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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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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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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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Here is the outfall of the Pebble Mine and Mt Polley Mine debacles.  A report on the Seabridge Gold’s KSM Mine in BC.  The report is authored by Salmon Beyond Borders, a coalition of Alaska Native tribal members, commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen, and other groups, in consultation with Earthworks.  The press release is at this link.  The full report is at this link.  Here from the press release on the five key risks associated with the mine: (more…)

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Here is information about a new, to me, on-line magazine about mining.  The information I received that alterted me to this magazine notes as follows: (more…)

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Please take a look at the photo-essay at this link before reading the rest of this posting.  The photo-essay is of work done to get the Bingham Canyon Mine going after the very big slide they had a while ago.  It is heartening to see the effort and success.  I hope it puts you in a good mood, at least a good enough mood to deal with the rest of this posting. I do not know whether to be amused or angry about the new site Yes to Life, No to Mining.  At one level it is ludicrous.  At another level it is infuriating.  As the announcement says: (more…)

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Here is information I received as a comment on a recent blog posting:

California is an anomaly from the perspective that it is only one of 5 or 6 states or territories that do not recognize mining as an engineering discipline; along with Guam, Hawaii, Delaware and a couple of others. The need for being registered is driven primarily by the State Boards. There are several places in the industry where signatures are required: on 10K reports for certification of reserves. This requires a “qualified person” and since there are 20 states that don’t recognize geologists as a profession, then the role may be defined as engineering in some cases. There are a plethora of state and federal mining permits requiring a PE signature. Underground seals must be constructed and signed off by a PE. Roof Control and Ventilation plans and many environmental permits require signatures. As I said, California is one of the exceptions and I really don’t understand why mining is ignored when mining was at the core of the state’s formation. I will say that the lack of recognition by the State has caused some confusion regarding liability and accountability.

(more…)

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