The most forward thinking speculation at Tailings & Mine Waste ’08 was by Dirk Van Zyl. He joked about his fast-written paper that suggests that somebody seeking a PhD in tailings and mine waste management could do no better than apply the concepts and methods of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to tailings impoundments.
For those readers unfamiliar with this grand concept, take a look at what I have written about LCA and its success in proving that Australian mines are more efficient users of water than Australian farmers.
Here is a non-succinct definition of LCA:
LCA addresses the environmental aspects and potential environmental impacts (e.g., use of resources and environmental consequences of releases) throughout a product’s life cycle from raw material acquisition through production, use, end-of-life treatment, recycling and final disposal (i.e., cradle-to-grave.)
A good example would be to study the life cycle benefits of all those expensive clothes that Sarah Palin is wearing. Just think of all the benefits and the limited impacts of the production of those expensive clothes, the uplifting of joy in the eyes of the beholders, the greatful wives of plumbers who become the lucky recipients of the cast-of-gowns, and the income to the makers and breakers of the dresses et al. And so little environmental impact, for they probably are not even washed during the limited vice-presidential campaign life cycle.
If only Hillary had dressed so well and avoided those hideous pants suites she might be on the way to White House. Incidently, did you notice how many men in the audience at the Saddleback Church where McCain confessed his only sin who were wearing Tommy Bahama shirts—those Hawaaian silk things that cost $150 a piece. We must give it to the Republicans: they know how to dress regardless of sex.
But back to the LCA of tailings. As a devoted PhDer you could dress simply and apply the concepts developed by international agencies to the most difficult issue in mining: what do you do with the tailings impoundment at closure. Some of the best suggestions I heard at the conference include:
- Turn it into a cemetry for rich people–let them pay in perpetuity.
2. Make a new golf course–lots of sand for bunkers.
3. Build a wind farm atop the structure—just provide jackable foundations to deal with long-term settlement.
No matter what we say people will alway mine, need impoundments, dress well, play golf, require energy, and die. How marvellous if we could use the grand, unifying, holistic concepts of LCA to prove this a worthy set of integrated activities atop a slimes dam.