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Archive for the ‘British Columbia’ Category

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We grow old.  Let us live in excess and expire in a whirlwind of pleasure.  Let us go from joy to joy and die in contentment.  Let us forget the past and love each new day in the intensity of life well lived.  Let us fade into the mist of a faint fall. And recall past springs and enjoy all new springs.  For life is summer, albeit winter will come.

We went to Coquitlam on Saturday to see Der Meistersinger von Nuremberg from the MET.  Pork alley is the kindest comment.  All the singers were very fat or tending to very fat and so ugly that we recoiled in horror.  Maybe they had good voices, and their mass on the stage is impressive.  But on the screen they were simply gross.  Most of the audience left after the second act.  Pity for the third act is the best and least populated by fatties.  Or at least the fattiest faded into the mass of a superb chorus.

Then tonight I watched a DVD of La Traviata and slim singers.  Beautiful.  And good singing to boot.  That is what modern, highly visual, opera is all about.

Last night we supped and talked of exs–past spouses and their follies and our lost loves and current pleasures.  How can it be that so many have deviated from marriage vows to folly and indulgence to the distress of us?

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No problem in understanding.  Consider but the stupidity and folly of BC tailings facilities.  Here is one report:

 Alliance Releases Scene of the Crime, a New Report Analysis of the Mount Polley Mine’s Tailings Storage Facility

Vancouver: 17 weeks after one of the world’s largest (by volume) heavy metals tailings catastrophes struck, smothered and polluted Hazeltine Creek near the western arm of Quesnel Lake, the BC Tap Water Alliance’s Coordinator and author, Will Koop, has released the first investigative report on Imperial Metals Corporation’s tailings dam, which engineers often refer to as a Tailings Storage Facility (TSF). The Scene of the Crime: A Preliminary Analysis and History of the Mount Polley Mine Tailings Storage Facility, provides an assessment from government and company documents probing the history and inner workings of a terrible tragedy.

At the centre of this history was an understanding and a purpose conveyed to the public in 1990 that the tailings impoundment would be carefully constructed and safely maintained so as to last an eternity, “in perpetuity.” The question is raised in the report’s Executive Summary, that if such was its purpose then “why did the Mount Polley Mining Corporation, (MPMC), wholly-owned by Imperial Metals Corporation, fail so miserably in its promise to British Columbians to do so?”

The Executive Summary states the following about this critical question:

“The findings of this preliminary / interim report provide important clues and disturbing insights for this crucial question, and for other related questions, findings that reveal a long-held trail of company carelessness, stupidity and incompetence, as randomly catalogued from 2008 to 2010 by its former Engineer of Record in only three among many annual TSF inspection reports that have been published for public review from 1998 to 2013.

In association are implications that the provincial mining regulator may have failed to properly implement its “duty of care” to British Columbians in preventing this tragedy, those public lands and waters which have been entrusted through legislation to the regulator’s legal service and administrative jurisdiction.

The findings in this preliminary report help stimulate an inevitable and sobering conclusion – that the Mount Polley mine tailings storage catastrophe could have been, and should have been, preventable. And, therefore the big questions: was this an environmental crime scene, and was there a previous and subsequent cover-up?”

If what the author writes is substantiated as fact, this will be a case that is a long time in the courts, could see some professional engineers in jail, and some consultants driven into bankruptcy.   No regulators will be reprimanded, although maybe they should be reprimanded.  No wonder the regulators have refused to make public any of the reports, many of which the author named above has unearthed.

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See also what Gordon Hoekstra writes at this link.

• At Taseko’s Gibraltar mine, following a geotechnical inspection in May, the government called for an investigation into an unusual increase in water-level readings in one of the instruments in the East Saddle Dam.

In an interview, Warnock said he has not been satisfied with the company’s response and is seeking more details.

Taseko spokesman Brian Battison said that following its investigation it recently installed upgraded instrumentation at the East Saddle Dam.

• NewGold’s New Afton mine was instructed in 2013 to report on the potential for settlement and its effects on the dam after a 15-metre-long crack was discovered parallel to the crest of Dam B. Warnock said the company has done that satisfactorily.

In an interview, Scott Davidson, the environment and social responsibility manager at New Afton, said the dam has been designed to accommodate settling, which caused the cracking, but some additional instrumentation was put in place.

There’s been no additional cracking, he said .Davidson said they have informed local First Nations and the regional district about the crack. “Ultimately, we want to be open and transparent. Especially given Mount Polley, it’s in everyone’s best interest,” said Davidson.

• At Highland Valley Copper near Kamloops, a government geotechnical inspection noted in 2013 that some reports had not been delivered on time, but added the company had developed a “very comprehensive” tailings management training program for workers and contractors.

