Paarl is the only South African brandy I can get in Vancouver. It is rough—not like cognac—but rather the flavor of the veldt & bush, of scrub & dust, of a long-forgotten home & inequities long-rectified. Thus inebriated, I blog.
Many years ago I wrote a proposal to do work at Greens Creek, then but a dream of a mine in Alaska. We won the proposal. I spent two summers on Admiralty Island looking for a site for the tailings facility and drilling the selected site. We went on to conclude that the only way to do it was to filter press the tailings and build a dry stack.
The client concluded that we were crazy. Only miners desperate to squeeze the last drop of product out of the tailings filter-pressed. But we were right. The approach was implemented and today twenty and more years later, the mine is still making a profit and the tailings are being filter-pressed and dry-stacked.
Other mines have taken to filter-pressed, dry-stack tailings. Marlin in Guatemala is doing it. Rob Dorey with whom we once worked must take credit. Escobal in Guatemala will be doing it before the year is out. There are other projects by others that now filter press the tailings. It is the obvious way to go if water is scares, if seismic forces are large, if the regulator hates fluid tailings in perpetuity, and you subscribe to responsible mining, which was not a phrase we knew when we told Green Creek to go filter pressing.
Today I got out another proposal to design a filter-pressed dry-stack for a proposed new mine. Their proposed rate of tailings production is an order of magnitude greater than Greens Creek. Nobody has yet done it so big, on so grand a scale. But it can be done and must be done on such scales if mining is to progress responsibly.
We may not win today’s proposal. The EPCM contractor is bound to modern rules of contract to get bids from many and select the lowest cost. I demanded that our cost be high: if they cannot afford us, that is their problem. Let them take the low bidder if they will; we will come in and sort out the mess at our cost eventually.
Like last week when I gave the client a budget for an equal amount. This was a sole-source “proposal.” They are in trouble and know we can help them. None of this stupid EPCM bidding crap. And I will help them, and my fees will be small by comparison with the issues they face and the costs they have to bear to get out of their mess.
Yet I gave in and let us propose. My first instinct was: “Screw them. If they cannot see we can do it and are the best, let them go their own way. I have enough to do as it is. Why waste precious Sundays polishing a proposal to keep their system happy?”
Yet I gave in and let our proposal proceed and be submitted. For there are many others who want & need the work. It will promote their careers and bank balances. Maybe I owe it to them. We will see how my decision turns out.