At the February
2001's TMS Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, the well-attended,
multi-session symposium Cyanide: Social, Industrial, and Economic Aspects was
convened to focus on five major issues concerning cyanide: production and uses,
processing practices and innovations, recovery and destruction, fundamentals,
and alternatives. As part of the programming, an interactive panel discussion
was held. In a lively exchange, the panel and audience discussed and debated
the value of cyanide in gold refining, regulations, actual environmental impact
versus public perception, and refining alternatives (including recycling to
minimize cyanides negative effects).
The panelists were
While the proceedings
volume for the symposium contains many of the technical presentations delivered
at the meeting, the transcript of the panel discussion can only be found here,
as an on-line-only supplement to the December
issue of JOM.
The program was organized by members of the TMS Extraction & Processing Division.
Corby Anderson, Moderator: This is our panel discussion on "Cyanide:
Where to Go from Here?" and actually I'll give you a little background.
I'm thinking that maybe we should have called it "Why are We Here?"
I would like to acknowledge, last night we had a reception, and I'd like to
acknowledge again the contribution of the Northwest
Mining Association, Inco
Limited, the International
Precious Metals Institute, the Society
of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc., The
Center for Advanced Mineral & Metallurgical Processing, The
Minerals, Metals & Materials Society Extraction and Processing Division
committees on Extraction and Processing, Waste Treatment and Minimization and
on Precious Metals, and the Metallurgical
and Materials Engineering Department at Montana Tech for supporting the
reception. On behalf of the symposium organizers, I appreciate their support.
Some of these are also co-sponsors for this symposium and they are duly recognized
in the proceedings published by TMS.
Today, we have in front of us, a group of gentlemen who have graciously decided to be part of this panel discussion. We have Richard De Voto-he's representing Canyon Resources Corporation. Glenn Miller-he's taking on the hat of the Sierra Club today. Thanks, Glenn. John Bullock-he's representing the International Precious Metals Institute (IPMI). For those of you who don't know John, John is an attorney. However, he spent a lot of his career working for a refining group called Handy & Harman. He's currently in private practice specializing in environmental regulation of precious metals, and he represents precious metal refiners, smelters, and processors. We have Eric Devuyst of Inco. He's vice president of Inco Tech, a fully owned business unit of Inco Limited, which is responsible for worldwide commercialization of the Inco SO2 Cyanide Destruction Process. We have Jerry Danni. He's representing the Northwest Mining Association, who's a co-sponsor. I believe you're in charge of the environmental affairs for Northwest, is that right? Also, he works for Kinross Gold Corporation, and directs environmental programs at 12 mining facilities in five countries. Representing the Gold Institute is Harold Barnes. He has more than 30 years of domestic and international environmental, safety, health, and government affairs experience in a variety of industries. He has a background at Homestake Mining Company. And last, but not least, we have a representative from the cyanide producers. Donald Whitworth has joined us from DuPont. Don has worked at DuPont for 28 years. He's currently safety services manager for DuPont Cyanides. During his 28 years with DuPont, Don has been involved in mining for 21 years, and with cyanides for 24 years.
So, first, a couple of procedural things; this session will be taped and will be available at JOM-e. So based on how things go, by the time you get home this may be circulating around the web. So I would ask that as we speak we come up to the microphone and introduce ourselves.
Unknown Speaker: Do we have the authority to edit?
Anderson: Yes, there is a chance to edit. The forum is not going to be closed or directed by me. I'm going to ask some questions or get some topics initiated. Hopefully it will take on a life of itself, and we will have some good, fruitful discussions. The only thing that I would ask is that if you have a question or comment, you approach the microphone and state your name and affiliation and your question. And, in your response, if you will state who you are that may help.
So, as I say, I'm going to kick this session off. When I was first approached
to do this, the title was "Where to Go from Here?" Like I say, now,
in retrospect, it might be "Why are We Here?" When I was in freshman
literature many, many years ago in college, we had an occasion to read some
short stories by a fellow named Anton Chekov, who always wrote nice, sweet stories
that ended with a moral dilemma that was not solved. And in this case, the one
I remember follows. I don't remember the title of the story, but there were
people in a small village, I believe it was in Russia, and they were trying
to do some development of their city. They had health spas and baths, which
they wanted to develop to draw tourists and money. This was pronounced as a
great thing. However, in the course of doing this, someone proclaimed that the
waters were poisoned, and this caused a moral dilemma for the people in that
could they or should they develop the baths so they could help their economy
and their village. Or should they announce that there was poison in the baths,
or was there even any poison in the baths? At that point, Anton Chekov stops
the story and lets the reader decide. Which is kind of where I think we are
today. I think what we have to remember that, although I and the other organizers
are from Montana where some of these issues have come to a head, these issues
may be technical, they may be social, but they're wider ranging, and maybe that's
why we've gathered an international community. Wider-ranging than Montana. I'll
read you some articles and headlines I've pulled down off the web. They may
be familiar to you. "Damaging cyanide widely used in New South Wales Mining-government
reveals extent and danger of cyanide in NSW gold mining. "As the Romanian
and PNG situations have shown this year, the use of cyanide technology can cause
serious long-term environmental and social damage," says the director of
the Mineral Policy Institute. "This campaign is one of the facets of a
larger, global campaign that asks for an international ban on toxic mining practices,"
says a representative of the Rain Forest Information Center. "In addition
to the existing bans in Turkey and Montana, USA, on cyanide leaching, Colorado
and Wisconsin are now asking for bans as well. We expect to see this campaign
ripple throughout the world since the potential harms that cyanide spills and
leaks can cause affect everyone, fishermen, average citizens alike."
