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Archive for the ‘consulting’ 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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I am in Guatemala and at the Tahoe Resources Escobal Silver Mine. I have previously noted that I and my daughter are the engineers who designed and now give advice on the operation of the filter-pressed tailings stack. Much credit must also go to Flor de Maria Gonzalez and Sergio Aycinena of Geosimsa who are the engineers of record in Guatemala. We have worked closely with them these past four years and both have proven sound partners. Particularly Flor who as a young woman has made her mark by her excellence in a male-dominated Guatemalan mining environment.

But that is not the story I wish to tell now—maybe later—maybe at Tailings and Mine Waste in Vancouver next year if I can persuade them to come and present papers on the incredible work they have done.

Now I want to tell the story of our lunch today. A group of advisors to investors visited the site today. They did the underground trip; then we took them to the tailings facility which is looking good—see pictures above and below. Then we went to lunch.

First there was a presentation of the Escobal approach to sustainable mining. I have written much about this concept which I have always regarded with suspicion. I still do. But I have to tell that the presentation was excellent and proved that a mine can gain a social license to mine and can make a better life for people by sustainable mining or whatever it is called.

There is one fact—of many—in the excellent presentation (that I presume you can get from a representative from Tahoe–send me the request and I will forward it to them) that sticks with me. Guatemala has a very high rate of child malnutrition, and the rate in the surrounding communities is even higher than the national average. And Tahoe is working with many to reduce this rate and feed the children.

From personal observation over the four or five years that I have being coming down here I can attest that everybody looks a lot healthier now than when I first came. The kids along the village streets positively glow and prance whereas the first I saw them they were pallid and lethargic. Even the kids in the security center of the mine look amazingly healthy—even though they are so small & slim and so very young looking.

Impressive as this fact is, even more impressive to me were the questions to and answers by two senior Tahoe people. I make bold to name Ron Clayton and Don Gray. I have been this year to at least thirteen mines and examined over twenty tailings facilities. I say without hesitation that the success of Escobal must have something to do with the character and integrity of these two men. For so many of the mines I have been to have faced far lesser issues, yet have, to my mind, been absent the skill and drive of these two men and of course the others of ability they have gathered around them.

I have met with them, observed them, and consulted to them for over four years now. Generally I was the originator and bearer of bad news—mostly the fact that we needed more money spent on the tailings facility than initially estimated. They delved deep into my statements; made me justify my needs; questioned the technical and engineering issues I raised; and made me work and think and argue hard. But always, without fail, they have done and forced me to do the right thing for the tailings, the environment and the community. I did not always get what I wanted, but I always got what was needed to make the tailings a success. And I know that in the days and months and years ahead I will get what I want—even though I am in competition with the Guatemalan government for finite resources.

I know the stock price is falling. Mostly I suspect because of the raising to ten percent by the Guatemalan government of the royalty tax. Ron talked of this in measured but insightful remarks. The details I leave to others, but the bare bones is that there is silver in those hills, building community support and nurturing a mine work force from the community takes time and money, and Tahoe is doing it and intends to continue doing it.

I do not invest in mines or companies for which I work. Careful of conflict of interest of course. I admit though there were times, and today’s lunch was one, when I contemplated stopping working for Tahoe and investing in them instead. Problem is that it is so interesting and rewarding working for them that I have decided to park the investments elsewhere.

I could go on, but have to be on site to work tomorrow. So enough. Let me just emphasize: I have long been engaged as a consultant by Tahoe; I have done a lot with regard to tailings management for them; I know and respect their people; I wish I could invest in them; and I have not asked their permission to post this nor have they read it or commented on it.  For the worst they can do is fire me if they do not like what is write—-then I can go invest in them without conflict of interests concerns.

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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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Decision making in engineering demands a logical process that is well documented.  Particularly if you are selecting a new site for a mine waste disposal facility.

In 1983, Andy Robertson and I wrote a paper available at this link on site selection.  The ideas were based on what we did to locate the site of the tailings facility for the then new Greens Creek mine.  The site was selected and is still in use.

To be fair, the year before in 1982, Andy had published a paper on site selection for uranium mine wastes–see this link.  And even before that Andy and Allan Moss, now a senior rock mechanics specialist with Rio Tinto, had prepared a paper on site selection in general for mine waste facilities–see this link.

The point is that for a very long time in mining we and many others have used formal, documented procedures for selecting new sites for mine waste facilities.  Yet—even today, this very day–the procedures we eschewed are violently and gratuitously ignored.

Along the way on the UMTRA project we used different procedures to select the fourteen new site to which we relocated uranium mill tailings piles that were in eminently unsuitable locations.  The methods we used are well documented in the UMTRA Technical Approach Document.  It is available on request from the UMTRA librarian or from me if you send me a request email.   All the sites we selected are good and safe today.

You can use Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA) or Multicriteria Objectives Analysis, or any of the commercially available computer codes to undertake a formal, documented site selection process.  Seems like forever ago that I wrote the stuff at this link where I listed some of the codes.  Truth is the codes from Palisade are probably the best.

Yet even today, this very day, there are projects of great significance involving the relocation of acid generating uranium mine waste where an opinionated project manager is selecting the new site on the basis of personal opinion. Of course they get it wrong.  That is inevitable.  When the characteristics of the site are so apparent that they cannot deny the unsuitability of the site, they wave a magic wand, issue an imperial decree, and say: “Leave that site and go to that other one instead.”  No reason or rationale in this benevolent, omnipotent dictator approach.  Poor (dumb) old taxpayers saddled with the costs of these silly decrees.

My opinion is that people get the government they deserve.  Maybe in this case the people of the country are getting what they deserve:  obdurate, opinionated, ignorant, public-paid project managers.  Serves ‘em right for being so callous.

The point is that too often the science and engineering is old and well known.  But young bucks of uncertain education and ability, with no curiosity or perspective, blunder ahead in full confidence of their ability.  Pity the environment; pity the taxpayer; and pity the integrity of engineering.  Is that why the Roman empire fell?

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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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A million here.  A million there.  Who cares?  It is just taxpayer money spent by your local government providing the services you expect to be provided at no cost!  Just learnt that HATCH has been awarded a contract by the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) to review the independent reviews of BC tailings dams that MEM ordered pursuant to the failure of Mt Polley. (more…)

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Travelling in northern Peru we chanced on Chavin de Huantar.  We wondered around; I took pictures; and only now have I gotten down to reading on the web about the site.  This place is old, and gives some idea of just how long we could design mine closure works for if we choose.  Here is what Wikipedia says (more…)

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