Archive for December, 2008

The dike of a waste-holding pond at a power plant fails, moving houses off their foundation and spreading sludge far and wide.  Here is a quote from one report:

The 40-acre pond was used by the Tennessee Valley Authority to hold a slurry of ash generated by the coal-burning Kingston Steam Plant in Harriman, about 50 miles west of Knoxville, said TVA spokesman Gil Francis. The dam gave way just before 1 a.m, burying a road and railroad tracks leading to the plant under several feet of dark gray mud.

Some report have incorrectly reported that this is a “mine disaster.”   While this is no doubt a disaster, it is not a mining-related disaster, unless you tenuously link coal mining to coal-powered power plants and their waste impoundments.  Yet this incident will be blamed on mines and mining, and we must act to correct this stream of toxic mis-information.


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The snow is still deep and the car is still lost in the drifts; but it is Christmas day so there is no concern or urgency to dig it out.  

The daughters are preparing the large-meal.  Up until now I have pretty much done the cooking as they fussed the kids.  But just for this meal, they may have the honor. 

We went sledding down the hill behind the complex.  A simple orange piece of plastic, but it sped down the snow-covered road where no car can pass.  The grandson delighted in the movement, but only as long as his aunt or grandpa was sitting behind him.  Pull the sled up the hill was all he would do alone.  He is almost as conservative as a banker lending to a junior mining company.


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The snow continues unabated.  All the kids are in town—except for one spouse who choose to come up late and is now faced with a long drive along snowy roads.  It truly is a white Christmas, and so I say HAPPY CHRISTMAS, HOLIDAY SEASON, Celebration, or just family-gathering time according to your instincts, beliefs, and convictions.

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As the holidays progress and people get to their destinations in spite of snow and ice, we pause to enjoy this story  –OK we should not glorify the thief, but these two are so inept, we can but relish the comedy:

Merced County sheriff’s deputies took two Chowchilla men into custody early Sunday on suspicion of trying to steal gold from a Snelling mining plant.

The men, 59-year-old Larry David Bullard and 44-year-old Michael Anthony Foster, were busted at the plant after deputies were alerted to the break-in by an alarm system, according to sheriff’s spokesman Tom MacKenzie.

Bullard and Foster were trying to steal bags of sand from the plant, MacKenzie said, with the intention of filtering it for gold. “They were going to take bags of sand and get the gold out of them later,” MacKenzie said.

The men were arrested around 1 a.m., after a deputy spotted them, dressed in black, inside the plant. MacKenzie said the suspects were atop the plant’s gold room with a vacuum, which they brought to suck up the sand. The duo also brought several canvas bags to store the sand, MacKenzie said.

Bullard was arrested in September 2000 for committing a similar crime at the same location, MacKenzie said.

We know there is security in gold and that it is the best mining investment of the present times.  But the cost of the vacuum, the bags, and the to-do in later extracting the gold, that proves devotion to gold that goes beyond the ordinary.  Enjoy the next few days off if that is your good fortune.

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One final triumph from the First International Oil Sands Tailings Conference:  a link to the presentation by Gord McKenna of BGC Engineering on Landscape Design for Oil Sands Tailings.


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The weekend has been snow and more snow.  We cannot get out of the townhouse and to the sights of the city.  And the kids from Iowa cannot get in from Dallas where they are stranded by non-flights.  I spent an extra night in Seattle as the Californians could not leave Long Beach due to planes that could not leave Seattle.  But then, I suspect everyone has their aborted-travel tale to tell this snow-bound time of the  year. 

It would be nice to take this enforced leisure to cogitate on the best mining stories of 2008.  But that somehow seems silly in the present time.  I cannot but avoid the feeling that 2008 will go down as the year that something fundamental changed in the world, or at least the real world.  Something changed about the way the world works in 2008 and we Anglo-Saxons will never view it again with old-fashioned optimism for ever-expanding growth—-at least until the next time.  Many others have seen similar conditions often before, but that was seen by Anglo-Saxons as something that only happened to “them.”

The theory has been in the works every since the Sante Fe Institute began studying complex systems, chaos, and emergent properties.  During this past year I wrote a bit about two of the books that foretold, or at least explain, what has now happened:

The third book to read to understand what is happening is Paul Krugman’s Depression Economics

None of these three makes for uplifting inspriation, but it sure explains what is happening and why.  The scary thing is that all three emphasize that their is almost nothing we can do to avoid conditions like the present.

So before more snow covers your future, settle down to a long winter read.  Enjoy.

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It is good to see support from the National Mining Association for Obama’s pick to head the Interior Department, namely Senator Ken Salazar.  I quote:

Oil and mining interests praised Mr. Salazar’s record as a state official and as a senator, saying that he was not doctrinaire about the use of public lands for resource exploitation. “Nothing in his record suggests he’s an ideologue,” said Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association. “Here’s a man who understands the issues, is open-minded and can see at least two sides of an issue.”


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