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Archive for June, 2009

As an investor in mining, can you make money following the trail of western companies flirting with the Chinese & Chinalco?   First it was Rio Tinto whose top brass saw the Chinese as a possible saviour from BHP.  Now we have Anglo America demurely fluttering eyelids at the Chinese Mining Dragon as a possible saviour from Xstrata.  Not to talk of Canadians in Ivanhoe who are having  “courtesy visits” with the Chinese ,who after the meeting said they are ” willing to proceed with wide and deep cooperation with Ivanhoe.” 

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The good seldom succeed in opera.  They are generally undone by the evil and wicked who sing tuneful arias.  Thinks but of Tosca and Butterfly.  Aggripina is such an opera: it is one of Handel’s “soap opera” operas.  Three randy males are in love with Poppaea: Claudius Ceasar, Nero who becomes Caesar, and the true love Otho.  Aggripina is Nero’s mother and she plots to put him on the throne.  History tells us she succeeds, only to have Nero arrange her drowning some three years into his reign. 

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“That which we call a rose would smell as sweet by any other name.”  Maybe.  This could have been said by either Romeo or Juliet as they contemplated their lover’s surname, the name of a sworn family enemy. 

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For miners today’s ruling by the US Supreme Court is probably the most significant of the year. I refer to the ruling in Coeur Alaska v. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council.  The details are readily available at this link.  It boils down to the simple fact that tailings are fill and their discharge into waters of the United States is governed by the US Army Corp and not the US EPA.   If they move fast enough, Couer Alaska Inc. can now get their mine going and put the tailings into Lower Slate Lake in Alaska. 

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Just had a drink in the local pub and a heated discussion of the need for professional registration by mining engineers.  I am sure I lost a good part of the argument, so to update myself I took a look at the SME publication Study Guide for the Professional Registration of Mining/Mineral Engineers.  

As background and by way of admission:  I am a registered professional civil engineer in California, and have been for many years.  I have signed many documents on the impact of earthquake-related geotechnical factors on domestic structures.  I value my P.E., but I have no illusions about what it means.  I have worked many years providing consulting civil engineering advice to lawyers and have learnt to be circumspect about the meaning, value, and drawbacks of overly free use of the P.E. stamp.  I have consulted for many years to mining companies, and have never once been called on to sign a document for a mining company with my P.E. stamp.  (more…)

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What if John McCain had become president?  That is an intriguing question to ponder over copious beer, brandy, and wine.  Sure there would have been more diamonds on the First Lady and that would have been good for diamond sales, which now are in a slump.  Maybe six big cars would still be a symbol of success (I think that is how many he has) and platinum would be booming.   Palin would be powerful and the Pebble Mine would be accelerating.   I doubt anything would be different in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, or North Korea. 

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He is about 45, a registered professional engineer and works in the province just west of Saskatchewan.  His annual salary is about $160 K.  Of course there are bonuses and stock options on top of that.

Compare his salary to those of professional engineers and geoscientists in Saskatchewan.  The following numbers come from Issue 120, May/June 2009 of The Professional Edge, a magazine put out by the professional societies in Saskatchewan.  In this issue they report on the APEGS 2009 Salary Survey.  The median salary for professional mining engineers is reported to be $91 K.  Environmental engineers get a median of only $73 K and civil engineers a paltry $78 K. Chemical engineers do best at $91 K.

You salary as a professional engineer or geoscientist in Saskatchewan also depends on whether you can put P.Eng. or P.Geo., or both behind your name.  Those who can claim both designations earn a median of $117 K as compared to a simple P.Eng. who gets only $94 K.  A simple P.Geo. only gets $110 K.   As an engineer I must suspect discrimination or at least an old-geo network?

Of course the longer you have been working, the higher your take-home pay.  If you graduated in 1974 (not that long ago by my reckoning) you earn a median $125 K. Graduate in 1984 and earn a median of $106 K. Similarly 1994 at $95 K; and 2004 at $70 K.  That old issue of age discrimination pops up in that, if you graduated before 1974, your median earning is but $105 K.  And what did they teach those who graduated in 1979?  They get $130 K, the highest of them all. 

There are many fascinating facts in the full suite of numbers.  So get them, take a look, and decide if you want to go to or leave S to work as a P.Eng. or P.Geo.  Maybe just go west young man.

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