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Archive for the ‘Mining history’ Category

This weekend opera from the sublime to the ridiculous, or from the ridiculous to the sublime.  Depends on your opera tastes.  We started on Saturday morning with the MET broadcast of the Merry Widow, an operetta with lots of spoken dialogue and catchy tunes, and an easy love story with a happy ending.  We finished with Richard Strauss’ Salome.  A short, brutal opera of lust, violence, and death.  Solome is killed by Herod’s soldiers after  emoting on the severed head of John the Baptist.

At one point in the opera, Solome compares the lips of Jokanaan to the vermilion the kings take from the mines of Moab.  Try as I might I cannot find a Google reference to the mines themselves.  Plenty of leads to Wilde’s original play on which the opera is based.  He puts these words in Salome’s mouth as she talks of the lips of Jokanaan:

It is like the vermilion that the Moabites find in the mines of Moab, the vermillion that the kings take from them. It is like the bow of the King of Persians, that is painted with vermilion, and is tipped with coral. There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth…suffer me to kiss thy mouth.

The opera is less wordy–Salome sings only thy lips are like the vermilion the kings take from the mines of Moab.  Kiss me.  Jokanaan refuses her offer in both the opera and the play and gets his head cut off in spite.

There is this from Jeremiah 48-31

30“I know his fury,” declares the LORD, “But it is futile; His idle boasts have accomplished nothing. 31“Therefore I will wail for Moab, Even for all Moab will I cry out; I will moan for the men of Kir-heres. 32“More than the weeping for Jazer I will weep for you, O vine of Sibmah! Your tendrils stretched across the sea, They reached to the sea of Jazer; Upon your summer fruits and your grape harvest The destroyer has fallen.…

All rather confusing if you did deeper, which I am not keen to do, but did, and found nothing about the mines of the Moabites.  Plenty about the destruction of their fields, but nothing about their mines.

At this link, is Jeremiah 22-13 to 15, which read

13“Woe to him who builds his house without righteousness And his upper rooms without justice, Who uses his neighbor’s services without pay And does not give him his wages,14Who says, ‘I will build myself a roomy house With spacious upper rooms, And cut out its windows, Paneling it with cedar and painting it bright red.’ 15“Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink And do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.…

Further down the link page is this extensive commentary on the verse.

That saith, I will build me a wide house,…. Or, “a house of measures”, or, “dimensions” (i); a very large house, whose length and breadth measure much consisting of many spacious rooms, upper as well as lower; as follows: 

and large chambers; or, “widened ones”; very spacious and roomy; or “aired”, or “airy (k) ones”; through which the wind blows, or into which much air comes; so that they were good summer chambers, for which they might be built: 

and cutteth him out windows; to let in light and air, as well as for ornament. Some render it, “and teareth my windows” (l); as if he had taken some of the windows of the temple, and placed them in his palace, and so was guilty of sacrilege; but this is not very likely: 

and it is ceiled with cedar; wainscotted with it; or the roof of it was covered with cedar, as Jarchi; or its beams and rafters were made of cedar, as Kimchi; it might be lined throughout with cedar: 

and painted with vermilion. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “sinopis”; so called from Sinope, a city in Pontus, where it is found; of which Pliny says (m) there are three sorts, one red, another reddish, and a third between them both: this is the same with “minium” or vermilion. Strabo (n) says, in Cappadocia the best Sinopic minium or vermilion is produced, and which vies with that of Spain; and he says it is called sinopic, because the merchants used to bring it to that place (Sinope) before the commerce of the Ephesians reached the men of this country, Cappadocia; other versions (o), besides the Vulgate Latin, so render it here. Schindler (p) renders the Hebrew word by this; and also by “cinnabar”, which is a red mineral stone, and chiefly found in quicksilver mines; and may be thought to be quicksilver petrified, and fixed by means of sulphur, and a subterraneous heat; for artificial cinnabar is made of a mixture of mercury and sulphur sublimed, and reduced into a kind of fine red glebe; and this is called by the painters vermilion; and is made more beautiful by grinding it with gum water, and a little saffron; which two drugs prevent its growing black: and there are two kinds of vermilion; the one natural, which is found in some silver mines, in form of a ruddy sand, of a bright beautiful red colour; the other is made of artificial cinnabar, ground up with white wine, and afterwards with the whites of eggs. There are two sorts of it that we have; the one of a deep red; the other pale; but are the same; the difference of colour only proceeding from the cinnabar’s being more or less ground; when fine ground, the vermilion is pale, and is preferred to the coarser and redder. It is of considerable use among painters in oil and miniature (q); and here it may be rendered, “anointed with minium” or “vermilion” (r); but it is questionable whether this vermilion was known so early. Kimchi here says, it is the same which the Arabians call “zingapher”, or cinnabar. The Hebrew word is “shashar”, which Junius and Tremellius translate “indico” (s); and observe from Pliny (t), that there is a people in India called Sasuri, from whence it is brought; but this is of a different colour from minium or vermilion; the one is blue, the other red; but, be it which it will, the painting was for ornament; and either colours look beautiful.

Maybe better just to enjoy the operas.