• At Copper Mountain mine near Princeton, a failure of a tailings pipe was noted last May, which required more monitoring. At the closed Equity Silver mine near Houston, the government inspector noted in 2013 that upgrades to spillways need to be completed.

• At Huckleberry in northern B.C., also owned by Imperial Metals, the government inspection on Aug. 12 found no issues.

I suspect there is more, but we have had no time to examine and consider in full.  Too engaged in opera and parties with folk who have unfaithful exs.

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This evening I watched the Mariinsky version of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet.  This is the only ballet I like.  Mostly because of the music.  And, I suspect, because once I could recite the entire Shakespeare play.  (I was Friar Lawrence in the  high school production.)  And now in the ballet I can hear the words of every emotion.

Is there anything more moving than Juliet’s dance with her nurse?  Juliet is so innocent and joyous in anticipation of the party planned for that evening.  Better is the dance between Romeo and Juliet at the party, when they meet and fall in love.  Better is the balcony scene when they pledge their love.  No, even better is the scene at Friar Lawrence’s cell when they marry.  And the best is the morning of the night they consummate their love & marriage.

I can still hear those words:

JULIET:
Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear.
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate tree.
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.

ROMEO
It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east.
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.

For us ordinary mortals, obsessed by the silliness of Mt Polley, and publically oblivious of the delights of love, tomorrow brings the first of the reports on every tailings facility in British Columbia.  As noted in this report:

As the Dec. 1 deadline approaches for mines in B.C. to submit independent dam safety inspection reports, the Ministry of Energy and Mines announced it has selected Hatch Ltd. to assist with the oversight of the review process.

Currently there are 98 permitted tailings impoundments at 60 operating and closed metal and coal mines in B.C. All of them will be required to submit the inspection reports.

“We will know the final status of the submissions by midnight on Dec. 1, which is the deadline set by the Chief of Inspector of Mines,” ministry spokesperson, David Haslam told the Tribune.

Normally permitted mines are required to conduct a dam safety inspection each year, but when the tailings impoundment breached at Mount Polley Mine on Aug. 4, releasing 17 million cubic metres of water and 8 million cubic metres of tailings, Chief Inspector of Mines Al Hoffman issued an order requiring every mining facility in the province submit reports by the deadline.

New was the requirement that the inspections be reviewed by an independent qualified third-party professional engineer from a firm not associated with their tailings facilities, the ministry said.

“The order also included a requirement for a third-party review of the dam consequence classifications by Dec. 1, 2014,” the ministry noted in a press release. “A dam’s consequence classification is based on the potential impact to population, environment, cultural values and infrastructure should it fail, and is set according to the Canadian Dam Association Dam Safety Guidelines.”

Under the order, mines with high-, very-high or extreme consequence classifications will be required to submit Dam Break Inundation Studies and Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans which have been reviewed by a qualified professional engineer.

Hatch Ltd. was awarded the $305,000 contract and will assist the Ministry of Energy and Mines with reviewing all of the submissions to ensure consistency and compliance, work with First Nations and establish a platform to release all submissions to the public in approximately eight weeks.

Additionally members of the public and informed interest groups wishing to make submissions to the three-member independent Mount Polley Mine review panel have until Dec. 7, 2014.

Information on how to submit information can be found at http://www.mountpolleyreviewpanel.ca.

I saw the first of these on Friday.  Wow!  If they are all like this, all hell is about to break loose!  But then maybe not all will be as brutally honest as the one I saw.  I hope they are all honest, brutally honest, for the jolt, the wake-up call will forever change mining waste management, not only in BC but worldwide.  Stand by, it will be an interesting week if Hatch can get their act together and let the public see the reports as they come in.  Although I am told many have applied for an extension: work not done; opinions too strong; crowd control not ready; and lawyers in uproar.

Oh for a Friar Lawrence to tame the passions that the reports will arouse. For if no Lawrence, the entire BC mining industry will be singing and dancing to these words:

It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east.
Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
I must be gone and live, or stay and die.

No matter.  Tomorrow night I shall take Viagra, go to my lover, and we will fuck, regardless of the state of BC or international mining.  Existential pleasure transcends politics, MEM, or the state of the environment.

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It is no secret that I make money off mining.  I work as a part-time civil engineer with a consulting practice that works around the world.  I retired nearly ten years ago, after nearly ten years working on landfills, California earthquakes, and supporting lawyers representing big companies falling foul of law suites.  I have an LLB degree in addition to my civil degrees and was able to use this knowledge to translate technical and engineering issues into winning legal arguments.

But before that I had worked in mining for so many years it is embarrassing to recall.  Once retired I spent two years doing essentially nothing but enjoying grandkids–all eight of them.  But one rainy Sunday I was called in to meet some guys.  I met them drunk, wet, and dishevelled.  The rest is history.  Now they are personal friends and we have achieved great things in the oil sands industry.  From there it was a slippery slope into more than full-time consulting.  Which is how I get the mining money I freely spend.

