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Most underground mines involve ventilation systems. You need to push cool surface air down into those hot, deep workings to keep them cool. The right temperature in underground mine workings is not only a matter of pleasant surroundings. I recall reading that the accident rate jumps as the temperature increases: at about seventy degrees things are optimally safe, at eighty degrees the accident rate soars. Ventilation systems are needed because the rocks are hot from the heat generated by radioactive processes deep in the earth’s interior. Now professors from the University of British Columbia (UBC) are looking at tapping into the heat from closed underground mines. They reckon this is a cheap source of energy for those dwellings and businesses that remain behind after the mine is shut down. Now that is sustainable development for you: first a mine and then a solarium, or should we call it a heatarium or mine-arium?
No recommendations or endorsements implied in this posting. But it is information that attracts my attention and it is information that may benefit a mine somewhere, so I pass it on. Keep in mind I am a semi-retired professional engineer and produce this blog on the basis that I write what interests me, not what may be of commercial benefit. But I am human and cannot be interested in something if it does not come to my attention; the service I write of here came via an unsolicited e-mail.
I do not thinks there is anything wrong or inappropriate about the facts I cite in this article. My Canadian friends bewail the fact that the United States is an imperial power, colonizing smaller nations and exploiting their resources. They deny that Canada is as imperial a colonizer as any. Consider Canadian ownership of United States mines.
In the early 1960s in South Africa my parents moved to Evander, a mining town in sight of Sasol where coal was turned into petrol or gas as we term it in the Untied States. The plant was built in response to international sanctions over apartheid. If I recall correctly, Fluor designed and built the plant. So it should not take Congressional hearings to establish that the technology exists. We all know that the United States has plenty of coal–last time I wrote about the issue, I quoted a talk at the SME meeting in Denver where somebody said at least 200 years worth.
But it may well take Congresional action to bring sanity to the mining that will be required to provide the coal. I refer to recent reports on fights about valley fills at coal mines. Everybody wants their car, but nobody wants topographic change to make the car possible. Consider the civil war that will be needed to tear up the landscape of the west to get the coal required to move all those SUVs around California and keep the lights on in the Las Vegas casinos.
It is hard to believe that a 23-meter high wall of an open pit coal mine in Maryland can just fail and “cover” two miners. Is this another instance of human hubris? I know the old adage that a slope is stable on the morning of the day it fails. But was there no monitoring of slope conditions, no sign of faults and joints that could form a failure plane, no monitoring of groundwater that might have reduced the factor of safety? Did the mine just work on the assumption that no failures had occurred before and thus conclude that no failure could occur in future. We await the news of the safety of the “covered” miner, but in the meantime we must ask these questions and wonder if it will take another round of resolute legal action to deal with complacency in the coal mines.
Nothing about mining, just a brief report on personal doings. I have just arrived in Cedar Rapids after a flight from Las Vegas where I spent two days . We did the Strip in the best tradition: one thing I miss is the ability to pop a 25 cent piece into a machine. Now the least you can feed into a machine is a dollar bill. It seems so extravagant. I visited my favorite store in all the world: FOA Schwartz with three floors of toys for all ages. Truly the place for people like me who need absolutely nothing more–except more toys. So I bought a chess set of Disney characters: on side is all the villains (and villainesses, if there is such a word) and one side is all the heros and heroines. The fields are all ploughed here in the midwest and the seed planted, but as yet there is no sign of the new corn. So tomorrow I will venture to the farm and return to regular grandkid doings. Thanks for the patience as you kept visiting this blog to read items that are not directly derived from the latest news. I will do that tomorrow as well, for it looks like the villains and heroes of mining have been as busy as ever while I fought Orange Alerts in airport.
Is it fair to brand carbon sequestration as a mining activity? It is sort of mining in reverse: putting something into the ground instead of taking it out. Taken to its logical extreme, we could brand putting high-level radioactive waste into Yucca Mountain as reverse-mining, and even filling of open pits with household solid waste as reverse-mining. Or are these activities simply a manifestation of sustainable mine development and de-development?
My two older kids did their undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. I recall the old town, its beauty, its quaintness, and the many wooden boxes I found in the second-hand stores that line the streets. I recall average food, carelessly served by students, in old, bare-brick wall buildings. I recall cold winters and steaming summers as we blundered through Wal-Mart to get that which was constantly needed to feed and clothe them.
I do not recall any mines in the area that we drove through so often. I do not recall any talk of mining. I knew there were many excavations into the limestone and these now housed cold-storage and safe-storage companies. My daughter, who studied civil engineering, says that in class the civil engineers talked only of tractors, pigs, and corn. My son, studying political science, talked about those things that young men with ROTC scholarships talk about—and it is best I do not mention them here.
Now I have found a site put up by the Lawrence Journal, LJWorkd.com that has a long spread on mining in southeast Kansas, a part of the state I never visited. Go take a look at the site, as much for the stories it tells, as for the layout and graphics and utility of the site. It is worth a visit, regardless of your mining affiliations and afflictions.
The California State Water Resources Control Board by Resolution 92-49 adopted a policy that an area of contaminated groundwater where cleanup cannot be achieved may be designated a Containment Zone. To date no mine in the state has been designated a containment zone, but such a designation would bring clarity and closure to many of the vexing and contentious issue surrounding mine closure in California. This is why.