Archive for the Mining Category

Didn’t the BBC Used to Do Research?

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , on May 28, 2014 by awickerman

Someone at the BBC has managed to read the ONS report on jobs and is surprised that Westminster has the highest number of mining workers in the country.

Alas clearly that reading left them too knacked to fire up Google as that would have very rapidly revealed that BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo-American all have major offices and/or their headquarters in Westminster. But then that would have taken literally seconds of work, and those companies are only the first, second and fifth biggest mining companies in the world, so perhaps I’m just expecting too much.

In fairness on Spelthorne being the biggest by % mining community in the UK it was indeed the gravel pits. But as the writer then goes on to doubt the statistics, despite them being correct and him having quite clearly put bugger all effort in, he must then lose any credit he has gained.

Is it unreasonable to ask people to put just a little bit of work into this sort of thing, particularly when your calling it “Small data, curious numbers in the news”? Surely explaining it would help meet the BBC ‘Inform, Educate and Entertain’ mission. But then inform and educate are such hard work compared to just making a half arsed effort at entertain, so perhaps I am just being unrealistic.

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Fun places to work #3

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , on September 21, 2011 by awickerman

The intermittent ‘Places I have absolutely no intention of working at’ continues and this time takes us to Africa and the sun blessed paradise of Zimbabwe. In particular the wonderful town of Zvishavane, whose name is derived from the ancient Shona word for “Hills full of deadly fibrous silica minerals” (This fact may not be technically true.)

An Asbestos Mine in Zimbabwe. I think that covers it really
If this looks familiar, well done. Most asbestos mines do look somewhat similar when viewed from above.

Being in the people’s paradise of Zimbabwe means there are a few twists to the usual logical contortions one finds at Asbestos mines. For starters the entire place is embroiled in an argument about who owns it, the government having taken it from it’s legal owner in one of those dramatic seizures the Mugabe government is justly famous for. Unusually in this case it wasn’t white farmers suffering but black industrialist, however the general thrust is similar. As you would expect it’s gone badly, almost as if government cronies know nothing about real work; production has collapsed and most of the workers have been sacked, so it’s not a pretty sight.

Following the typical pattern the locals are quite keen on Asbestos and have even roped in school children to look endearing and try and get the place churning our fibrey death again. However with a fairly racist empowered Minister of Mines in charge turning away offers of support on the grounds the investors are white and driving the rest away with barking mad mining laws I predict this situation isn’t going to change any time soon.

Now you might argue this is a good thing, after all most people do agree Asbestos isn’t good for you so while it’s a shame for the miners in the short term in the long term at least they wont die of a horrific Asbestos induced disease. There is but one flaw in that way of thinking, most of the locals are going to die of AIDS or Tuberculous before they get a chance to develop a long term Asbestos disease. Besides Zimbabwe has been importing vast quantities of Asbestos from Brazil and Russia in the intervening time, so I can imagine the locals thinking it might as well be local Asbestos being used as opposed to foreign imports.

On this basis I think I can safely say Zvishavane tops the previous efforts, yes its name might not be as amusing but the combination of AIDS, TB, Asbestos and Zanu-PF make it by far a less fun place to work.

The Mystery of South Crofty

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2011 by awickerman

South Crofty, the mine so good that no-one ever asks difficult questions about whether or not there was ever a North Crofty. Yes it’s back in the news as the PR monkeys there have found another metal they can claim to be mining; Indium. And this time the mine will re-open and employ hundreds ‘within two years’.

But this isn’t the first time that Baseresult (or Western United Mines as they prefer to be called these days) have said they’ll be ‘open soon’. They said the same in 2001 when they brought the place, then again in 2003 they said after but a year’s worth of pumping out water they’d be good, come 2006 it was two and a half years. By 2007 a cunning name change and the involvement of Galena Asset Management (or as it’s also known Trafigura, a company with a… mixed background in such fields as Iraqi oil for food, unconventional Ivory Coast waste management and blowing up bits of Norway) had produced Western United Mines who would be ready in two years by 2009. By the time 2009 rolled around they’d cut that figure to but a mere 12-18 months and found Indium (presumably they subsequently lost it, but have just found it again so they can re-announce it). It was in 2010 when they first discovered the ‘Announce metal find’ wheeze and declared they’d found gold, which again they’d already known about but decided to re-announce as a PR trick.

In amongst all this has been ongoing mysteries over planning, pumping out the flooded mine, quite what happened to all that pumped out water, re-development plans, threats of compulsory purchase, EU ‘Objective One’ funding and the constant tension between the nostalgic locals who’d quite like a tin mine to re-open and all the second home owners who really, really wouldn’t.

About the only think I can say for sure is that it’s worked out well for the two chaps who founded Baseresult; Kevin Williams and David Stone. They were there in 2001 and they’re still there now.

At various points I’ve been convinced it’s a property deal based around re-developing the site into housing under cover of the mine, a cunning scheme to dump hi-risk waste into the old mine workings (not helped by a previous PR stunt  where the mine owners proposed using the site to store fly ash from power stations) or a bunch of deluded Cornishmen pursuing a dream in the face of all logic. Honestly it’s probably been a little of all of that at some point, though what it is now I’ve no idea.

However I will predict this; in two years time it will still be about two years away from full production, the fundamentals are just too unfavourable. Still it gives some old Cornish miners something to do and keeps the BBC website supplied with stories, so it’s not a complete waste of time.

Fun Places to work #2

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Mining with tags , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by awickerman

In this occasional series based on places I have absolutely no desire work in let us leave the frozen wastes of Russia and instead revel in the frozen wastes of Canada and the wonderful town of Asbestos. For those who have noticed a pattern, well done.

