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Here are two links to two very different reports on Tahoe’s Escobal mine in Guatemala.  I need to rush to join clients for drinks and supper, so no comment other than to repeat what one of the articles reports on what I said in an interview with the reporter.  Oh Dear! (more…)

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I am not sure I can do it. Can I put in words what it takes to be a great engineer? It is easy to recognize a great engineer when you work with them. I have these past few days worked with a great engineer whom I had not met before. I just know he is a great engineer. But as I said, I am not sure I can in words justify my gut emotion. Let me try, for if I fail this is but a blog posting–one of many, in fact posting 1,953 or thereabouts.

We drove around the sites together. We got out to look and to feel the soil & tailings. We joked that it is no longer considered safe to put the soil between tongue and top of palate to determine if it is a clay or silt. We both used to do that before H&S became a dictator. We shared observations about the vegetation–a sure sign of soil type and groundwater flow. We delighted in the scarp face of a soil failure zone caused by excessive seepage. And we kicked the rocks with glee to see them roll rugged, gray, and non-acid generating down the slope. We marveled at the track marks up the slope where the fussy site overseer continuously dressed the slope. And we poked our ears down the penstock to listen to water flowing when it should not.

He knew the history of the dams: the people who designed them; the problems that arose during construction; the failures during raising; the incidents not reported; the current need for more information; and the way the impoundments must be constructed so that they may be operated for twenty years and more.

We nodded or winked when referring to clients past and present who did not provide adequate budget. We shrugged a shoulder when agreeing the mine gets what is pays for and pays for a lot more when it does not pay its consultants to do what they know needs to be done.

Instinctively we concurred that the mine deserves its sorrows when it cuts budgets or defers inevitable capital expenditure and maintenance.

He has that singular gift of focusing on what is relevant. He cut through the underbrush that distracts the inexperienced and unskilled. He calmly focused on the sights, sounds, and senses of that which will fail soon if not remediated. And ignored the spectacular but irrelevant.

Yet he has been a good consultant to the miners. He has used judgment when the youth would have demanded finite element analyses. He has made quick decisions based on knowledge and experience when the youth would have waded through tests, trials, and tribulations. He has produced in the face of small budgets and demanding miners.

And now as he gets old, he gets patient. There is no hurry. So what if the report is late or never produced. “Just hear me and do it.”

And that is the ultimate sign of a great engineer: they know they are right and know they do not and cannot write enough to prove they are right.

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More than twenty-five years ago, I spent six months in Oak Ridge, Tennessee opening the Jacobs Engineering office.  Then we won a job that required me to move to Pasadena, California.  This week I am back in the state and see much change.  Highway 40 from Oak Ridge to Knoxville was a quiet road.  Now it is continuous commercial development and an eight-lane freeway.  The weather is still perfect and the people still have that wonderful can-do attitude.

Those miners I have been with this week are so American.  Their attitude is always:  that is a great idea–we can do it; but here is a better idea–what do you think?

So we leapfrog from issue, to question, to idea, to analysis, to solutions.  And the outcome is a positive advance based on mutual agreement.

Did you know that Tennessee is a mining place?  One of the largest producers of zinc concentrate?  Some of the mines are one-hundred and more years old.  Of course there is still some coal mining, but I know little of that.  As the picture above shows, natural gas is a thing I thought not off way back then.

The food is great:  meat and sauces, fries, and sweet tea.  Then there are those many variations of Jack Daniel’s that I cannot get elsewhere.  Right now I type to the tune of Winter Jack: “A seasonal blend of apple cider liqueur & Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.”  Magnificent.  No wonder mining is so smooth.

I am told the regulators are great people to work with.

So the mines advance with the usual issues to be dealt with: too much vegetation in waterways & spillways; seepage through rock embankments; tailings pools too close to dikes; the threat of hurricane-induced probable maximum precipitation; and the New Madrid earthquake that makes this a region where seismic stability analyses are no deal and a big deal.

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Spent this past week in Quebec looking at mines.   This brought us to Rouyn-Noranda and food at Bistro Jezz.

The food at this little place on a quiet side-street is magnificent: the best I have tasted in many a year of travel to distant mines.

Take a special trip to this restaurant if you seek and relish good food.  Subtle flavours, beautiful presentation, unusual dishes.  Words cannot capture the beauty of fine food in a simple setting.

Here are some photos from this trip.

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I have not posted on this blog the past few days.  The reason:  I was at a fly-in, fly-out camp where the internet connection is sporadic & they do not make it easy to access spurious blogs.   Plus the weather was terrible:  ice-rain in which planes could not fly. (more…)

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Today my attention was directed to the new Guide For Mine Closure Planning.   The guide is prepared by IBRAM which is short for Instituto Brasilero de Mineracao, or in English the Brazilian Mining Association.  Well worth downloading and perusing if your interest lie in mine closure. The guide is focused around these seven guidelines: (more…)

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The news report today that caught my attention is this. Politicians say such strange things!

Argentina’s mining minister, Jorge Mayoral, surprised quite a few of the 300 executives present an annual luncheon last week, by calling its neighbouring Chile and Peru mining models “a failure.”

According to Mining Press (in Spanish), the official was especially critical of the other two countries openness to foreign investors. Mayoral said Argentina did not want mining in a Chilean or Peruvian way:

“We want mining our way, which means we want to favour domestic suppliers, local management, make sure jobs are taken by technical and professionals coming out of our universities, that respect for the environment is a priority, and most importantly, that all this is done in a safe matter,” he was quoted as saying.

Ironically, the minister also called on his Chilean peer, Aurora Williams, to expedite a decision on Barrick Gold’s Pascua Lama project, which has been halted since last year, after a number of defeats in local courts about water use and the impact on glaciers in the area. While later Barrick stopped construction of the $8.5 billion project as part of its debt-reduction and cost-cutting program, it is still facing major fines and a class action lawsuit because of it.

A report released by the government in March shows Argentina’s mining sector is expected to attract about $4 billion this year, with US and Indian companies reportedly interested in developing the nation’s copper and lithium.

(more…)

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I am not a meeting person.  I fall asleep in meetings as the committee queens pontificate.  Worse: I grow irritated as the bobbing heads proffer opinions about things they know nothing about.  Even worse: I get into inane arguments with egos that see this as a contest of gladiators. (more…)

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Risk assessments for mine closure are not common.  Yet I believe this is changing.  Some evidence is this new document from Chile:  Guia Metodologia de Evaluacion de Riesgos Para el Cierra de Faenas Mineras.  Here is the link to the website where you can download a copy of the document just in case the link to the document itself as provided in the title does not work. (more…)

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Next week in Brazil is the first InfoMine conference on Mine Closure.  About ninety folk will gather to discuss mine closure in Brazil and South America.  I have read the papers: not a lot of fascination to the rest of us.  Mostly about the theory and postulated future of mine closure laws & regulations in countries that currently have none. The middle of May, I present an EduMine webcast on Mine Closure.  In the  webcast I will review the best few papers from the Brazil conference.  I will also present current case histories of mine closure that I am working on.  And I will go through the theory and practice and issues of mine closure in general.  Come join me. (more…)

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