Lincoln Highway through Iowa and then along the Platte River through Nebraska; hence down the north-east corner of Colorado to traverse the Rockies and sleep in Grand Junction; hence through that beautiful country of southern Utah and to Las Vegas; finally the desert of eastern California and the blessed Beach Cities, including our destination, Huntington Beach. The car went well—a testament to American car manufacturers. The kids behaved—a testament to a portable DVD player and three Game Boys. The KOA campgrounds were comfortable and quiet and a great place for kids to stay. Las Vegas and Excalibur were a kids’ delight although it cost me a fortune for them to play every electronic game in the packed halls.

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Playing computer games is for everyone. Here is my take at four computer games relevant to mining.

Before we look at the games, let me state emphatically my basic beliefs re computer games and mining.

  • I think it a waste of money to develop glossy brochures to hand out to students in order to encourage them to become miners.
  • I believe it would be better to spend money developing computer games involving mining and in supporting youth groups playing these games competitively.

Maybe here is an opportunity for some benevolent mining company to sponsor a youth group to try out new mine development strategies. Any profit can be converted to US dollars and be sent to folk who live around closed mines. And the mining company can apply the strategy in real time.

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British ColumbiaNEWS RELEASE FROM PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS

British Columbia’s mining industry posted another year of record financial results in 2006, driven primarily by increased global demand and higher coal and metals prices. Net income reached Can$2.35 billion in 2006, up 27.6% from $1.84 billion in 2005—the highest level in the 39 year history of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) annual survey of the B.C. mining industry.

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Not being a financial wizard. I have never really turned my mind to the concept of Net Present Value (NPV). I have always been amazed by what happens when you take the NPV past thirty years: everything Is free? So I cannot resist quoting the following from somebody whose work I admire and with whom I communicate.

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Here is a piece from a friend in Australia. I enjoy his perspective which I offer here for your consideration.

This problem of aboriginals, and their tie to the land, and societal greed to exploit what is in the land but would otherwise go un-beneficiated is as strong here in Australia as anywhere. We WASPs cannot fully grasp the aboriginal tie to the land. Prime examples of failures in this regard occur in Africa where indigenous leaders, e.g., Mugabe, have been quite happy to drag their countries into abject poverty and total dependency just to prove to one and all that the land was originally theirs and it is again theirs now even if they had to go backwards by 100 years, starve the people who supposedly owned the land, and take away all hope in order to prove that the land is again theirs. Other examples are Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique etc. all wallowing in a quagmire of poverty and dependency on handouts.

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Of how many senators can the following be written? I quote from Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, simply to share a piece on mining-related trivia.

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A woodpecker has spent the last two days assiduously pecking away at a hole in the siding just outside my study. He was making fine progress towards the insulation long ago pumped in through the tiny hole. Knowing his efforts were misdirected, and, irritated by the constant banging, I covered the hole with a metal plate. Silence and natural sanity reign again. I wonder how long before his belief that a siding-hole is a potential breeding ground has him back pecking? The radio broadcasts BBC news each hour. So I am well versed in the Pope’s visit to Brazil to prop up the church against loss of the faithful to evangelical movements that are not as strict about those dogma that have sustained the church for centuries. I also have heard long discussions about the decision to beatify the war-time pope, who some say collaborated with the Nazis; others say the war-time pope merely maintained a respectful silence. As the grandfather of Jewish grandchildren I am appalled. But that is religion and breeding for you; and the man is dead. In the Belle Plaine library I accessed, on an ancient computer, the news that the Dene declare the Thelon Basin to be a “birthplace, the place where God began.” And they defend their right to hunt and kill there “for if there are no caribou, we die.”

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The best part of sitting through conference presentations is when, all of a sudden, you realize this speaker is fresh, vital, intelligent, and has something new to tell. You have just sat through, or dodged, those jaded presentations by old professors bewailing the absence of students, funding, or acceptance of their ideas. You have just sat through, or dodged, those ghastly commercial presentations where an adequate speaker from the company tells you no more than you can find in magazine ads or websites. And you look up and here is a speaker telling you something that is cutting-edge and comes from a sharp mind. This happened at the CIM when I chanced into a presentation by Davide Elmo from Simon Fraser University. With an engaging accent and certain confidence, he proceeded to tell of a cooperative investigation of block caving between his institution, Diavik Diamond Mine, Rio Tinto, and the University of British Columbia.

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We take no pleasure in seeing a mining venture fail. We can admire the courage of those who admit to failure. We cannot but wonder why it took so long to notice the failure and come clean. I refer, of course, to the recent admission by Gerald Grandey, Cameco’s chief executive that mistakes were made at the Cigar Lake mine. He said that Cameco “failed to fully appreciate the degree of risk of working in less than ideal conditions at the mine in northeastern Saskatchewan.”

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