Posts Tagged ‘Rio Tinto’


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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mooi Auto retrato II[1]

She worked on the Pebble Mine exploration program a long time ago–more than twenty year ago.  Her theory, based on personal experience. is that the mine will never be. (more…)

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Here is an announcement from International Minings (John Chadwick et al).  It seems so worthy an undertaking, that I repeat in full as the announcment came to me.  Maybe you can make your nominations for induction of great mining folk into the Hall of fame.  (more…)

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On Sunday I was lucky enough to go to lunch with four beautiful, intelligent young women.  One is doing post-doc studies, one is a vet, one a graphics designer, and one a civil engineer in mining.  I am sure all earn high salaries.  We ate in the old market in the center of Santiago.  I paid.  (more…)

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Each year, each mining company produces an Annual Report.  Ignore the color pictures of locals, women geologists, heart-rending schools & hospitals built with mining profits, and go instead to the sections headed RISKS. (more…)

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Soon after the fall of the Berlin wall, we descended on Wismut, East Germany with proposals to help them cleanup the old uranium mines, mills, and tailings impoundments that the Russians left behind.  The large American consulting firm that I was working for at the time, believed that with our UMTRA Project experience, we were well-suited for the work.  So too did a small Canadian consulting company.  (more…)

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Here is a picture of a mining disaster waiting to happen.  This is a mine in Australia that is shut down because too much rain has filled their tailings impoundment and they appear to have no facilities to treat water hence to release it.  (more…)

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