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Today was a perfect summer day in Vancouver; although it is still officially winter.  I slept late in the sun streaming through the bedroom windows.  I rode my bicycle to and from work in the warmth of the sun, although it was a trifle cold coming home as, short of breath, I walked the hills that become steeper every year.

I did no work of note:  answer emails, chat with colleagues, edit an upcoming EduMine course presentation.  Nothing of intellectual challenge or worth.  Just what you would do on a lazy, sunny day.

I am lucky; for what does it matter if I work or do not work?   Nobody cares for my opinion, except when I tell the truth—when they get bent out of shape.  The bank manager has more of my money invested than I can touch—all I need to do is get him to support me in idleness.  I have decided to stop smoking–except my pipe–for that will save me money and make me better able to ride my bike this summer, which I intend to do until I am lean & mean like those old farts at Granville Island who are far older, skinnier, and fitter than me.

Yet my heart today could not shake off a conversation I had with a young engineer let go last week as his company is contracting as commodity prices fall.  He has three children, has just bought a new house, and is now without a job.

He has been my client.  I have done work for him.  He is a good engineer: he asks the right questions; he demands the appropriate answers; he uses my advice prudently; he advances the cause of his employer.  It was a pleasure and an honor to work for him.  I learnt and he learnt and we advance the state-of-the-art.  Yet he is laid off.  My heart bleeds for him, for I have been in this situation.

In 1983 the mining industry collapsed.  As manager SRK Vancouver, I laid off twenty, including myself and Andy Robertson.  It is a long story how we survived; but we did.

In the mid 1990s, I was told to leave a site because I challenged the incumbent privileges.  The project eventually did what I told them was the thing to do.  But only after firing me and two others.

I lost my drive some ten years ago when my then-wife of 34 years eloped with a very rich man (five cars, a private plane, monthly trips to Vegas, and lodges in Africa).  I lost my drive and care to help clients.  So I “retired” and spent years riding my bike, watching opera, and writing EduMine courses.

The point is that I have “lost” my job at least three times.  It happens in life and in mining, no less than in other walks of life.  I have survived: brushed off the dust, stood up, and moved on.  Yet still my heart bleeds for the young man with three children, a new house, and no job.  He is a good engineer and will, I trust, survive.  But what anguish and struggle until then.

Me and the young engineer I write of are but a very few examples of many more who are affected by the ups and downs of mining.  Our stories are never told as individuals.  We are but statistics for journalists.  Yet our pain and struggle is real and wrenching.  So pause if you can to help one of those laid of in the mass waves of layoffs in the current mining downturn.

 

 

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Every Sunday we would go from the mine, East Geduld, where my father was a mine captain,  to my grandmother and step-grandfather for lunch.  My step-grandfather was a winder on the mines–a job that probably no longer exists.  Joe was his name and we called him Grandpa Joe.  He has tall and ginger.  He came from Ireland, courted my grandmother who ran Ma Brett’s Boarding House as a way to survive after the death of my grandfather–leaving her three children to bring up. (more…)

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Last week I needed to brush up on stability analysis of waste rock dumps or embankments as they are sometimes called.  I went to the obvious sources: EduMine.  I opened the course Design  and Operation of Large Waste Dumps by Tim Eaton and Scott Broughton. In the section on Analysis they present a masterful description of the various failure modes and how to analyse them. They add this on probability of failure: (more…)

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I was asked recently to comment on the factor of safety and the probability of failure.  I declined, because I have been thinking about it, using it, and writing about it forever.  I went back to one of the first pieces I wrote, The Engineer and the Probability of Failure.  You can download a copy at this link.   It was an occasional piece in a magazine in South Africa.  It is dated October 1978. I based the piece on a court case in South Africa where the judge wrote: (more…)

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Flexible Evaporation Solutions

Walked around the exhibit hall at the Denver SME convention.  Chatted to old friends and met new people–and learnt of new products. Suddenly my mind was cast back to my days as a kid on the East Geduld Mine in South Africa where we grew up.  The area was arid; there were no natural water bodies within two-hundred miles.  One of our favorite places was the mine’s evaporation ponds.  On our rickety bicycles we would break through the flimsy security gate and spend hours around the ponds.  They were magic: a wonderland of color and water.  Better than those fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. (more…)

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Last night we attended the International Mining magazine’s induction of new members of the Mining Hall of Fame.

It was a grand affair.  Many worthy folk in the mining industry were inducted.  I am told that the March or April issue of the magazine will document their achievements and contributions to mining.

I note only Andy Robertson who was inducted for these contributions:

  • Founding of Steffen Robertson and Kirsten, now SRK.
  • Founding of GemCom that now has the name Geovia.
  • Founding of InfoMine and EduMine, both of which I contribute to.
  • Founding of Robertson Geoconsultants for which I work.
  • Leading the way forward on responsible tailings management.
  • Leading the technology on acid mine drainage.

I might add that it was Andy who got me started on this blog.  Although he has had occasion to rue that lead and the blog, for on a number of occasions he has been asked to tell me to remove postings.  As a true gentleman, he has done so with discretion and dignity.

In his acceptance speech Andy thanked his family, his colleagues, and his clients–all of whom have supported his hard work.  He mentioned only one name:  Professor Jere Jennings who taught so many of us in mining geotechnology the basics of the art.  His contributions and memory live on in people of Andy’s caliber.

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