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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.
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.
A conference was planned, people were writing and organizing, and then thing went awry. Here is what I wrote on the topic of Mining Research and Education in anticipation of the now postponed conference. I post these writings now, rather than hide them for a year or more, in the hope that controversial as they are, they may contribute to argument and discussion—hence the formulation of answers by those more knowledgeable than I am. The first question posed by the conference organizers was: What are the best steps to take to promote the essential need for R&D in the Mining Industry? Here is my answer:
Stuck in the warm sun besides the beach in southern California this week, I still had time to look up some papers on mine open pit lakes. This was done a part of an ongoing debate about sustainable development. I debate as follows: obey the law in spirit and verse–and if the jurisdiction is too corrupt to do it correctly, practice responsible mining; drop the concept of sustainable development in the context of mining–the words have too long being incorrectly used to promote irrational ideas to be of much value any more; rather talk about responsible mining–a broader and more ethical approach that incorporates the sensible parts of sustainable development; and finally make sure that when the mine is worked out, people can continue to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in, around, and in spite of the mine. Spook is a good example of what I mean. No chance for China here though.
Here is a story that hit my e-mail inbox sent by somebody from somewhere. The publisher is AAP NewsWire. The publication is AAP Australian Sport. The author is John Coomber, Senior Sports Writer. I confess I do not know the places or the people of whom he writes. But the story is interesting and there is in it my favorite sting-in-the-scopion’s-tail: for who is to say that sport is less “dangerous” than mining? Here is the story as written by John Coomber:
A road that winds so much and goes up and down so many steep grades could have be built for one reason only: to provide access to mines. And indeed that is the case, although today the road provides access to beautiful scenery, quaint towns, and expensive properties. I refer to California Route 299. It erratically traverses three mountain passes in north west California linking the coast and the inland Central Valley by a route no sane engineer would choose if efficiency were the first consideration.
I add Route 299 to Colorado Route 141 as being amongst the most spectacular and beautiful roads to travel. Why fly to Australia or New Zealand for scenery when these routes are right at hand? I selected this route by chance. I had spent the Easter weekend in Newport, Oregon marvelling at how different the United States is to Canada: TV shows from CNN asking what Jesus would do about global warming (I did not watch the show, so I do not know what the final verdict is); talk-show hosts making comments about sports teams using words I have never heard before and the meaning of which I have no clue; and nice warm California weather made hotter by a non-functioning car air conditioner.
I am tempted to pontificate about the sustainability of a region after the cessation of mining when I traverse routes like 299 and 141. Here is tangible, living proof that we can mine and then turn the area into a high-priced, livable environment. I refrain from saying the obvious, which is probably too much, for there surely are downsides to my admiration for these areas and I do not want to rouse sleeping emotions. All I ask is that you go take a look and then get back to us with your counter arguments.
Here is a brief survey of wages – are you earning enoughand salaries in Canadian mines in 2006. Hope this helps you in getting the 2007 remuneration you deserve and merit. The information comes via kind favor of Jennifer Leinart of Cost Mine whose compilation Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages & Benefits 2006 Survey Results provides all the data you could ever need.
Surface mine electricians are doing best. Their salary range is $22.50 to $41.35. Mechanics do pretty well with a range of $14.70 to $41.35. And so do heavy equipment operators who start at $13.50 but can also earn as much as the top-paid electrician and mechanic. One almost begins to pity the drill operators with an average hourly wage of $24.84, the truck driver at $21.61, and particularly the laborer who starts at $8.50 and can earn upto $24.58 for an average of $18.07. I mean, $8.50 is probably a lot less than the average grocery store shelf stocker. No wonder the mines say they cannot find workers.