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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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A very old friend, now prominent in Australian mining spent the weekend with me.  We drank expensive whiskey, which he paid for, and rode many miles on my bikes around Vancouver on a fine sunny fall day.  We recounted stories of the old days in South Africa as young & inexperienced engineers and how we solved problems by gut feel rather than knowledge and computer models.  (more…)

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 A brief note from the Conference Secretariat of the recent conference on Tailings and Mine Waste 2011:

We are pleased to notify you that many of the presentations from the Tailings and Mine Waste ’11 conference are available online through the InfoMine Library. Please note: only those presentations with permission from the authors have been made available (look for “Presentation” in parenthesis)

We are also delighted to share the results from the facilitated discussions, led by SRK Corporate Consultant, Daryl Hockley. Please click here to see the results of this dynamic set of discussions.

Finally, InfoMine is pleased to present the Tailings and Mine Waste Continuous Conferences portal which is now active here. The purpose of the Continuous Conference is to enhance the exchange of information between practitioners in the field through papers, notes and a discussion forum.

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The classic texts on mine tailings generally start with division of tailings facilities into three types:  Upstream, centerline, and downstream.  I have not been able to track down with certainty who first formulated this classification.  Today this division, based on the direction of movement of the crest of the outer embankment, is interesting, but not entirely helpful and certainly not exhaustive. (more…)

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The conference on Tailings and Mine Waste 11 is ended and we can now sit back and reflect on what it all means.  The easiest way to do this is to look at the PowerPoint slides from Andy Robertson’s keynote address.   They are now on InfoMine at this link. (more…)

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A great many great presentations yesterday at the Tailings and Mine Waste 11 Conference here in Vancouver.  The keynote addresses were topical and provocative.  There was applause when in reply to a question, Ransford Sekyi of Ghana said that artisanal miners dig and destroyed the environment and then move on to another place to dig and destroy, and that they should be dealt with “with the full force of the law.”  A bold approach that echoed the ongoing occupation of the Vancouver Art Gallery by what is rapidly degenerating into an unruly band of homeless ruffians biting the police who are trying to prevent a conflagration.  (more…)

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The first day of the conference Tailings and Mine Waste is just ended, and here is a brief note on what I heard and learnt.  (more…)

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