Also, there was another reference, and I'll read it. Mr. Bullock has provided this from the U.S. EPA. "On January 25 in the Federal Register, the EPA made a preliminary administrative determination that ferric-ferrocyanide is a cyanide for purposes of superfund liability. EPA is responding to a court order from 1995 to make such a determination. This is an interesting issue because ferric-ferrocyanide is one of the many compounds in which the cyanide is present, but so tightly bound that it will not be released in the environment. In the EPA determination, they made a broader implication. Apparently the EPA is asserting that if cyanide/iron can be extracted by boiling the substance in sulfuric acid, the substance is itself cyanide, and a toxic substance".
With that, what I would ask is that each panel speaker give a short comment, if you will, on where we are at with cyanide, maybe why we're here, and where we're going. So Mr. Miller, if you will please.
Miller: I think most of the things I have I actually covered in my presentation already, so I don't think I need to go over them. I think we know kind of why we're here, how we're here. But you ask, "Where are we going?" There is an inherent permission by the public given to everybody to operate. And I think that's what this is going to come down to. The focus is how will this be debated. Are we going to debate from an emotional standpoint, because, quite frankly 99.999% of the population of the world has no clue when it comes to cyanide? But they are deathly afraid of it, and it's very emotional. Look at the headlines that you read on Summitville this morning. I think it was generally agreed Summitville is not a cyanide issue, and yet every newspaper started out, "Deadly Cyanide Was Is " whatever. It's an emotional grabber. And I think that's going to be the issue, because how we as a mining industry address that. Are we going to fight the emotional battle, are we going to fight with logic, what are we going to do? How are we going to do it?
Anderson: Mr. Barnes.
Barnes: A couple of comments, I think, just a discussion to have perception become reality, more so in this situation perhaps than in a lot of others that the stake holders that are watching us as companies that are operating, any issue that occurs for cyanide have any relation to that issue, even if it's not a highly concentrated solution of cyanide. Cyanide becomes the piece that's focused on, and it becomes their perception that cyanide itself has caused those problems. So whether it's a tailings transport system, whether it's a tailings dam, whether it is the water management problem, if there is cyanide related to it in any way, that becomes their perception. I think it's important for us to be able to demonstrate that we can manage with the cyanide in our operation and we can keep the cyanide product in our operation. Additionally, the cyanide companies have to do the same type of thing. And so the management systems we've got in place and that we adhere to becomes very critical. There's an effort currently underway on a global basis to develop more code for cyanide and its use that has been sponsored by UNEF, an arm of the U.N. It has been organized to develop a code of practice. It is made up of multi-stakeholders. In other words, it has amateur representatives, government representatives, CEO's and producers of cyanide; and it's the goal of this group to develop a code of practice over the next year that companies would adopt and it would become something that would be looked at by financial institutions and the government agencies as recognition of their managing cyanide in the appropriate way. A steering committee has been formed at UNEF with several industry representatives and representatives from those other groups-the companies on that group are made up of both large and small gold-producing companies. We've had one meeting of that steering committee; we selected a code chairman, Norm Ringwald, who is in our audience today, to write that code with the goal that the code practice would be in place before the end of the year. I think that's one of the ways going forward that we're going to look at cyanide and look at how it's being managed is to have a code of practice that is validated by a third party and is something that is looked at as a measure of how well we manage the cyanide.
Anderson: Thank you. Mr. Danni.
Danni: You know, it's interesting when you see the word cyanide in print you never see it by itself, it's always the "deadly cyanide" or the "dangerous cyanide." Clearly cyanide has been used to sensationalize this whole debate on mining, when, in fact, the real issue is opposition to mining, and again cyanide is just used to sensationalize that. Because as we've heard, cyanide has been safely used, it is environmentally safe, it's certainly preferable to the alternatives. There have been issues and incidents in the mining industry as we've learned from the industrial sector, and certainly one incident is one too many. But I think we really need to focus on the root cause of those incidents, and it's not cyanide. It may have been improper water balance, or no water balance at all to cause a failure of tailings dams. Or there was no stability analysis done on the tailings dam. But really focusing on those management systems, or engineered systems, rather than again on cyanide with it being a bit of a red herring. At Kinross, and certainly at the Northwest Mining Association, we strongly support what UNEF has directed through the code of practice development. I think that it is imperative that we as an industry develop and adhere to good codes of practice. But again, focus on the management system. It will help us to, if you will, self-police a bit, so that we can eliminate, or certainly minimize, the potential of incidents. I think as an industry it will behoove us to do a better job communicating as well. We tend to communicate, unfortunately, more as scientists and that doesn't quite go over well with the media. I think we need to be able to communicate effectively just what our industry is doing and what cyanide means. And to the extent that we can, bring forward the facts. It's pretty easy to maybe misrepresent the facts, and, I'll poke more fun at Dr. Miller here, but one of the slides he showed in his earlier presentation today was Candelaria, and I'm sure he expected some response, and I don't want to disappoint him. (laughter) That's a Kinross property, and although as indicated on Glenn's slide, there's a drain down through it into the leach field from that heap that exceeds the pcfp. But really, what wasn't presented, and I won't go into great detail and bore you with that, but that closure was the subject of considerable study and analysis by the Bureau of Mines Management, the state, and even involved the EPA. But it's a case where one size doesn't fit all. This was a site that was ideally situated for this type of closure, it's over 600 feet to groundwater, at 250 feet there's a cooling wind. We had an opportunity to actually drain down 40,000,000 gallons of that heap prior to initiating a more advanced study to see what the effects of that 40,000,000 gallons of drain down water had virtually no effect. A little bit of elevated copper, but the rest of the constituents were really at background levels. So, again, as an industry, we need to make sure we get as much of the complete story and information out as possible. But certainly look forward to
Anderson: Thank you. Eric.
