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Decision making in engineering demands a logical process that is well documented.  Particularly if you are selecting a new site for a mine waste disposal facility.

In 1983, Andy Robertson and I wrote a paper available at this link on site selection.  The ideas were based on what we did to locate the site of the tailings facility for the then new Greens Creek mine.  The site was selected and is still in use.

To be fair, the year before in 1982, Andy had published a paper on site selection for uranium mine wastes–see this link.  And even before that Andy and Allan Moss, now a senior rock mechanics specialist with Rio Tinto, had prepared a paper on site selection in general for mine waste facilities–see this link.

The point is that for a very long time in mining we and many others have used formal, documented procedures for selecting new sites for mine waste facilities.  Yet—even today, this very day–the procedures we eschewed are violently and gratuitously ignored.

Along the way on the UMTRA project we used different procedures to select the fourteen new site to which we relocated uranium mill tailings piles that were in eminently unsuitable locations.  The methods we used are well documented in the UMTRA Technical Approach Document.  It is available on request from the UMTRA librarian or from me if you send me a request email.   All the sites we selected are good and safe today.

You can use Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA) or Multicriteria Objectives Analysis, or any of the commercially available computer codes to undertake a formal, documented site selection process.  Seems like forever ago that I wrote the stuff at this link where I listed some of the codes.  Truth is the codes from Palisade are probably the best.

Yet even today, this very day, there are projects of great significance involving the relocation of acid generating uranium mine waste where an opinionated project manager is selecting the new site on the basis of personal opinion. Of course they get it wrong.  That is inevitable.  When the characteristics of the site are so apparent that they cannot deny the unsuitability of the site, they wave a magic wand, issue an imperial decree, and say: “Leave that site and go to that other one instead.”  No reason or rationale in this benevolent, omnipotent dictator approach.  Poor (dumb) old taxpayers saddled with the costs of these silly decrees.

My opinion is that people get the government they deserve.  Maybe in this case the people of the country are getting what they deserve:  obdurate, opinionated, ignorant, public-paid project managers.  Serves ‘em right for being so callous.

The point is that too often the science and engineering is old and well known.  But young bucks of uncertain education and ability, with no curiosity or perspective, blunder ahead in full confidence of their ability.  Pity the environment; pity the taxpayer; and pity the integrity of engineering.  Is that why the Roman empire fell?

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Got a long lesson in using the new format CareerMine today.  This is what I found about mining jobs for engineers in Vancouver. First up is a job with Robertson GeoConsultants (RGC).  Probably no secret that I work for RGC.  Not full time.  I take off as much time as I want to so that I can blog and visit kids and grandkids.  In fact I will be off on Wednesday to the kids in California and then a month in Spain with my son and his family in a house on the beach.  OK, I like the rain in Vancouver as much as anybody—kind of sensuous and clean, what with the lights sparkling and the streets shining.  But time in southern California and southern Spain are not to be deprecated. Continue Reading »

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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! Continue Reading »

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Beset by the vicissitude of fickle fate? Bamboozle ‘em with the pappataci Mustafa songs. Hoodwink ‘em with besotted Moors.  Promise ‘em roles as kamikan (governor). Or just watch the new production of L’Italiana in Algeri from the Rossini Opera Festival at the Pesaro Teatro Comunale di Bologna.  I loved it–but then I had a bottle of brandy besides me.  Eric Myers in the latest issue of Opera News thinks otherwise.   He writes: Continue Reading »

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The Tyee, a local Vancouver e-newspaper with a decidedly liberal bent today published an article on peer review of Mt Polley.  David Ball is the author of the piece.  I think he did a good job in balancing the opinions. I admit to being hopelessly prejudiced in this opinion.  For if you read David’s piece, you will note that he quotes me and Nordie Morgenstern.  David called me a while ago and asked how I would have gone about preventing Mt Polley and how I would go about preventing future Mt Polleys.  We talked long about peer review.  To his credit he checked what I was telling him by contacting Nordie Morgenstern.  He also established that there is currently only one tailings facility in BC that has a peer review board. Continue Reading »

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Just a short note to alert you to the announcement by Cliff Natural Resources that they plan to close their Bloom Lake Mine in Quebec, and that the estimated cost of closure is up to $700 million.  That is not quiet as much as is estimated for the BC KSM Mine; their closure cost estimate is a clean one billion dollars.   And compare that to the estimated $750,000,000 in bonds posted with BC for closure of all current mines in BC.  Or the billion dollar estimate to close the Giant Mine.  I am told the estimated cost to close the Faro Mine is $600,000,000 but don’t quote me on that. We will watch the unfolding of the news on the cost to close Bloom Lake.  It must surely be cheaper to keep it open indefinitely with a skeleton crew and a glimmer of hope that is will go into full production again sometime in the future.

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The new book Nature, Choice and Social Power by Erica Schoenberger of John Hopkins University is available from amazon.com.   I got an e-copy and have read the first few chapters that deal with mining.  She writes well, so it is easy and pleasant to read.  She is not polemic, but sets out the stories and facts in an even-handed way.  If you are interested in the relationship between history, social needs, power, and mining, you will enjoy those parts of the book on mining. Continue Reading »

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