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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?
Cameco has issued updates on progress at their Cigar Lake property. For basic information on the mine and its flooding take a look at the Cameco site itself. (I particularly recommend the diagram of the underground mine workings.) The most informative information I found regarding current conditions is at this site. The share price increased on issue of the news release. I may be a pessimist, or worse a cynic, but I see little in the report to justify an increase in the share price. There are more cautionary statements and there is more wriggle room in the reports I read than there is solid technical information justifying paying more for a future promise. Let us examine some technical uncertainties.
I justify the not-politically-correct statements in this article on the basis that the mining investment community deserves all the information available when making investment decisions. I include the latest news on Cameco’s Cigar Lake Mine, some opinions from the SME Annual Meeting & Exhibit in Denver this week, and my own perspectives on technology and regulatory interaction. This is not investment advice. It is just the musings of an engineer.
Whatever it is, we won’t hear it any time soon—and that observation presumes that there is a “truth.” I suspect that everybody involved in the now-flooded workings is scrambling too hard to fix things to debate a Platonic “truth,” which leaves the investor not simply guessing but, in practice, gambling.
Let us have a look at the technicalities to see if we can probe deeper than news releases and stock speculations. (And look at a more recent article on this blog.)
This might just be the shake of the future—or should I say shape. I report on the idea so that you may use it if you spy an opportunity to improve safety on your mine. Basically it seems that there is a new rock anchor “with dynamic capabilities” that will keep the underground workings intact in the event of an earthquake.
Here is my nomination for winner of best web site of a product-supplier to the mining industry. I announce this nomination, because you may enjoy a walk through the site, and maybe because you seek a site to emulate for your own cluttered affair. I refer to the Dywidag-Systems International site. Before I go further, let me assure you I have no commercial relation with the company. I have never spoken to them—and have no plans to do so. I write here about them because I am impressed by their site.
Call it advertising if you will. By whatever name is goes, let success follow what can only be described as a magnificent gesture. We refer to the free computer code Examine2D 7.0 and the free e-book Practical Rock Engineering – New 2007 Edition available from Rocscience.
Mining is not for the faint of heart. You must admire the fortitude of those trying to develop the Cigar Lake uranium mine. They seem to be swimming (drowning) in problems: another delay as they continue to drill and grout to control flooding of the workings. Problem is—as I am reminded by my anti-nuclear friends—that if you can’t get it out safely, how can you use it safely, and how can you dispose of it safely? We must hope they get control of this engineering problem sooner rather than later—for their own good and the image of the industry.