Today I spent a fortune on a new pipe and tobacco.  I first smoked a pipe when I was fourteen. Tubby Morris and I were friends.  He desired my sister, I desired his sister.  We agreed to cooperate in the pursuit.  Neither sister cared for us as brothers or suitors.  So we did the next best thing: we went behind the barn and smoked a pipe.

As a hippie at university I was very poor.  I subsisted on a scholarship from Union Corporation, the mining company my father had worked and died for.  Today what is left of Union Corporation is deep inside BHP Billiton.  Bet they do not even recall that.  Although I do and am still grateful for those dribs of mining money that enabled me, as a long-haired student, to afford a pipe and the occasional tobacco fill.

Tubby Morris aka Brian Morris became a doctor.  I know not where he is or what good he did.  His father paid for his education from money earned owning a jewelry store in Springs.  I wonder if this posting and the wonders of the internet can find him and we can reminisce about very old times.

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This week I spent a fortune at Mark’s Work Wearhouse, the so-Canadian store.  There you buy reasonable quality clothes at high prices.  The clothes are wearable and durable.  Good quality without style or pretensions.  I bought two merino wool undershirts to keep me warm in the cold that has descended on Vancouver.  I bought a pair of leather gloves in yellow with a manufacturer’s logo on them.  Hardly style, but comfortable and warm.

Then I went to the Bay, or Hudson’s Bay as it was called, and bought a sleek set of leather gloves in brown.  Even more comfortable and warm, and with style, at least to my eyes.  Trouble is that wondering around the Bay I realized just how far out of fashion I am.  In spite of money from mining.  Or maybe because of mining instincts become reality.

On Saturday after the opera and a good meal at Wendy’s (the height of my gastronomic desires), I went to the local private liquor store and spent yet another fortune on brandy.  That is what fortifies me as I type now.  I have read that at last in April 2015 we will be able, in BC, to buy booze in the local grocery store.  I am delighted that BC is coming into the modern age.  But I will still support the local, private stores.  All a matter of rejecting government liquor stores and big companies.  Still the essential rebellious hippie, I suppose.

Then of course, contrary to what I have just said, I went to IKEA and bought new chairs and bookcases.  That old sofa was just too dirty to clean after the last visit by the grandkids who spilled coke and candy all over the uncleanable surface. And the books and DVDs I buy almost every day were just getting to be too many for the existing bookshelves. More mining money well spent.

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Finally today I paid my APEGBC P. Eng. fees. Ouch that was the most expensive purchase of the week.  For today I was informed that I have been re-registered as a professional engineer in BC.  I let my BC registration lapse more than twenty-five years ago.  Then I was in the US, was bringing up three kids, and earned a grand sum of $52,000 Canadian dollars.  And we were living in the US. And the Canadian dollar was worth even fewer US dollars than today.  And the exchange rate is bad enough today–for today I sent $2,000 dollar to my daughter so that she can continue her masters studies in Iowa to be a civil engineer specialized in town and regional planning.  Talk of mining money well spent?

The point is that I let my BC P. Eng. registration lapse.  I could not buy kid’s shoes and afford the BC registration fees.  The US company I was working with would not pay the fees as they did not work in Canada.  What was I to do faced with a choice between BC P. Eng. fees and kids’ shoes?

I was nice today to pay the APEGBC fee and immediately expense it to the company—although these day I could easily have paid out of my ample pockets.  Although I am still supporting kids in their studies.  Incomes have gone up.  Although I probably could not today afford the Vancouver house I bought in 1980 on a salary of $52,000.  In spite of a great income increase.

In being readmitted to the APEGBC I had to explain why I claimed 80 hour of professional learning activities this year.  Seemed a no-brainer.  I have spent far more than 80 hours this year writing this blog.  I decided they would not credit blog writing as professional advancement.   So I noted the two papers I wrote this year; the four papers I coauthored; the three one-day courses I gave; the four EduMine webcasts; the new EduMine on-line course on geosynthetics in mining; the conference I organized on Geosynthetic Solutions in Mining; the three conferences I attended this year; and the support I have given to younger engineers in doing a good job.

I did not mention that most of my consulting work in foreign countries involves solving new problems and writing reports about alternatives for solutions to problems not hitherto solved.  I sat back in amazement when I cogitated on the fact that I have proposed more solutions than will ever be implemented.  For ideas are always easier than implementation.

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Now by Canadian law I can call myself a civil engineer.  I have always called myself a civil engineer, even though, as I learnt reading the books on Canadian professional engineering, you cannot call yourself an engineer unless you are registered as a professional engineer.  Damn it, I got two degrees in civil engineering and nobody can stop me from telling the truth: I am a civil engineer, regardless of how many bills I pay.