Devuyst: Yes. I'll be approaching the subject from a different point of view. We at Inco have some experience with the European mines in Greece and Turkey. Particularly in Turkey, it was mostly opposition created by some environmental groups in Germany, and they were influencing the public telling them that tons of cyanide were going to be emitted into the air and fall right onto the farms and that their lives and their whole industry were going to go broke. So the people more and more believed it to the point that, you well know, cyanide has been banned in Turkey about a year or two years ago. The good news is that just recently, and I don't know if everybody knows this, they now have given permission for the mines at Zibri in Turkey to reopen and to operate for one year under supervision with the use of cyanide. The installation there has an Inco process and place where no discharge is expected. There has been one case of treating with the Inco process there before they were shut down, and the signs were that the process was working very well. We are looking forward to in a few months from now to see the restart of that mine. It will be one year's trial with complete supervision and a lot of eyes on there. This will reflect also on the situation at Zibri, because the same environmental groups have put on pressure there and for the Olympias project. But, nevertheless, there is still an opposition that they won't give up on this. I think this will go a long way. We have been led to believe there is no need to have cyanide in ponds. There has been enough technology out there, it's not just an evil unmanaged process, there's all kinds of technology that can prevent cyanide from being in the pond. We are taking so much precaution in the plant, we store responsibly in the plant, we know how to manage cyanide in the plant. This is no accident. The same can be true for ponds.
Anderson: Thank you. John.
Bullock: To some degree, I think preaching what everyone else has said, yes, cyanide is the Hannibal Lechter of chemicals. I heard 10 years ago in Washington that the Sierra Club had targeted cyanide knowing that cyanide was not a particular environmental hazard, but as the lever for an attack upon mining itself. I don't think mining is going to go away. I think there may be difficulties in the United States, in North America. I've been following environmental issues worldwide through the Basel conventions for the last ten years, and there are two aspects to that. One is that environmental movements around the world are getting stronger. The activists in Germany and in Western Europe, and in the United States are moving out into the developing countries. So you are going to get a lot of this same kind of opposition in developing countries. Likewise, you are going to get developing countries with tremendous drives to develop. They are going to develop resources like gold. They are going to do it in the most economical means possible. And that also means they are going to cut a lot of corners. Putting my lawyer hat back on, let me tell you, if you are associated with any of these projects, you really want to do it better than you would do it in the United States because you do not want to be associated with the catastrophic failure of a tailings dam. You're going to feel a lot worse than just having an Australian "60 Minutes" correspondent grilling you. You are going to get sued. So there are a lot of problems associated with it. It is going to be a matter of having very good management of the cyanide. Seems to me the management is there, the techniques are available, it's just a matter of carrying them out, putting them into practice.
Anderson: Thank you John. Glenn.
Miller: I'll put on my Sierra Club hat. John, I don't remember the Sierra Club saying that. Certainly cyanide is used as a cause because it does elicit a strong response in the public. I don't do that. And I think cyanide, for a lot of reasons, is the best lixiviant for gold and silver. Every other lixiviant is probably going to extract the same amount of other metals as cyanide does, and so there is no net benefit. I think the issue of finding another lixiviant substitute for cyanide largely is going to fail and be an environmental problem. On the other hand, I just want to say very, very clearly, that the promise that was given ten, 12, 15 years ago in Nevada of good quality pit lakes. Well, pit lakes weren't even on the horizon. No leaking tails of tailings empilements, heaps wouldn't be a problem because they weren't going to drain any water. All those have proved wrong. So if you come to Nevada and start looking at the problems that occurred, including that we're going to reclaim everything, now there are 39 bankruptcies in Nevada. At least five large mines that are going to be public costs. I had one, FMC Corp., a large very productive corporation, when it sold the mine to a company that nine months later went belly up, that mine out there now has a tailings facility that's glowing, you can see it from 20 miles away, it's got a pit lake that's tending toward acidity, and it's got real problems with heap leaching. Alta Gold went belly up. A lot of sites left unreclaimed. Whose fault is that? How am I as an environmentalist supposed to tell my friends in Montana that mining is really okay, when in Nevada we're supposed to be in pretty good shape? We've got a good environment for mining, we've got a lot more water going up than coming down. In Nevada there are serious problems, and if the regulations are weak, it's hard to convince the regulators to take what action is necessary. I probably should have mentioned that. As far as Jerry Danni's comment about it is a long ways towards ground water. In fact, ground water, I don't think, has even been found out there. But still the issue of 140M gallons of waste that would be considered a hazardous waste if it was any other industry, putting into a French drain. Why can't I do that? Take all my university hazardous waste and stick it in the same drain. Why can't the electroplater take it off there and dump it down too? The rules are different for mining, and it's hard to sell that to the environmental community saying that it's okay 'cause it's mining, they get a little bit extra leeway. That's the problem that sometimes, I think, you look at a reasonable argument. To the totality of mining, cyanide is a part of it. Cyanide is responsible for it because it's so efficient that you can mine rock with $6/ton gold value. The disturbance, the pits, waste-rock dumps, pit lakes, those are serious problems and we have not solved those problems yet. Including at Dick De Voto's proposed mine. That pit lake would have been much more of a problem, perhaps, than the modeling would have suggested. We can talk about that later.
