Just got back from a trip to EKATI. The usual four times a year visit to look at the Long Lake Containment Facility, aka LLCF or tailings impoundment.
Normally an interesting professional event involving hard engineering issues—most of which we solve and have solved to keep the tailings facility operational.
Keep in mind that Andy Robertson (of RGC), Clem Pellitier (of Rescan), and Don Hailey (retired from EBA) designed the tailings facility more than 15 years ago. All three companies and individuals are still involved, although us younger folk do the detailed work.
In the next week or so, tailings will go into the Beartooth Pit. It took us two years to get all to agree this is a good thing to do. And today I sat with a young man from Quebec who is now in charge of tailings management to plan the next seven years of tailings disposal to the theoretical end of mine life in 2019.
Incidently, he is a great engineer and manager and if you seek a chemical engineer of extraordinary talent who knows both diamond processing and tailings management, I recommend him. (Get in touch with me for his name and contact details.) I predict he will go far, for he has a penetrating intellect and is a natural, instinctive manager. An amazing fellow actually; I am privileged to work for such clients of ability, talent, and promise.
This morning we met at 7:30 am for breakfast and his first statement was: “Have you heard the news? We have been bought by Harry Winston.”
I had not, so we piled plates high with eggs and bacon and ate to coffee and orange juice and talked about this event.
“A stupid time to announce the take-over,” he said. “For we shut down for maintenance this week, and the takeover will distract staff and make safe work difficult.”
Others joined our table and over eggs & bacon; all talked about the take-over. The general impression was that it was about time, for budgets had been cut in the past few month, capital expenditure had been on hold, and a general sense of uncertainty had prevailed. “Now, maybe that will change,” was the universal hope.
“We are run so lean, no senior engineers here. I wonder if we will be combined with Diavik?”
“What’s the point? They are run as lean as we are. They may have few more senior engineers; but really nothing to speak of.”
“‘Of course there are lots of pipes around here. The only issue is how to get them opened and producing diamonds cheaply. Maybe combining with Diavik will extend the life of EKATI.”
“But we still have little space for tailings!”
I replied: “There is plenty of space for tailings, but it will cost a lot to make that space available. I wonder if the take-over artists looked into that fundamental issue: for we need a good deposit and a lot of tailings disposal area to make a profitable mine.”
“Whatever.” the reply. “We have to go to a meeting at which they will tell us that are jobs are secure and money will be spent wisely to keep things going in spite of the cuts and constraints of the past few months. How they will keep staff turn-over to less than 6% beats me.”
So while all you investors revel and all you financial types drool, keep in mind that real people are involved. The folk who make the mine a mine are concerned. They will nevertheless do their best to keep the mine operating. But in the face of cuts, constraints, and financial “prudence”, it is difficult to keep things safe and functional. Say a prayer for them and keep the money flowing if you hope to make this change succeed.
Who knows if I will be back? Will new, modern consultants come and make profound pronouncements on things and fuck them up? Or will the old guard continue to make it happen. I will keep you informed.