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Posts Tagged ‘andy robertson’

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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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Constructing covers over mining wastes at sites in cold climates involves consideration of these factors that are unique to cold climates: (more…)

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Most engineers have no idea what the strength of a soil or tailings implies.  Let me write a little about the physicality of soil and tailings of a given strength. (more…)

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I have moved on from countries and companies. I have left (and re-entered) countries. I have left companies and joined the principals in other companies. I have, in a word, moved around. At 67, I spend no time cogitating on these past decisions.  With so long a history of making decisions and moving on, I have so much to regret that I would go crazy thinking what would have been had I not made those many decisions.  It is futile to regret a past decision that may have been the wrong decision. (more…)

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A picture of a 1,000-year old earthen mound in Central America. 

Goes to prove geotechnical structures can endure stable for at least that long.

Today I explained the differences between Failure Modes and Effects Analyses (FMEA), Value Engineering (VE), Multiple Accounts Analysis (MAA), and Risk Assessment (RA) to some unfamiliar with any of these tools to support engineering judgment as the basis for decision making. In so doing, I had to go back to basics and thus myself uncovered a new and deeper understanding of the basics. (more…)

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I learnt today that Geoff Blight has passed away.  I can pay tribute to him best by writing of those times I worked with him. He was a professor at the University of the Witwatersrand.  He came in and took over when Professor Jennings died. I never had a lecture from him, so I leave it to others to record his lecture style and teaching abilities–both of which I was told were superb. (more…)

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Yesterday I went to the 35th year anniversary celebration of the founding in Vancouver of SRK.  It was a grand affair in a fancy hotel overlooking the harbor.  Andy Robertson and Jim Robertson (no relation) who were the two originals were both there.  (more…)

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