Archive for July, 2008


How wonderful it would be to be young again.  So full of energy, ignorance, folly, and certainty.   To be again that arrogant, opinionated, save-the-world hero.  To go boldly where none have gone before; and to brave the elements for the joy of existence.  To protest at Syncrude and try to stop the world in its tracks with one bold action.  Maybe to die a young martyr for a noble cause, or at least a few ducks. 


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The only good reason to go to a conference is to catch up on lost snoozing and delayed naps.  I confess that no matter the time of day, as soon as the lights dim in a conference room, my eyes shut and I lapse into blissful somnolence.

I am convinced that I do not sleep too deeply to hear the presentations and judge their merit.  I know I am able to write about them afterwards.  Although the end result may be fiction rather than fact. 

No matter.  Another opportunity to sit back and drift off is coming up.  I refer to the conference in October in Vail, namely the resuscitated Tailings and Mine Waste ’08

The secret to intelligent conference attendance is to prepare.  Read the summaries before-hand.  Absorb the abstracts.  And if they produce proceedings—a rare event these days–scan the introduction and conclusions of the papers. 

To help you prepare for Tailings and Mine Waste ’08 I have written a review of the program.  It is easily accessible at this link.   Take a look and it might persuade you to register and come and enjoy the fall air of the Colorado Rockies. 

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In a conference center in Edmonton that spills down the hill I met Cobus Viljoen.  His accent was that of my grandmother and her Dutch South African ancestors.  So now i return the favor.

Cobus runs a company called Global Mining Support Group, or GMS for short.   Basically they arrange to buy things for mines and ship such things to the mines.  That can be a challenge in Africa.  And they meet the challenge. 

Now Cobus and GMS are looking for a Canadian or United States partner.   He would like to joint venture.   I wish I were younger, for I would grab this opportunity.  But being more aware of my limitations than politicians older than me, I defer, and pass the opportunity on to the world—or at least those who read this blog.

Contact him if you are interested.  

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Critics of mining harp on two impacts: 

  • Forest or farm land turned to open pit, waste dump, or tallings pile; and/or
  • Surface and groundwater impacted by increased constituent flow from the mine.

Both are real issues.  Trying to avoid these impacts, legislator and miners have resorted to backfilling pits, backfilling underground mine workings, turning the tailings impoundment into an apple orchard, and, most interestingly in situ mining. 

In the oil sands Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAGD) promises profit and reduced footprints. 

In uranium mining, in situ leaching is all the rage.  


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5 Mile Tunnel of Yucca Mountain RepositoryYou have to hand itto McCain.  I hope the superciliousness of this news report is not a reflection of the profundity of his assessment of mining:

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain says the nation’s 136-year-old mining law needs to be updated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he supports increasing fees paid by mining companies operating on public lands.

McCain, speaking with reporters after a town hall meeting today in Sparks, reiterated his support for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository north of Las Vegas, but added that he believes reprocessing nuclear waste needs to be a part of the nation’s energy policies.

The Arizona Republican said Nevada again will be a battleground state in the fall election, and said his strategy will be to stress his knowledge and understanding of Western issues, including mining, public lands and water.

He seems to want it all way.  A new mining law; but no fees.  Yucca Mountain; but no nuclear waste.  Your vote; but no questions please. 

I suppose there is courage in supporting Yucca Mountain in Nevada.  Most people in Las Vegas do not want it.  Reprocessing uranium certainly would help if we could get past Jimmy Carter’s ban. 

I for one would like to see more from the Republican hopeful on what he would do about mining, Yucca Mountain, and uranium reprocessing it if I vote for him.  But I fear I will wait in vain.  Maybe the United States mining associations should issue a profound statement on these issues. 



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Frogs and mining represent a far stretch.  But a posting at mga Kakaiban Kwento is fascinating enough to reconsider the issue.  In a remote part of Indonesia this is happening:

Bickford and Gillespie said the frog’s discovery adds urgency to the need to protect its river habitat, which in recent years has become polluted due to widespread illegal logging and gold mining. Once pristine waters are now brown and clogged with silt,they said. “The gold mining is completely illegal and small scale. But when there are thousands of them on the river, it really has a huge impact,” Bickford said. “Pretty soon the frogs will run out of the river.”

Bunch of frogs ! 


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Cuil (pronounced cool) is a new search engine.  It aims to compete with Google.  I have no complaints with Google, which i use extensively every day.  In fact i am always impressed when Google picks up my latest posting on this blog within minutes of its first appearance.  I am even more impressed when Google ranks my blog posting very high on many topics including, strangely enough “pretty ladies in hard hats.”

But ever keen for the new, I tried Cuil.  Try as I might i could not find this blog or any of its postings.   For example a search using the blog name I THINK MINING brings up many articles on information and data mining….but no blog.  Strike one.


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To save old mines for tourism or to reopen them for profit?  That is the question.  And like any dream of riches, there is always the possibility of a nightmare. 

A site new to me, Mining Companies Exploration and Mining Investment News carries a fine article that highlights the dilemma of maintaining old mines as tourist attractions versus mining the resources left behind by the old miners.  The article is Mining Companies Race to Reopen Old Mexican Mines.

In relatively unemotional prose, we are told of the conflict between those who live and dream of the past and those who look forward to development:  The conflict, as always, is rooted in the quick, here and now, new job, and the dream of a sleepy town grown rich off unidentified tourists.   But, as they note:

In the race between mining — which offers quick investments and lots of blue-collar jobs — and the slow, arduous task of luring tourism, mining often wins.


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The disconnect between reality and idealism is stark.  Or is it just the disconnect between Fort McMurray and Vancouver?  

The people on the oil sands mines I worked with are honest and earnest.  But the Vancouver news makes them sound like prime scallywags.  Consider these two links:

The Tyee (admittedly a “fiesty one online”)   They write about another of those lawsuites that will bring oil sands mining to an end, save the water, and make it possible for Indians to wonder free through the woods shooting buffalo and rabbits.  I somehow doubt it. 

Root Force (clearly a troubled mind at work and rest)  They write about the success of Greenpeace in impeding tailings deposition at Syncrude.  Symbolic but so silly.  I doubt they walked from Fort McMurray to Syncrude.  In fact they probably flew from Calgary to Fort McMurray. 

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thoughts from the dentist's chair

I have never voted for a candidate who won the election.  This is probably shear perversity on my part.  I have never had a gut feel that the fellow who eventually won was the correct person for the job.  So it is with much trepidation that I let myself feel enthusiastic and plan a vote for one of those fellows seeking the job of president of the United States.  A private and personal commitment to vote for one of them is a sure way to doom them to a footnote in history. 

Being a political junkie, however, I cannot resist a discussion of politics.  I found a perfect one in Fort McMurray on Friday.  A group of northern Albertans all too willing to offer opinions on the next US President and what it would mean for the oil sands.  I listened and prompted to elicit more opinion.  All in the hope I would find support for my candidate without dooming him to failure. 


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