Word has just come in that the folk organizing the conference Tailings and Mine Waste ‘08 have just met and extended the deadline for submission of abstracts to this conference until mid-June and they are asking that papers come in by mid-July.

This is a conference worth supporting, writing for, and attending. It is a resuscitation of an historic series–seven previous conferences that established and advanced the science, engineering, and technology of tailings and mine waste.

Another good reason to write for and attend the conference is that it is in Vail, Colorado in October this year. Hard to find a nicer place to be at that time of the year.

The series of conferences on Tailings and Mine Waste that started out at Colorado State University in 1978. For many years there was an annual conference and the important attended. For many years no conference has been held: people grew old and tired; careers developed and kids took preference; academics struggled to keep up with the internet and those Australians who organize more conference on the topic than frequent fliers can attend.

But now a new generation of stalwarts has gathered and plan to put on the umpteenth conference in the series in Vail, Colorado in October 18-23, 2008. That is not very far off, and they are right now ambitiously calling for papers. Actually any paper on a relevant topic will be welcome. My preference is for the case histories; but if you must write another on geosynthetics or stability, so be it. They even list UMTRA as a possible paper topic. Now that is politically correct..

To be entirely honest, (full-disclosure time,) the company I work for part-time, InfoMine is a sponsor and my old and current boss Andy Robertson is on the organizing committee. He has even told me to do all the leg work to keep the companies involved happy. Thus perforce, I will write about this conference more than others. I work on the basis that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and on the basis that you can read the official pronouncements any time. It is not my style to replicate those.

So that I can retain a semblance of impartiality, I refer you to EventsMine, where the keyword tailings brings up eight conference devoted to tailings in 2008. Three are in Australia: one is the 3rd Annual Conference on the topic; one is on coal tailings; and one is devoted to Decision Makers—now that is intriguing if a trifle exclusive. In reality it looks to me as though the same keynote speakers are doing the rounds, so it really does not matter where you choose to listen to them. It is hard to believe that there are enough revelations in tailings in one year to scintillate eight conferences.

So it really boils down to a simple choice. If, like me, you have absolutely no desire to go to Australia (one of the advantages of getting old) and if, like me, you love the Rockies, then there is no issue: time to play politics to get to go to Vail. And you deserve to go if your job and interest involves that most fascinating of mining-topics, namely tailings. You can skip the presentations on slope stability, on UMTRA, and those devoted to marketing products and persons. There is sure to be plenty enough else to entertain and pass the time pleasantly. And at the end there will be a set of proceedings that someday, somebody will reference to win a class action law suite.

Here is my list of some papers I would like to see submitted to this conference.

From Myself et al.: How Bloggers perceive tailings. This would reveal that most bloggers are woefully ignorant and perceive tailings piles as vast dumps of nothing that will pollute the world forever. I would correct them by pointing out apple orchards on tailings piles, grazing deer, ambulatory parents, and carbon sinks.

John Welsh: The History and Future of the Henderson Mine tailings impoundment. That pile was the first I saw in 1978 in America and the last I saw about three years ago on a trip up the Rockies. Now it is about to be re-opened. That pile captures decades of hope and sweat and success. I do not know where John is but he is the right person to write that paper. I would love to see him again and hear his mature perspectives on this subject.

Norbert Morgenstern: Oil Sands Tailings, then, now, and next. I know he is a professor and very authoritative. But can you imagine hearing his insight and perspective. I would get up early to hear that.

Gordon McPhail: Thegeomorphology ofAustralian tailings dumps. Gordon is practicing and writing. But he needs funding to sit back and write this one in detail and in truth. Maybe Googlecan be persuaded to fund him? Can’t imagine why they would.

Ken Lyle:NewSouth African impoundments for reworked dumps. Ken is a superb writer–I cherish hisMasters thesis. But he has written nothing public since. He is now retired and knows so much that will be lost if the industry cannot persuade him to break his corporate-chain silence. Imagine him telling of the removal of all those old slimes dams to be reworked for gold and uranium and then placed in one spot in a “modern” slimes dump?

Andy Robertson: Canadian diamond tailings impoundments. He is my boss and supports this blog. But still I would love him to concentrate on a long and detailed presentation on those strange tailings and how they behave in that harshest of environments: the Canadian tundra, snow, and ice. I did lots of work on diamond tailings in South Africa and Botswana. The Canadian tailings are the same things physically, but the environment is so different.