Anderson: Thank you, Glenn. Dick.
De Voto: Well, my perspective is one of an ex-professor. I feel the answer, if there is one, is in education. We have to deal forthrightly with the fact that we as an industry, and specifically open-pit mining, are being directly attacked by being linked with the chemical of greatest utility and an opportunity for greater safety as Glenn has just acknowledged. We have to demonstrate clearly on each specific site that we can manage all aspects of the site, not just cyanide, safely within the environment and health safety for the employees and citizens. And that's a matter of education. Doing the job right. Educating the local populace, the various ripples of populace out through the site, that the job is being done well and safely. Of course, that's the only basis on which permits are obtained in any case. It's a long, long haul to get to resolution in this. There's no illusion that it's a simple fix. I think we have to start talking about it and educating.
Anderson: Thank you, Dick. With those comments, and I appreciate it, gentlemen, we will open the discussion up to the floor. And I'm sure the rest of you would like to have your say. If you'd like, please bring forth your comments or questions. It's an open format, and approach the microphone. And don't be shy. Yes, Ray. Mr. Ray Beebe is first.
Ray Beebe, Retired Mining Executive and Consultant: I feel very odd because I've not only profited from it, but I may, in some respects, been one of the people that caused it. I can't disagree with anything that any of the individual panel members said, because I think there's merit in all of their positions. But I have to say that, by and large, their positions are springing from different aspects of the same problem. Of seeing it differently. Oh, there are many things that we can agree on, but there are certain ways of dealing with it that are very close to the hearts, if not the pocketbooks, of groups like this. We have an education problem, all right. But, I submit that we have two education problems that we very seldom talk about. One is internally, that all of the mining companies and all of the vendor companies, and so forth, have to cooperate honestly and in a straightforward manner with one another. Not everybody has the perfect answer to each problem, but if we pursue it in that way, we are made to seem as if we have some kind of a guilty secret that we're keeping from the general public. Secondly, I think that we have to educate not just the public, that's hard enough. In fact, some people would say it's impossible. But, when will I hear someone that I consider to be an opinion maker, say a university president or the head of a major corporation that has no direct connection, or even indirect connection, with this industry; a cabinet secretary in the federal government; the governor of an involved state; or something like that, who will step up and say, "The issue here is bigger than cyanide. The issue here is bigger than gold mining."? Glenn and I just finished serving on a committee that was intended to develop a rationale for the future development of mining technology. Mining written large in the sense that we considered everything except extractive metallurgy. So we had mineral processing and all that stuff. We had a hard time agreeing, of course, and we had a divergence of opinion amongst the committee. But these are the kinds of things that people are interested in who are people who might help us. We're reactive, always reactive. We do what is expected of us. In fact, it is so confidently expected of us that the surprise comes when we disavow that suspicion as to what we're up to. That's where the big surprise comes in. I think that we have to try and put the whole thing in perspective. We've got to keep in mind that everything that you say, as I say, is true. All the things about good management, careful planning, etc. that is Remember what you learned in geometry about a proof. That is necessary, but not sufficient. The thing that's sufficient is to prove to the general public that not just gold mining and not just cyanide, but mining generally and the impacts that it makes, with all of the best management techniques and all of the new technology and everything that we can use, is worth it to the national health and security of the U.S. economy. Thank you.
Anderson: Thank you, Ray. Next.
Peter Spencer, Bateman Engineering: I'd just like to make two comments. The first is that if anybody believes for very long that the rules and regulations that get developed for Europe and North America aren't going to extend very far you only need to look at the projects in Africa and South America. They are mostly funded with World Bank or some sort of aid money. One of the conditions of that funding is, in fact, that the regulations that are applied are those that are applied in country of origin, which is usually Europe or North America. And, in some cases, they are very, very stringent, indeed. That means that if you are going to undertake a project anywhere, you have to take a look what's the most stringent standard you're going to strike and then try and make sure that everything you do will at least match that or better. The second point that I'd like to make is, I guess I work in an engineering consulting business. We look at packages, I guess, for plants. I've been involved with many projects and I'd have to say in all of the projects that have had difficulties, it is generally because the local population has not supported mining in general. Very rarely has it had anything to do with cyanide, and all of the issues surrounding the ones in Greece, had nothing to do with cyanide. It is, however, used as an extremely powerful tool to oppose the projects, and it's being done very successfully. Where the mining companies have lost, and they've lost the battle before they've started, is they've not gone in with a good PR job. And I think that's what we've got to get better at.
