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Archive for the ‘Human relations and mining’ Category

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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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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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The premise is that you can find the job you seek at the new-format, newly-updated CareerMine.  See this link: http://www.infomine.com/careers/  The top two jobs at Suncor: one a welder and the other a mechanical maintenance supervisor.  Not my dream jobs! (more…)

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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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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 a copy of an email alert that I received today.  All about a new book on gender in mining.  I quote below from the email and from the Amazon.com site where you can buy the book. (more…)

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