Today the papers for the upcoming conference Tailings and Mine Waste 2011 went to the printer. The conference is in Vancouver November 6th and following. There are still about 40 places left to take full attendance to the limit of rooms size of 300.
There are more than sixty papers, and if they were all as thoroughly reviewed and re-edited as many times as mine were, they will be worth reading.
Here is a brief history of this particular conference which is now one of the conference highlights of the year, being respected, attended, quoted, and authoritative.
The first conference in the series was held in 1978. It was organized by the Geotechnical Engineering Program of the Civil Engineering Department of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado. The organizing committee was John Nelson, Thomas Shepherd, Steven Abt, Wayne Charlie, and John Welsh. The authors have been privileged to know and work with these people. The first conference was on Uranium Mill Tailings Management, for that was the hot tailings topic of the time.
The series of conferences on uranium mill tailings continued through 1985. The nine volumes of proceedings total some 3,700 pages. By 1984, the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project was well underway. The development of new uranium mines had declined and interest in uranium tailings was no longer wide-spread. Plus the industry had become aware of hazardous waste.
Thus in 1984 and 1985, the conference title was expanded to Management of Uranium Mill Tailings, Low-level Waste and Hazardous Waste. As the organizing committee notes in a preface to the 1984 proceedings: “During the last five years, significant problem areas have been defined in low-level waste and hazardous waste management that have definite similarities to uranium mill tailings management. Much interrelated technology has been developed that has direct applicability in each of the different areas. For that reason, this conference includes papers dealing with this broader scope.”
In 1986, the organizing committee, this time consisting of Steve Abt, John Nelson, Richard Wardwell, and Dirk van Zyl changed the title and focus to Geotechnical and Geohydrological Aspects of Waste Management. They note their reasons in the preface: “The first five annual symposia focussed on the design, construction, and operation of uranium tailings impoundments. The sixth and seventh were of broader scope, and included low-level and hazardous waste management. This eighth symposium continues the process of technology transfer but focuses more precisely on the geotechnical and geohydrological aspects of waste management: the two engineering areas of prime importance in the design and operation of waste disposal facilities.” This symposium attracted about fifty-five papers spread over nearly 558 pages of proceedings. This same focus was maintained for the 1987 conference.
By 1988 the uranium market had declined, mills had closed, and support for a symposium on uranium mill tailings, hazardous waste, or most any topic associated with mine waste had declined. The mining industry was in a slump and few were lucky enough to go to a conference on any topic.
In 1994, Colorado State University, the sponsor of the uranium mill tailings conferences, resuscitated the conference series as Tailings and Mine Waste, the title by which the series goes today. As the organizers noted: “It is hoped that this conference will serve the same function for the general mining industry that the previous symposia served for the uranium mining industry.”
The proceedings of 1994 contain twenty-seven papers. The proceedings from 1995 contain a mere fourteen. By 2003, the paper count was up to sixty and the venue was Vail, Colorado.
In 2004 the paper count and attendance reduced leading to a negative financial situation for the conference and reluctance on the part of the management of the Department of Civil Engineering at Colorado State University to support the conference series.
In late 2007 an organizational committee was established in Colorado and through the support of a number of consulting engineering companies and suppliers, a stable financial basis was established for the conferences in Colorado. It was also decided to rotate the conference series between Colorado State University and two Canadian Universities. The following sequence was established: 2008 Colorado State University, 2009 University of Alberta, 2010 Colorado state University, 2011 University of British Columbia, 2012 Colorado State University, etc. In 2008, the conference was back in Vail and at this time John Nelson was the honorary Conference Chair.
2009 saw us in Banff and 2010 back in Vail. This year it is Vancouver. The proceedings of those conferences sit proudly on out shelves attesting to the enormous success of the industry and the conference that is now a part of the stable roster of dependable things to do each year.
So come join us in Vancouver in the rain of November this year.