Anderson: Thank you. Comments. Glenn Miller.
Miller: I think that's true in concept in that it's an over-used phrase, but the issue of sustainability is one that I think that merits discussion. I'm quite pleased that the global mining initiative discussion is moving forward. It can be way overdone, and words are cheap. If you talk the talk you should walk the walk-all of those sorts of things are involved. But mining, going into a site, and incorporating the concept of a sustainable community and a sustainable environment is going to be important. That's the totality of the entire project. It's not just cyanide, which is probably the least of the issues. Acid drainage problems, long-term enclosure issues are much more difficult to deal with, and then, in addition, the concept of building a mine that builds a sustainable community along with the mine is critically important. I think the big guys know this. I've talked to enough of those people that they have that concept. But if you look back in the records of mining in Chile, even when the mines were taken over, I was just recently in Chile (and I hope I'm not stepping on any toes here) and Kennecott's record in Chile in as far as how they dealt with the communities was one not to be very proud of. Basically what Chile did is they took over all the mines. I'm not suggesting that that's an appropriate response, but the history of mining is changing fairly dramatically in this last ten years, and I think for the positive; mining will be difficult to site in certain locations and there are certain locations that the public will just say "you can't mine here". Maybe we haven't got a law for it. Maybe the 1872 law is still in place, but we're going to fall on swords so you don't mine here. I think in northern Washington that was said effectively, and I think Montanans said it effectively as a response to what was perceived as substantial environmental impairment. A lot of which was very real. And so I think to walk the walk is the way the mining industry is going to come back. Better understand acid drainage, better understand closure, better understand how to develop sustainable communities around mines. But the positive response is going to come when those are demonstrated because if you look at the past record, it's not one that's really defendable.
Anderson: Thank you. Yes, John.
Bullock: On the spread of western international standards, I agree with you. What I have seen is the developing countries seem to either have little if any in the way of environmental regulations on a particular matter, or they will adopt standards that are quite stringent. Perhaps not exactly what western Europeans have or the North Americans have, but quite stringent. They do not typically have an infrastructure that enforces those regulations. So, you can get away with a lot. I think that makes it more difficult for people who engage in mining in developing countries because they have to rely upon themselves to hold those standards, to live up to what they should. And that requires a great deal of work with the local community in order to have that community support and infrastructure and management system that is environmentally protective.
Anderson: Thank you. Yes, Ray.
Beebe: Just a follow-up comment to what Glenn said. I guess my question is, how do we shift the debate then with the environmental community to those substantative issues, which are the real challenging issues. Who would know and have all the answers for acid rock drainage and so forth? Quit diluting it with some of the more sensational issues that really don't get us to the target.
Anderson: Thank you. Courtney Young.
Courtney Young, Montana Tech: For what I understand of cyanide spills, 70% or more are related to a dam break or a dam burst, however you want to phrase it. Having said that, most of the time, from what I have seen, is they planned a dam, but they didn't plan for the 20-year cloud burst. You know, the 20-year flood. That's when these dams are failed. I mean, we saw it in the video presented earlier. There's 30 feet of snow at this mine site; they didn't plan for that and, consequently, they had problems. And I think it was the same way in Guyana, where there was a tremendous amount of rain or at least it led up to it.
[Comment from audience inaudible.]
Young: It wasn't in Guyana?
Comment from audience: No, that was not a factor in it. It was deliberately operated as a water impoundment.
Young: So it was poor construction in that particular case?
[Comments from audience inaudible.]
Miller: Typically that's the issue, getting back to the water impoundment comment. It's not the design or the construction
Unknown Speaker B: One of the points that I took out of that was that mine operated in Guyana for almost three years. It had accumulated cyanide with a concentration of 8 ppm, which was four times its authorized limits. What were they doing for three years? Just hoping the cyanide in the pond would disassociate?
Beebe: I think it was one of those situations where it really is a combination of factors. There was no single factor in it. I don't think it was the operating management entirely. I think they ran a risk, and that's not unheard of.
Young: My next question on this topic is: We always hear of dams breaking when it's a cyanide operation. But, obviously, dams also have to break if it's a flotation operation or some other operation.
Miller: Or copper.
Young: And then another comment is: It's these dams that are bringing up a big part of the issue and heap leach pads don't have dams, they don't have tailings. They have these piles that supposedly sit on permeable-free geomembrane layers. Any comments you have on that, and particularly the non-cyanide use for dams. Does anybody have any numbers?
Unknown Speaker C: Mark Hopper had one the one in Spain there's been two or three.
Barnes: Those are numbers that weren't really cyanide as was reported in the press. Maybe not in the same sensational way but they are reported, especially if there's death associated with it where you have members of the public that are killed, that kind of thing.
Whitworth: Dams break one a year for the last 30 years and a third of them were cyanide. That means 2/3 of them aren't.
Anderson: Fred DeVries please.
Fred DeVries, Consultant: I'm concerned a little bit with a couple of the remarks made recently because I think that the social fabric of this country and much of the western world has changed-whether you want to call it post-industrial or whatever. But you operate a mine to make money, and in our media, especially in the United States, that's a dirty word. You don't start industrially to make money, and you are criticized if you are in business. Whether you're making cars or you're laying off 10,000 people, the fact that you might be making money seems to be not a factor to be talked about in the press. I think we have to look at our news media and say mining, like many other things, is a way of earning money. If it does not earn money, it shuts down. If it can't earn money on projection, it won't be started. But I think the problem is not mining and cyanide so much as the fact that in our "post-industrial society" you don't go into business and make money, unless you're an athlete or an entertainment star.
