Too many sub-par publications sprout on about the shortage of experienced engineers in mining. “They are retiring and will leave the industry bereft,” is what the young journalists write too often.
Tonight we walked north to a Spanish restaurant in Los Condes, Santiago and drank ourselves drunk and considered this issue. “It is good to be old, independent, and an expert who is called in to moderate and keep things on track,” is what we agreed.
My dinner companion supervised my masters thesis. He went on to be the chief engineer for a large mining company, and I went on to be a blogger. We chatted with the ease and honesty that characterized our discussions in a basement flat in Hillbrow fifty years ago.
We agreed that paste tailings is a fashionable myth—there are no successful paste tailings projects. We agreed that filter-pressed tailings is the way to go. We agreed that paste tailings is a religion, not a science. And we agreed that if you deposit the tailings at a rate of rise that exceeds the rate of evaporation, there is no point is worrying–you will get back as much water as is physically possible.
We agreed that if you do not consider geomorphology in the design and performance assessment of the closed mine, you are going to get it wrong. It is all about long-term erosion. Even the Pebble Mine is not permitted unless they can prove that long-term geomorphology will not impact the fish of Bristol Bay.
He is no longer that slim, lean fellow I knew and admired. He is grown rotund in spite of walking. Yet his mind is as sharp as it was fifty years ago. He is retired and now working nearly full-time as a specialist consultant to world-wide mining groups. I have attack this group in this blog. He confessed he has not read what I have written and could not care what I have said. Why should he? We are friends of fifty-years vintage.
We bemoaned the fact that young engineers are inexperienced and impetuous—just like we were back then. The difference is that now there are old, experienced engineers like us, whereas back then there was nobody ahead of or older & wiser than us. So the young have a more difficult job than we did: they have to deal with opinionated, old engineers like us.
The point is that old miners and old mining engineers are still valuable, at work, and contributing. We are still a force to be reckoned with. And we still make mining more effective, regardless of what the young say and think.