A Canadian town called Asbestos. Next to a giant Asbestos mine. Not a lot more to say is there?

Marvel at the giant hole! Be enchanted by the deep azure blue depths! Hold your breath. Seriously, hold your breath.

This town has much in common with it’s Russian cousin; It is fanatically proud of itself (indeed once had it’s own Corvette the mighty HMCS Asbestos) and is stuffed full of people who will bore you to tears explaining why white Asbestos is safer than the brown or blue flavours (which may be true, I’m sure 300ºC fires are safer than 600 or 800ºC versions, but that’s hardly the point)

But there are differences. First the amusingly mis-guided advert campaign and second the quite spectacular hypocrisy of the government, because Asbestos is illegal to sell or use in Canada but perfectly legal to mine and export to foreign countries. At least the Russians actually use the Asbestos they mine, which may not be better for the locals but is at least less hypocritical.

To end on a cheap joke I commend you all to go to one of the fine restaurants in the town of Asbestos, starting with the Canteen of Asbestos.

Fun places to work #1

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, Mining, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , , on January 15, 2011 by awickerman

The wonderful town of Asbest, a Russian one-industry town dedicated to the mining of Asbestos, the clue is in the name.

Leaving aside the whole ‘It’s an asbestos mine’ thing Asbest manages to be particularly horrific as the mine is on the edge of the town.

Beautiful hey? As an added bonus read this old article from Slate,where every local appears to be intent on boring the reporter to death by explaining the many different types of Asbestos and why you wont automatically die just by living in the town. All of which may be true, they certainly mine the least dangerous type of asbestos, but it is all a little ‘The lady protests too much’.

So there is Asbest, a town where the only industry is mining and processing Asbestos and the entire population will bore you to tears trying to desperately convince you the place isn’t instantly fatal. Yet another place to avoid seeing before you die. And to avoid after death as well to be frank.

Windmills – Still Rubbish

Posted in Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, The Wicker Man list with tags , , , , , , on December 13, 2010 by awickerman

Durham University have sent one of their research students to look at offshore windmills, I’m not sure why, perhaps he had offended them in some way. In any event he has come back and worked out exactly how good/awful they are, using numbers rather than the vague insults and projections I’m usually forced to rely on. The summary is here with the bewitching title;

UK offshore wind farms: must do better”

Which, while accurate, is kind of like saying ‘Harold Shipman: must stop killing people’, it’s a nice idea, but it’s not going to happen.

So why must the windmills do better, well they were only actually available 80% of the time. That’s not generating electricity 80% of the time, that’s just potentially available to generate some electricity 80% of the time, the actual load factor (how much of the total theoretical production was actually produced) was far lower. As we saw last time on off-shore windfarms that ain’t good. The deep ff-shore windmills would hope to be available 90% of the time, if the ones in shallow waters can’t manage it what chance in the middle of the North Sea?

On the plus side the costs weren’t as bad as feared at a mere £70 per MWh (Not counting the fact taxpayers were been fleeced by the government to provide the subsidy to build the windmill, which then produces the expensive electricity your electricity provider is legally compelled to buy. Bastards).

Sure that’s more pricey than coal, say £45 per MWh for the average European coal fired plant, but it could have been a lot worse. You could be buying electricity in Germany where they have to contend with lignite power station trying to generate electricity by burning muddy twigs and costing fortune while doing so. Then there are the proper coal burning German power stations which have to buy coal from DeutscheSteinKohle, a company who’s mines really should be closed, but aren’t because the German government really likes miners and wants to carry on paying £200,000 a year per miner to keep them mining over-priced coal no-one outside Germany wants. Then there is the German solar industry which continues to cost a fortune, and of course they subsidies their own windmills.  Basically it all costs a fortune, apart from Nuclear and Russian Gas, which is probably why the Germans use so much of both.

Today’s thought for the day; Chris Huhne is a twunt who will be one of the first into the Wicker Man come the revolution.

The Inevitable General Election Post

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by awickerman

Having resisted for much of this seemingly endless campaign my will power has snapped, in this vital last week I now present the official Wicker Man electoral guide. Dismissing such common sense ideas as analysis or indeed actually reading the manifestos we will be using the tried and failed technique “Counting the words in a manifesto and pretending that has any relevance to anything”. You may think this is a stupid idea, and you’d be correct, but it hasn’t stopped the ICE from pissing my money against a wall by doing it.

For this exercise I will be using the keywords of “Tunnel” and “Mining” and limiting ourselves to only manifestos. I did also check for “Wicker man” but sadly, if not surprisingly,  absolutely no-one included it. So onto the summary;

  • Almost Every Party – 0
  • The Communist Party of Great Britain – 1
  • The Official Monster Raving Loony Party – 1
  • The English Democrats – 1

So therefore your choices are; Loonies, Communists or the only party publicly committed to moving Monmouthshire from Wales to England. Having actually read said documents it comes down to the Communists want to keep the Channel Tunnel Rail Link in public hands, the English Democrats wanting more Tin Mining and the Loonies wanting the Channel Tunnel to be a no fly zone.

Frankly from that shower of  ideas I have to go Loony. As far as I know nobody is proposing sell the CTRL (if nothing else who would risk buying it after Labour illegally nationalised RailTrack?) while deep level Tin Mining died out for a reason; there is no cheap tin left, if you want to restart that industry you will need massive subsidies to compete with dirt cheap dredged Malaysian tin.

So there you have it, the Wicker Man advises you to vote Monster Raving Loony Party as they have the best (and possibly only) policies on tunnels.

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