Anderson: I agree with you Fred. I only offer this comment. I think the whole issue is a matter of perceived value versus acceptance of risk and typically where people see personal value they accept risk. Case in point, and this is just my personal opinion, we use a lot of natural gas that is looked upon as a clean fuel. So people use it and are familiar with it. Or the same can be said for gasoline. But there are risks associated with these and people do die or there are accidents every year with natural gas or gasoline. As well, you must produce these directly from products reaped from the earth. But because people personally perceive value, these commodities are used and the risks are tolerated and not sensationalized. The accidents are perceived as an acceptable risk that gives the personal rewards. So I think you're right. Somehow to talk about the value of mining or the value of gold, per se, may help. Enough from me.
Dan Mackie, Consultant: I think as regards cyanide, I think the horse is already a runaway. It's too late to close the barn door. What we have to look at, and this is what I was trying to promote this morning, is new methods of doing things. The industry is notorious, notorious for not doing new things to try to solve these problems. As I mentioned this morning in my presentation, there has been an average of one major dam failure every year for the last 30 years, and about ten of those were cyanide. Each one of those is considered toxic, whether it is or isn't. The public perception is there and we've established that as a mining industry. So my question to you would be: I was trying to promote the lack of use of tailings dams by going with stacked tailings as opposed to tailings dams, and I think that's feasible with my technology and other technologies that are out there. What's your opinion on going in that direction?
Anderson: Somebody like to field that one?
Danni: I have a brief comment, and then I'll defer to the experts. Again it's not a one-size-fits-all. It depends on the site, and it depends on specific conditions, and certainly it can be driven by economics as well. There's an economics attached to each event. I was involved in a facility in Montana where we used low-moisture tailings. It made sense then, the foundation materials were gravels, we were concerned about stability issues. So there you look at the local risk and it was outweighed by the benefit of going with the low-moisture tailings. Really depends on the situation. Again, I don't think we want to over-generalize and say we need to have a knee-jerk reaction with all low-moisture tailings usage. The fact is there are 500-plus operations out there that use cyanide that haven't failed. While, one failure is one too many, let's don't have a knee-jerk reaction to that one failing.
Mackie: So you're going to stay on course?
Danni:. I didn't say stay the course. I think we have to continue to challenge ourselves to look at better ways to do it. Again I agree entirely with Glenn. There are some very challenging issues out there to be addressed. A lot of those issues aren't looking for new technology, it's doing what we already know better in terms of management systems.
Anderson: Any more commentary?
Emil Milosavljevic from Reno, Nevada: We're talking today about managing the environment. I'd like to introduce another point that we haven't discussed yet, and that's the analytical chemistry of cyanide. I think that we will have tomorrow morning a session that will discuss that in greater detail. We can't really agree how to measure the cyanide, so we have permits that are written on the basis of total cyanide, permits that are written on the basis of WAD) cyanide, permits that are based on cyanide amenable to chlorination. So I think that the mining community, and somebody said really well, has to educate themselves and other people on this topic. There is a reason and it is to blame the regulatory agencies that do not accept novel methods very well. I went to the EPA for approval of a novel cyanide procedure, and I tell you I'll never do that again. I'd like to hear some opinions on that.
Miller: One brief comment, and that is that you will have to go again. In dealing with the EPA, it is compared sometimes to raising children. It's a very long-term project. You have to build credibility with the agency as well as the agency with you. It really is a very long-term issue. Don't stop.
Milosavljevic: No, I lied. We finally got the approval for the method, and I'm going again to try to get approval for another site .
Miller: The agencies need a lot more people like you to go and offer assistance. Especially people who have field experience. They don't want to talk to lawyers, they want to talk to real people who have real knowledge.
Beebe: Friday night, I was in Irvine, California at a meeting of the National Academy of Engineering to attend a symposium on, believe it or not, nuclear power. And that morning the Los Angeles Times front page, left-hand column up at the top, said "Nuclear energy may rise again." This is what happens when there is a national, high-level recognition of a very serious problem such as the energy crisis. This is where we're heading. Never mind gold, even though the industry is relatively healthy. It's nice to have some of these problems. A much worse problem is not being able to operate at a profit. But it is that what we thought about the future turned out not to be true. In North America we are down to one lead company, and if we count Cominco, I think I'm right in saying that we are down to one zinc company. These are things from which we make things. Things that we use everyday. It is inestimably more difficult to make a case for gold as gold. Make a case for mining and mining, because several people have said, that in effect, cyanide was a stalking horse. It was a means by which a societal urge to do something could be done. It didn't have much to do with cyanide, it still doesn't have much to do with cyanide. I know that's why we're here, and I know that a session such as this will make a lot of progress and be very worthwhile. But that the bigger issue is still there. You're going to see over the coming spring and summer an absolute ferment in the energy business. People are going to go back and they are not only look more at coal, they are going to look at scrubbers, they're going to look at the relative costs of western coal vs. eastern coal, of the opening of more lands to prospection for natural gas and nuclear. We probably have a ten-year catch-up to get back to competitiveness with nuclear. We've probably got maybe that long in coal when you consider the fact that the people who make combustion turbines are running on a four-year backlog. To order a turbine today, you get it in four years. These are the kinds of things we should be trying to bring to the attention of the American people. And particularly to policy makers.
