The most confident fellow in the meeting was the specialist in permitting from Toronto. He was old, like me, and in total command of his subject. He reminded us: “California is both the most difficult and yet the easiest state in the Union in which to permit a mine. It is easy because the process is simple: fill in the boxes, check off the items of the checklist, and it is done. It is the most difficult because you need to have done the work to ensure the right answer to fill in the boxes. If you do not have a comprehensive, well-thought-out, and defensive plan, you cannot fill in the boxes, complete the checklist, and get the regulators to say OK.”
He told us in no uncertain terms: “Do your science and engineering well, and I will get you the permits—fast. Come up with spurious, uncertain, questionable plans, and you fail as I cannot succeed on your behalf.”
So we are commissioned to do good & thorough engineering & science in pursuit of opening a currently closed mine.
The investor relations guy told us as we admired the closure works of the mine that was closed nearly fifteen years ago: “Fifteen years after us mining, the site will look as it is today and even better.”
I believe him. For this mine is the best closed mine I have ever seen. And it is in the desert—not an easy place to close a mine successfully. The guy in charge of closure was a genius. I look forward to reading his reports which are being copied for me as I write. One measure of his success is that I looked at the closed heap leach pad from afar and thought: “What an interesting topographic feature; I must find out what geological processed were at work to create that topography.” I did not recognize this as a closed mine waste disposal facility. I thought it was part of the natural landscape.
On closer examination it became clear that this was an old pile of soil and rock that had been leached to produce gold. But it was thick with native vegetation. I was told: “We did not use the stockpiled topsoil; invasive species like and thrive in the topsoil. By comparison the native species are able to establish in the crushed soil and rock of the pile. That is why it is, in desert terms, lush.”
When we returned to the office to look at the air photos, I realized that I had not even noticed one of the reclaimed rock dumps, so well it has been blended in with the surroundings.
Thus I must conclude: mines in deserts can be reclaimed and closed. And this mine can be opened, reworked, and closed to the sustainable benefit of the landscape. I am going to have to deny many a past blog posting on this issue. But that is what it is to come face to face with genius.