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Today was a perfect summer day in Vancouver; although it is still officially winter.  I slept late in the sun streaming through the bedroom windows.  I rode my bicycle to and from work in the warmth of the sun, although it was a trifle cold coming home as, short of breath, I walked the hills that become steeper every year.

I did no work of note:  answer emails, chat with colleagues, edit an upcoming EduMine course presentation.  Nothing of intellectual challenge or worth.  Just what you would do on a lazy, sunny day.

I am lucky; for what does it matter if I work or do not work?   Nobody cares for my opinion, except when I tell the truth—when they get bent out of shape.  The bank manager has more of my money invested than I can touch—all I need to do is get him to support me in idleness.  I have decided to stop smoking–except my pipe–for that will save me money and make me better able to ride my bike this summer, which I intend to do until I am lean & mean like those old farts at Granville Island who are far older, skinnier, and fitter than me.

Yet my heart today could not shake off a conversation I had with a young engineer let go last week as his company is contracting as commodity prices fall.  He has three children, has just bought a new house, and is now without a job.

He has been my client.  I have done work for him.  He is a good engineer: he asks the right questions; he demands the appropriate answers; he uses my advice prudently; he advances the cause of his employer.  It was a pleasure and an honor to work for him.  I learnt and he learnt and we advance the state-of-the-art.  Yet he is laid off.  My heart bleeds for him, for I have been in this situation.

In 1983 the mining industry collapsed.  As manager SRK Vancouver, I laid off twenty, including myself and Andy Robertson.  It is a long story how we survived; but we did.

In the mid 1990s, I was told to leave a site because I challenged the incumbent privileges.  The project eventually did what I told them was the thing to do.  But only after firing me and two others.

I lost my drive some ten years ago when my then-wife of 34 years eloped with a very rich man (five cars, a private plane, monthly trips to Vegas, and lodges in Africa).  I lost my drive and care to help clients.  So I “retired” and spent years riding my bike, watching opera, and writing EduMine courses.

The point is that I have “lost” my job at least three times.  It happens in life and in mining, no less than in other walks of life.  I have survived: brushed off the dust, stood up, and moved on.  Yet still my heart bleeds for the young man with three children, a new house, and no job.  He is a good engineer and will, I trust, survive.  But what anguish and struggle until then.

Me and the young engineer I write of are but a very few examples of many more who are affected by the ups and downs of mining.  Our stories are never told as individuals.  We are but statistics for journalists.  Yet our pain and struggle is real and wrenching.  So pause if you can to help one of those laid of in the mass waves of layoffs in the current mining downturn.

 

 

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Last night we attended the International Mining magazine’s induction of new members of the Mining Hall of Fame.

It was a grand affair.  Many worthy folk in the mining industry were inducted.  I am told that the March or April issue of the magazine will document their achievements and contributions to mining.

I note only Andy Robertson who was inducted for these contributions:

  • Founding of Steffen Robertson and Kirsten, now SRK.
  • Founding of GemCom that now has the name Geovia.
  • Founding of InfoMine and EduMine, both of which I contribute to.
  • Founding of Robertson Geoconsultants for which I work.
  • Leading the way forward on responsible tailings management.
  • Leading the technology on acid mine drainage.

I might add that it was Andy who got me started on this blog.  Although he has had occasion to rue that lead and the blog, for on a number of occasions he has been asked to tell me to remove postings.  As a true gentleman, he has done so with discretion and dignity.

In his acceptance speech Andy thanked his family, his colleagues, and his clients–all of whom have supported his hard work.  He mentioned only one name:  Professor Jere Jennings who taught so many of us in mining geotechnology the basics of the art.  His contributions and memory live on in people of Andy’s caliber.

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The snow blanketed us today as the Denver Society of Mining Engineers convention begun.  Yet it is warm enough to walk through the snow in shirt sleeves.  Typical Denver in winter/spring. Yesterday I attended the short course on Seismic Engineering for Tailings Dams.  It was well-attended and featured magnificent speakers who brought us up-to-date with current practice in predicting earthquakes and analyzing their impact on mine tailings dams.   Of course there was discussion of predicting the maximum credible earthquake, which Jonathan Bray says we are doing it wrong.  Contact me if you want the details. (more…)

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Here is a welcome announcement from the University of British Columbia.  An Executive MBA in Strategic Mining Management. I wish I were young enough to attend–but I am one of those soon to be demographic shifters, a baby boomer about to retire. Maybe I can lecture in my dotage on the relevance of tailings management to strategic mining management.  But they probably won’t give a blogger the podium. So be it.  We must simply applaud the move, support them, and wish them and their graduates well. Here the full announcement: (more…)

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Over coffee today I was asked: “Can they ever deposit tailings in the breached tailings facility again?”  For an investor this is a key question, for if the answer is yes, the mine can resume full production and the share price will rise.  I suspect there are many others pondering this question.  So let us here note a few ideas about what will have to be proven before deposition can resume. (more…)

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As we emerged from the elevators this evening, we were confronted by a phalanx of reporters and photographers.  Luckily they did not recognize a notorious blogger or my companion, a famous tailings engineer.   They did not take our photos.  They were waiting for officials of Imperial Metals whose offices are in the same building as ours. (more…)

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A friend accused me of being too serious of late on this blog.  So some comic relief. Last week I was updating a client’s tailings facility emergency response plan.  The Canadian Mining Association (CMA)document calls amongst other things for a statement on “Drilling and Testing.” (more…)

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