Anderson: Thank you.
Spencer: I'd like to step one back to Dave Mackie's comment. Most of the gold mines that we would see being considered at the present time do not consider putting cyanide out into the tailings dam at all. They are generally a well-designed, lined dam, even though the cyanide is not to be put out there. What's happening is people are recirculating the solutions as much as possible to use more of the cyanide and anything that goes out to the dam has to be detoxified, usually to around 2 ppm before it gets to there. This has, I guess, come about to avoid the operating problem and water balance problems that have led to a lot of these dam failures. So if you do have a failure, you don't have cyanide out there in the first place. So that's one comment.
The other comment, which just follows up on the previous speaker, is that mining, I guess, needs to get the attention of the general public in a similar way that the energy has. The reason that energy's now suddenly become a big issue in North America is because the lights are going out. We hear about this in Australia, so now it's an issue. Somehow, mining has to become as important to the general public, and I guess the answer to a lot of the problems is to find the issue that will do that. I mean, if you took away all the copper wiring and so on, people would soon notice. And I think that's the sort of issue we should be looking for.
Devuyst: Would it be possible to make a case for gold? That gold is, in fact, important. What do people think of an Anglo-American policy of subsidizing jewelry for young people so that they would buy gold so that the demand would be created. Anybody have an opinion on that, whether we could make a case that gold is good and is needed?
Miller: I would argue that's a loser. Because jewelry is still, by a perception of jewelry, is still a luxury even in India and China. It is a luxury to show wealth. It's very important, but it's a luxury. I would doubt you could make that. And I would argue against doing that because I think people are going to look at it and shake their heads more than anything. Copper and zinc are another thing though. I think that clearly the world demand for copper and zinc is going to continue. I tell my friends in the environmental community, particularly for copper, just because there's a regulation that would say eliminate copper mining in the world, the demand for copper is not going to go away. Somebody is going to mine copper. But I guess there's places where copper can be mined very effectively. I think Arizona is an example of that. New Mexico, Chile is an example of that, where the water balances are very favorable. A common desert is a great place to mine copper because there is so little water. But I'm not altogether sure that Montana would be a place to go back and mine, in Butte, in places where there's a lot of potential for acid generation. I think that the public made a very strong statement about the deposit that would have come out in Glacier Bay. It was northern British Columbia or Yukon. Getty's deposit-that was made fairly loud and clear that maybe that wasn't the place to go look for copper right now. Maybe it will be ten, 20, 50 years from now. The copper will still be there, we'll still need the copper. But maybe we should look to mine where the negatives are far off-balanced by the positives, and right now Chile and the arid states are where in the U.S. that probably is. I think that's one thing the industry, hopefully, would come away from this discussion, is that not only is ore where you find it, the other values are where you find it. The other values are where you find them also. Where those conflicts are highest, prices may have to be much higher than it is now in order to mine that in a way that minimizes the impact to those communities and the environment. I think that's a reality-there is a place to mine and a place to perhaps wait.
Anderson: Glenn, I appreciate your comments. I guess I would say this only because I'm a native Montanan, and I'm from Butte. I think Montana is a good place for people to mine. I don't at all believe that, in my opinion, that the will of the people of Montana was such that they wanted to ban cyanide. I think that it was an aborted effort, and as a native Montanan, and you've heard this yourself, personally, many times. I and others struggling to live and work in Montana really resent outside people representing the opinions of Montana people. We have people like Robert Redford, and the movie A River Runs Through It, and other groups like Ted Turner from outside the state who are wealthy and, thus, devoid of the need to make a daily living, who decide arbitrarily that Montana should be a big national park for them, and the sustainable economy they mandate should only be something like tourism. I would argue that tourism is as much if not more of a luxury economy as gold production is. Just ask the hard working folks in Montana who can't afford to take a vacation because Montana is number 50 in the nation in personal income and number one in the number of people who have to hold two jobs just to stay alive. They have no time or money for touring or vacations. Furthermore, the only thing I would say, and again it's a personal opinion, is in the equation of environmental consequences and social implications, what's never taken into account is the very people who derive their livelihood from mining. I have friends who are involved in mining in Montana, and because of things that have gone on, and are going on, from well-intentioned but misguided outside groups, they have to suffer. And it's not just them, it's their families and the very social fabric of Montana. And yet that's never taken into account in an analysis on the impact. So with all due respect, I offer that opinion as a Butte and Montana native.
Miller: I appreciate that. And I agree with that. I might make a point though that Stillwater Palladium Platinum operation is one that the discussions were somewhat difficult. It is a place where mining clearly is accepted by pretty much everybody as an appropriate place to mine and an appropriate method to do it with. Making a lot of money, luckily platinum is over $1,000/ounce.
Miller: $600? I heard it was over $1,000 at one point. Whatever, that is a place that is making money in a very inappropriate place. All I'm saying, and I don't want to say that Montana is not a good place to mine, but there are places where it is beneficial to mine, if for no other reason than open-pit methods where the water balance is in your favor-meaning a lot more water goes up than comes down.