Mark Smith of Vector: Heap leach pads and waste rock dumps in seismic South America. Mark and his colleagues know more than anybody on this and similar topics. They have published far and well on these topics, so how nice to be able to sit back and hear the experts tell it like it is.

Peter Byrne: FLAC and how to properly analyze tailings. Peter is a retired professor who now sails his boat on the cold waters off Vancouver. He knows FLAC better than most and is quite correct when he says we never need another slope stability analysis, or seepage flow, or etc. code again, now that we have FLAC. Why it can replicate both the fluid and solid behavior of tailings. And then it can replicatethe flow of fluid in the solids of tailings. If you don’t have a copy, better stop pretending to be a tailings consultant.

But there are some papers and topics that I do not want to see. First there is that hoary old topic: acid mine drainage. I recommend no papers on the topic - such presentations bring out the sanctimonious that is best left to Hagee. Nobody is prepared to tell the truth: you can’t really do anything cost-effective about it and should not open mines where it will be a problem. Now that is a paper I would like to see.

Then let us have a paper on covers. Not another that tells of solving partially saturated seepage using some computer code or other, or that tries to fib about the fact that less water will go through a compacted soil than that same soil in its natural state. Let’s have a paper that honestly admits that covers on sideslopes will creep down the slope, that top covers will become vegetated masses, and that unless your site is geomorphology stable, the cover will be gone before the acid-free paper the proceedings are printed on rots away.

Let us not have any papers on risk assessment. Nothing new has been said on that topic in thirty years. The equations have not changed in hundreds of years. And to attempt to justify not doing the almighty thing to keep the tailings and waste rock safe and sound by recourse to risk arguments is so pathetic as to be morally culpable.

We do need a paper or two on wetlands. At least how to design and build them so you can walk away and not have to come back to spend more on their care and maintenance than you spent on the waste disposal facility in the first place. I suspect that wetlands as a proclaimed solution to perpetual seepage is a myth. Maybe we need a paper to disprove me.

We do need a paper or two on the water balance of mine waste disposal facilities–but not like that terrible one by a Golder employee at CIM: he told us only that GoldSim is the best code to use (which is of course true) but that Golder had their own spread sheet which they will use if you pay them enough in consulting fees. Now that is a perfect example of why I generally avoid conferences.

I would plead for a session talked toby lawyers working on issues related to the law and law-suites of mine waste.The best conferences are those where all the talkers are lawyers. Their papers may be full of footnotes referencing obscure statutes and regulations, but generally their talks are lively, well-prepared recounting of the stories of human folly that gave rise to-the court battles they write about. It’s like being around a camp fire with Homer and Virgil.

But spare me any papers or presentations by those people I have on my little list: the immature/amateur “lawyer.” You know the ones: they are the regulatory compliance folk who present papers on ARARs and RCRA/CERCLA, and local regulations. They talk about regulations as though the regulations came down from a mountain and a burning bush. They epitomize the difference between a real lawyer and amateur: lawyers tell what the laws say and hence why you can do what you want to. The people I avoid, the regulatory compliance folk, tell what the law is and therefore why you cannot do what you want to.

These are tall orders for a conference organizer to meet. They will not and they cannot unless you submit your abstracts. So here are the abstracts of the papers I would but won’t submit - too much bother to write the papers, prepare the presentations, and then give it all away in one full-copy-write abdication to a foreign potentate.

Uravan. High on a lonely plateau in southwest Colorado are three uranium mill tailings impoundments. Two were brought here from their first loci; one started, lived, and is now closed here. This paper tells the story of these three piles and how their mines contributed to human freedom fought for against fascists and dictators bent on terrorizing all mankind.

Admiralty Island. From a fish cannery to a mine, this is the story of a lonely island in Alaska. Silver is up those valleys and the rain falls all the time. Nearly twenty-five years ago dry tailings were first stacked to make mining possible. In the interim the mine has prospered but many who sought to mine in this part of the world have failed through ignorance and arrogance to learnt the lessons and adopt the technologies. Serves them right.

There are so many more, but to tell their tales would be to break client confidences, so they will just have to fade into the past, untold. Unless you can write them up for future conferences.