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Archive for September, 2008

Browsing the web today I came across an amazing document on the history of mining that I must share with you before heading out of the office. 

The document is Mining Camps–A Study in  American Frontier Government  written by Charles Howard Shinn in 1885.  It is available in full at the link I provide from the Bancroft Library of the University of California.  How can one resist such prose:

This book is an attempt to break new ground in a comparatively new field and to examine the laws and customs , not of primitive pastoral nor of primitve agricultural communities, but of the workers in ores, and the toilers in auriferous river-sands. 

Here are two other papers that I found fascinating on the modern version of the topic: 

Both are by James West who is an Associate with Quantec, LLC in Portland, Oregon.

And in a lighter vein see Valley Detector Sales for more books on the old mining camps of California.

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The great leaders fail to get the followers to follow.  Lame duck President Bush and the great bluster-queen McCain both failed to get the common sense American to vote for the bail-out of Paulson’s friends. 

This proves that all politics is local, and that a “tribe” cannot always be counted on to follow the wisdom of the elders.  The story of the Republicans’ refusal to follow the venial lead of its self-proclaimed leaders is well-known and will be debated long in the future.

But another story with the same themes and motives is burrowing away in the background.  This story involves mining, McCain, and another failure of a tribe to coalesce around a unified position.  

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In an increasingly gloomy news day, I stop to post this news that is good news for British Columbia mining. 

The Premier of British Columbia on Friday announced that the BC government will begin the environmental assessment and First Nations Consultation phase for the proposed Northern Transmission Line.   The line involves electrification of the Highway 37 corridor that goes up to the north of BC.  The BC mining association says that ten proposed mining projects could benefit from the installation of the line.  And that could create 10,700 jobs and result in $300 million in annual tax returns.  (more…)

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The weekend brought no conclusion to the United States financial markets or regulations aimed at preventing a melt-down.  The weekend did bring further clarity to the Canadian position on shutting down the oil sands mines.  And long rides in beautiful sunny weather left me wondering if Sarah Palin could bolster her foreign policy experience by a quick side-trip to Canada to get the politicians here to face the fact that stopping the export of oil-sands-derived products to the US could be as disastrous as failure to clean up the Washington financial mess.  Let me explain. 

    

A long article on MineWeb tells more about threats by current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his threat to refuse to export oil-sands derived bitumen to dirty countries.  I quote (but urge you to read the full article, slow as it is to download.)

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Three professors from the University of British Columbia ask this timely question in a newly published article

…we in the mining business live in interesting times. It is not clear how long the current super cycle will last or how successful we will be in meeting the demands for human resources…..the decision to enter a mining engineering program is typically made at 19 or 20…the current supply of human resources available over the next few years has already made been determined by previous decisions made by young people…and the question must still be asked, what will be the demand for the young people who have yet to make the investment into the world of mining?

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American elections are long, furious, and fun.  By comparison Canadian elections are short, dreary, and dowright sad.   Compare.  This week the most terrible thing that any American politician did related to mining was accept a gift, a gold-nugget pin.  By comparison, in Canada, the party heading for the honor of the Queen’s opposition in Parliament has called for an end to oil sands mining alltogether. 

There are only 145,000 Canadians working directly for the oil sands.  The party shouting to shut down the mines, the NDP, is contesting only one seat in Alberta where the mines are located.  And the call was made on the luxury campus of the University of British Columbia, which is primarily populated by high-paying foreign students.  The NDP is not displaying courage in this call—they are just being plain silly. 

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Sarah Palin could well be our first woman president.  That makes her every thought and act a valid topic for scrutiny.  Nobody ever said being president was easy.  Even if you have to debate contenders on Friday nights. 

Thus a new report out that Sarah Palin and family have been well lobbied by the Alaska mining industry is of great interest.  Either because the mining industry is now proven to be an effective lobbyist, or because bribery by way of $1,200 gold-nugget pins is not your idea of independent decision making. 

Here is a link to the report and here follows a brief extract: 

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Kay Sever’s new book Building an Opportunity Culture is about process improvement in mining.  If you want to make your mine operate more efficiently, I recommend that you read the book.  Or better still engage her to consult to you; get her  to evaluate your mine’s processes; and get her to work with you to remove those bottlenecks to efficiency and profit.  In the current times the money may be well spent and a necessary route to profit or even survival. 

I have been reading the book in the echo of TV filled with reports of failed and failing companies.  Much of what I read in her book helps explain some of the mess that the financial markets now seem to be in.  Take for example, the chapter The Management System.  This chapter helps us understand why the management system at many financial organizations was not sufficient to see the wreck a-coming.

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I listened to so many politician on TV last night that what they say about the US economy blurs into a uniform fog.  One of them, I cannot recall if it was Bush, Clinton, or McCain used Caterpillar Inc. as an example of a firm that is already suffering from the credit crisis.  The politician said that Caterpillar had had to pay twice the previous interest rate for cash to finance operations, salaries, and equipment sales. 

My heart jumped at the thought:  twice the interest rate to finance mining equipment.  That could make things expensive.  Before we look at what Caterpillar has to say about being held up as a national icon, a quick review of what the politicians said. 

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Even MINExpo is dominated by one question:  will the current US economy meltdown affect mining?

Even the thoughtful mining blogs are focused on how US economic woes will affect mining.

The reputable news channels report opinions that assure attendees mining will not be affected.

Boil it to the essence and there are but three messages in the mass of talk and reporting:

  1. Demand from China and India will continue strong and will keep metals mining robust.
  2. The US will still need electricity and that will keep coal mining expanding.
  3. Demand for mining equipment may fall, causing a reduction in long delivery times.

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