In America the idea that the law could stop you calling yourself anything you wish falls foul of the uber-concept of freedom of speech.  Yet I have always maintained my California P.E. registration.  I worked hard for that one.  I had to pass the exam on seismic engineering and the exam on California survey practice—which is different from everywhere else.  Plus the Californians care nothing about continuing education.  Good for them.  I gave up my New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, and Kansas P.E.s as they demand an annual report on professional studies.  Plus the cost just skyrocketed.

My point is that money earned honestly in mining can do much good, and has done much good for me.  So sad to read the report in the issue of McLean’s that arrived today on the poverty in the Bigstone reserve in Alberta in the middle of the oil sands mines.   Those silly buggers earn $2 million a year in oil sand royalties, and they have many millions in the bank.  But they scrap amongst themselves and still have dirt road and dilapidated houses, and no education programs for their kids.  Read the complete article: it is the most depressing thing I have come across in a long time.  For they have mining money not spent. And they have depression untold.  All due to what? I I would be racialistic to write an opinion.

Let us conclude thus:  mining money prudently spent brings happiness, well-being, education, and societal advance.  But imprudence can squander such opportunities equally quickly.  You just have to get out and do things.

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This posting is a favor for someone I admire.  She seeks a job in mining and well deserves one. This evening I went to her farewell party from the company she is leaving.  She is leaving because the downturn in the mining industry means the company has to cut. The temperature was ten degrees; the rain was soft & gentle; the lights sparkled on the wet roads; a group of revellers from Fort McMurray smoked outside; the TV screens were alive with the game; and the beer was deep & good.  The poster said: “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us happy.”  So we drank more beer; mine was a pale ale of deep flavor & texture.  Chicken wings with lots of spice rounded out the party.  As did the animated conversation. We said goodbye in sadness as we celebrated her moving on.  But where to?  Maybe you can help. She is young enough and very beautiful.  But that is irrelevant.  She is enormously talented.  I have worked with her organizing a successful conference.  She did all the work.  I got the glory.  She managed many with skill, grace, and finesse.  She was ever attentive to the details and the people.  She put up with my irascibility and imperiousness.  She brought the IT folk to attention and got the surely supporters to do what they were paid to do. She went to Mexico to solve difficult corporate problems.  She went to Peru to deal with corrupt employees.  For she speaks perfect Spanish and worked many years in Mexico.  She is the person you need on your team if you deal with the particularities of Latin America.  She is tough but graceful.  I predicted she would take over the company.  I was wrong—those of more insidious political bent undermined her and got her laid off before them.  Her first but not only skill is human resources.  So maybe if you know a mining company that needs an all-rounder, she is your choice.  I bet my bottom dollar on her future. Contact me at jcaldwell@infomine.com if you need this kind of outstanding person.  I will vouchsafe for her ability and am sure you will benefit if you employ her.  Thanks as KUSC plays the Nutcracker, for Christmas comes.

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Got a long lesson in using the new format CareerMine today.  This is what I found about mining jobs for engineers in Vancouver. First up is a job with Robertson GeoConsultants (RGC).  Probably no secret that I work for RGC.  Not full time.  I take off as much time as I want to so that I can blog and visit kids and grandkids.  In fact I will be off on Wednesday to the kids in California and then a month in Spain with my son and his family in a house on the beach.  OK, I like the rain in Vancouver as much as anybody—kind of sensuous and clean, what with the lights sparkling and the streets shining.  But time in southern California and southern Spain are not to be deprecated. (more…)

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The Tyee, a local Vancouver e-newspaper with a decidedly liberal bent today published an article on peer review of Mt Polley.  David Ball is the author of the piece.  I think he did a good job in balancing the opinions. I admit to being hopelessly prejudiced in this opinion.  For if you read David’s piece, you will note that he quotes me and Nordie Morgenstern.  David called me a while ago and asked how I would have gone about preventing Mt Polley and how I would go about preventing future Mt Polleys.  We talked long about peer review.  To his credit he checked what I was telling him by contacting Nordie Morgenstern.  He also established that there is currently only one tailings facility in BC that has a peer review board. (more…)

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Just a short note to alert you to the announcement by Cliff Natural Resources that they plan to close their Bloom Lake Mine in Quebec, and that the estimated cost of closure is up to $700 million.  That is not quiet as much as is estimated for the BC KSM Mine; their closure cost estimate is a clean one billion dollars.   And compare that to the estimated $750,000,000 in bonds posted with BC for closure of all current mines in BC.  Or the billion dollar estimate to close the Giant Mine.  I am told the estimated cost to close the Faro Mine is $600,000,000 but don’t quote me on that. We will watch the unfolding of the news on the cost to close Bloom Lake.  It must surely be cheaper to keep it open indefinitely with a skeleton crew and a glimmer of hope that is will go into full production again sometime in the future.

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