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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?