January 2013 | Mining University

Space Mining

I can't believe it. There are two of them. Tuesday a new company announced that they are funding projects to mine asteroids in space. This new company, Deep Space Industries Inc., says that they plan to send prospecting satellites into space as early as 2015. Deep Space is in direct competition with Planetary Resources, the original space mining company.

I think it's neat that people want to explore the universe and realize that mining is an important part of any expansion project. I just wonder where their profit is going to come from. It's fine to have founders with deep pockets but eventually every corporation needs to have a money making endeavor. I worry that space mining is in the same development scheme as wind and solar power, something that has great potential but hasn't shown any money making results. I do appreciate, however, that all the funding for both companies is coming from the private sector. The government doesn't need to throw my money at space mining any more than it needs to give it to Solyndra.

Responsible Mining - Virginia vs Wisconsin

I was reminded recently how dangerous life can be. ABC news reported last week that actor Larry Miller was planning to return to work after sustaining a severe head injury in April. I recognize Larry from his role as the dad in the movie '10 Things I Hate about You.' Larry spent nearly 4 months in a medically induced coma after slipping and falling on the sidewalk outside a recording studio. Being an actor has got to be one of the safest jobs on the planet. Walking out the door and onto the sidewalk is something we all do every day, but here is a normal, healthy human being who ends up in a coma as a result of this everyday action.

It makes me think about how dangerous things can be and why we do them in the first place. After all the talk about gun restrictions lately I was glad to hear that nobody was up in arms wanting to ban sidewalks or walking or recording podcasts as a result of this injury, although all three played a role in Larry Miller's head injury and coma. Why is it that some things are accepted as having an inherent, acceptable amount of danger (like walking down the sidewalk) and others are considered too dangerous to even consider.

Dangers of Mining


This train of thought led me to another topic in the news recently. It seems that several political groups in Virginia vehemently oppose the lifting of a ban on Uranium mining. Recent increases in the price of uranium have made a deposit near Coles Hill a profitable ore reserve but these political groups still support a ban on uranium mining in the area.

No one can deny that the mining and milling of any resource contains an inherent amount of risk and uranium mining is no different but at what point do the rewards outweigh the risks? When does the number of jobs created prompt you to allow mining? Does the influx of raw materials to the local and global economy offset some risks? What if mining, milling and tailings disposal could be done in a safe manner, overseen by the most stringent government oversight agency in the world?

Nobody can tell you that a mining operation doesn't have the potential for something to go wrong. No matter what safety measures are put in place, there is still the potential for an accident. Of course, Larry Miller could still tell us that walking down the sidewalk carries the potential for accidents.

Why not Mine?


Groups that vehemently oppose mining generally do so on two fronts. The first complaint is that we shouldn't do mining near my residence. This is commonly referred to as the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) argument. It comes from people who think that the dangers of extracting natural resources should be taken on by someone else. This attitude completely overlooks the fact that mining activities taking place in third world countries often do so without government oversight to protect workers and the environment. The NIMBY attitude also conveniently forgets that the entire planet is a closed ecosystem and that environmental disasters on the other side of the planet effect everyone.

The second argument against mining is that 'mining is evil.' This is often extended to cover all money making operations and grows into 'making money is evil.' People who argue from this platform have watched too much television. In the case of uranium mining they have watched too much X-Men. Money is not the root of all evil. Making money is not evil. Making money is what drives the economy. During most of the history of America we have embraced our natural resources, using them to feed our factories. This employed our people, increased our quality of life and made America the leading industrial power in the world. Why have we let Hollywood tell us that our heritage is bad. We can be environmentally responsible and still embrace our industrial heritage.

Proponents of Mining


There are people in the world who recognize that mining is good for the economy and good for local business. In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker wants to allow iron mining in his state. Here is somebody who understands that his local economy needs new jobs. Not just mining jobs but all the supporting industries that will expand to meet the needs of a growing mine. Governor Walker also understands that mining can be done safely and responsibly. Iron mines in neighboring Michigan and Minnesota have long track records of safe mining practices.

We all like the results of mining, our cars and our computers, our homes with indoor plumbing and the electricity to run our appliances. These things are brought to us by mining. No matter how protective of the environment you might be it's always nice to come back to the indoor plumbing. We're not going to give up the things that mining gives us. The responsible thing to do is to keep mining close to home and enforce practices that are reasonable for the economy and the environment.

Maptek Vulcan and Windows 8

Maptek Vulcan tile in Windows 8

recently had the chance to try out Vulcan on the new Windows 8 operating system. I was especially interested to give it a go when the IT guy said that he was seeing performance improvements over the old Windows 7 OS.

Installation of Maptek Vulcan 8.2 went as expected. There were a million confirmation windows and I had to go searching for the right license file but I eventually got everything installed and running.

For the performance tests I copied all my data to a local drive so that there would be no network issues with timing the results. I didn't have a huge amount of time to extensively test the two operating systems so I can't vouch for every detail of how they interact with each other but I did perform some tests that I use every day. I timed the operating systems opening design databases, triangulations, chronos workbooks and loaded layers and block model slices.

For most of the tests the results were very similar which is kind of a win for Windows 8. The test machine with the new operating system seems to be a machine that IT had lying around. It is an old desktop with an i3 processor. It would be fine for most office work but it doesn't hold a candle to my laptop running an i7 processor with 16 GB ram and 2GB of dedicated memory on the graphics card. This is a nice laptop and has always run Vulcan very well so to have it perform at roughly the same level as the test desktop was a little surprising.

There was one test where the Windows 8 machine outperformed my laptop: loading layers.

Not to be outperformed by an old i3 desktop, I brought the data back to my office and loaded everything on my Cyberpower desktop. This is truly a monster machine. It has 64GB ram and a top of the line i7 processor. I don't want to brag, but it has a Windows experience index of 7.8 out of a possible 7.9. There are faster machines on the planet but most of them are working as servers.

The Cyberpower machine beat the i3 desktop at loading layers in Vulcan even though it was only using Windows 7 but it was a case of extreme overkill.

I haven't checked the accuracy of number crunching using the new Windows 8 OS but I would be happy to run Maptek Vulcan on this new operating system.