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.
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.
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.
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.