February 2013 | Mining University

Minnesota Lawmakers Oppose Mining of SAND

I couldn't believe it when I heard it. Residents of southeastern Minnesota are opposed to mining SAND in their area (see the Duluth News Tribune). Never mind that mining sand creates jobs and pays taxes for the local governments. Forget that it doesn't include drilling and blasting competent rock and that it has been going on for years in the area. State lawmakers want to put their hand in the mix and regulate current and proposed mines in Minnesota.

Mining of silica sand has been taking place in southeastern Minnesota for decades. The high quality sand is used for making glass and other industrial products. Now the demand for sand to be used in fracking for the oil and gas industry has caused state lawmakers to step in and protect people from evils and prosperity of industry and new mines.

I can't believe that anyone would be okay with having their name associated with opposition to mining SAND. This is the most ridiculous thing ever.

The Duluth News Tribune listed the following (here's your sign) complaints about SAND mining (comments are mine):
  • A need for large quantities of water to wash the sand, with fears it could drain the aquifer (hello, have you seen how much it rains in Minnesota? Unless you're going to wash the Grand Canyon you're not going to run out of water.)
  • The possibility of polluting the aquifer and streams (Mining has been going on for decades here without polluting the environment. It would seem that there are sufficient protocols in place to protect the aquifer)
  • Lack of information local government officials have (I have no doubt that this one is true. Mining has gone on for decades in Minnesota but I totally believe that local government officials haven't learned anything about a major industry in their jurisdiction during that time period)
  • Large numbers of trucks hauling sand from mines to processing plants and then to railroads (this is called industry. This is why you have a job and the solution to all the complaining you do about not having enough jobs and the downtrodden economy)
It's not enough that the local newspaper compiled this list of uninformed complaints but one local lawmaker touted the final, desperate ploy of the angry environmentalist. Senator Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, suggested that there should be a moratorium on mining while local governments figured out how to act. Congratulations senator, not only have you learned nothing during all the years that your state has mined sand within your borders, but you want to keep the economy depressed while you study how to mine SAND.

Maptek Vulcan bcf Scripts, Printfiles and Headers

I learned some very interesting things about bcf scripts in Maptek Vulcan today. It isn't the first time something like this has happened to me but I always find it amusing when I learn something important in the process of telling someone that Vulcan can't do something.

Block calculation file (bcf) scripts in Vulcan perform a series of logic calculations on specified blocks in a block model. In general these scripts are used to populate variables like net value or populate variables that meet certain criteria like ore/waste blocks. The bcf scripts are used after the block estimation file (bef) has been used to populate grade variables.

In this instance, we wanted to flag blocks that met certain criteria and then populate the block above with new values. My first thought was to create a list of the blocks meeting the criteria, add the block height to the centroid z value and use this as the new criteria in a second script. In order to accomplish this I needed the script to output a list of blocks. I was in the middle of saying that 'No, bcf scripts don't have the ability to export data,' when I noticed Appendix E - Script File Format.

To locate Appendix E open the Vulcan help and go to the 'Contents' tab. Expand the branches 'Envisage 3D Editor' and 'Core Appendixes' (because a branch titled just 'Appendices' would be just stupid. I mean, why would someone look through the list of alphabetized topics and want appendices to be listed with the A's?). Appendix E tells us several interesting things about the bcf scripts including the fact that it can export data to an external file (or the screen) and that there is the ability to write a header to the script that is only run once (instead of each time a block is examined).

The following lines of code are the test I wrote to determine if I could write the centroid coordinates of specific blocks to an external file. By opening the text file in write mode in the header I effectively delete the previous text file so that I am not appending to it each time I run the script. The header also writes a title line to the output text file so that my resulting data has a header.

begin_inittest = "test.txt"open(test,"new")fileprint(test,"x_coordinate y_coordinate z_coordinate \n")end_init

new_x = xworldnew_y = yworldnew_z = zworld

if (new_z eq 2225) thenfileprint(test,"%f %f %f \n",new_x, new_y, new_z)endif

I had to set the x/y/zworld variables to new variables in order for the script to work. I don't know why this is. I would have expected to just be able to use x/y/zworld as the print variables but that was not my experience.

For more information on writing bcf scripts please see Appendix E in your Maptek Vulcan help as well as Appendix B - Operators/Functions.

BlackRock Inc. Interest in Mining Companies

I noticed this morning that several of the mining companies that I follow on the SEC EDGAR (Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval) system have filed a form 13G about the 'acquisition of beneficial ownership by individuals' for stock owned by BlackRock Inc. As I read through the filings it became clear that these weren't new acquisitions (even investment firms don't buy millions of shares in half a dozen companies in one go) so I spent some time learning about SEC schedule 13G.

It turns out that schedule 13G is related to form 13D . Both these files are intended to report that an investor owns more than 5% of a publicly traded company. These forms are updated annually. What I had originally thought were new acquisitions were really only the annual update to the SEC filing.

Even as just updates to the record I found the amount of mining stock owned by BlackRock to be impressive. Here are some of the companies in which BlackRock owns more than a 5% share:

AngloGold Ashanti (AU): 20,908,941 shares or 5.46% or $608,450,183 at $29.10/share

Barrick (ABX): 87,777,710 shares or 8.77% or $2,834,342,256 at $32.29/share

Freeport McMoran (FCX): 84,022,739 shares or 8.85% or $2,983,647,462 at $35.50/share

Goldcorp (GG): 95,391,332 shares or 11.76% or $3,428,364,472 at $35.93/share

Newmont (NEM): 61,681,268 or 12.55% or $2,723,227,982 at $44.15/share

Peabody (BTU): 23,677,411 shares or 8.82% or $587,673,341 at $24.82/share

Rio Tinto (RIO): 128,626,019 shares or 9.12% or $7,289,236,497 at $56.66/share