I have lost count of the number of radio stations, newspapers, and magazines that have contacted me asking for opinions on the Mt Polley tailings happenings. Somehow the email from Adrian Lee of that most reputable of Canadian magazine, McLeans, had a air of intelligence the pulled me into replying. (I confess to being a regular reader of McLeans.) (more…)
Archive for the ‘mining’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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…)