Anderson: And Stillwater has poised themselves so that most of the public perceives value because the platinum and palladium are not looked upon as jewelry, they are looked upon as pollution prevention devices, which is both true and good.
Beebe: They're industrial metals and that's a big difference.
DeVries: Glenn, your remarks about where things should be mined was sort of interesting in one respect. The world consists of several worlds, including a third world. Copper might be most appropriately mined in Chile, but where in the world, except in North America, are adequate environmental controls going to be instituted in any mining operation? And when people don't like their tennis shoes made in the a third-world country where child labor abounds, how can we say that we shouldn't do our mining here in North America where we can supervise and make it as environmentally appropriate as possible and have to charge a reasonable price and eschew the cheap goods from outside the country that are made under environmental poor controls.
Anderson: Thank you.
Miller: I've got a response. Obviously, I appreciate that I would think I would include Australia in a place that could mine appropriately. And in South Africa is definitely emerging. The point you make about mining in third-world countries, exporting our pollution elsewhere, is very appropriate. There is certainly, in the Amazon rain forest, pollution from mining for gold with mercury amalgamation. Clearly one of the worst things that, as far as impacts of mining, could be done. And so it's entirely unacceptable. But I think as we emerge into globalization as a whole that the rules and regulations about how to mine are going to tend towards consistency in the years ahead. I think there's a strong argument that that's going to happen. Mining in Indonesia, for example, gets worldwide attention now, where I'd never heard of Grassburg or any of those operations before. And now all of a sudden you hear about those more. Those companies that are involved are very concerned with what they're perceived as around the world because of those mines. They are very concerned about how they're going to change those operations. So I think it's evolving into a globalization in this sense is good in that it will tend to homogenize the regulatory climate and I think hopefully make us decide where mining is best done and how should it be done. That's a very general answer, by the way.
Chris Fleming, Lakefield Research: To go back to what Eric was talking about, I know it's difficult to make a strong case for gold right now. If we stop gold mining tomorrow the world would grind to a halt, I think, after ten years of steady declines in the gold price. As we know now, more than 100% of all the gold that is mined every year is what the jewelry market is. It's tough to see how we can sustain a price in the long term where that situation prevails. Maybe we need Anglo Gold to do with gold what De Beers has done with diamonds in order to create the illusion of value with gold. I really think that gold's time is going to come again as a store of wealth. I think the ten-year cycle that we've been through is a manifestation of a love affair that the rest of the world has with the U.S. dollar right now. History tells us that it won't last forever. I believe the U.S. mint is making almost trillions of dollars every year that is being exported out to the rest of the world. I was in Russia a couple of weeks ago and someone told me they believe there are more U.S. dollars in circulation in Russia than there are in America. When that love affair ends, there's going to be quite a reverse flood of U.S. dollars back into America, and when that time comes, gold's time as a store of wealth is going to return. We can do without it right now, but history tells us that man will want to, once again, hold gold rather than the U.S. dollar.
Whitworth: One comment about that, Chris. It was just about a year ago that every newspaper, every TV commentator, was telling us about the new economy and the old economy and how the new economy was going to replace the old economy. And all of us in the basic industries better learn how to make computers and be computer programmers because we didn't stand a chance. Firstly, I took a big time bath in the new economy this past 12 months.
Barnes: Did you invest in DuPont?
(Laughter from audience.)
Whitworth: Yes I did. But I think Chris's point is, and what's going to happen, is it's going to be just like the California energy crisis. It's going to turn on a dime, we're not going to see it coming, and when it happens you'd better be prepared.
Mackie: I can't believe Harold Barnes' comment going unchallenged. The economics of leaching and stack tailing are good. They're as good as CIL/CIP with a tailings pond and they're as good as heap leaching depending on the grade. I've got some numbers I can show you to prove that.
John Goode (Independent): Chris Fleming has painted a rosy picture of the future of gold. I guess my biggest fear is that we are almost ready for the next dam burst. No matter how well we educate the public and so on and so on, when that next dam burst or whatever it is comes along we're going to go through the same process again. The best hope that I see is the UNEP code of conduct, which, if it has some teeth to it, would prevent the next dam burst in Romania or China or Mongolia or wherever it is. There is some hope that that would prevent that next dam burst. The problem I see is teeth. I don't see how that legislation or that code of conduct can be made enforceable. It will be interesting to hear your responses.
Miller: Do you have suggestions about make that enforceable or make it effective; I don't care about enforceability, just make it effective .
Mackie: I think it probably can be made effective with a large number of mining companies, let's put it that way. But there's going to be a lot of places where it just simply just is going to be extremely difficult to make it effective, in for example China, or Mongolia, or Russia. I'm not at all sure that it can be made effective. And so the next disaster, I think, I don't like to be gloomy, but the next disaster isn't too far away, I suspect.
Barnes: I think we can do a lot more. We're never going to get that 100% point that you're making, but by having a code we've brought the financial community into this. Many of these small venture capital operations get their money through the World Bank. The World Bank is part of the group that's working with us, so this could, once it's developed, will become part of their loan package when they make a loan. So it would be enforceable in that way. In addition to large companies adopting this, we plan on having an extensive effort in the development of the code to get buy-in and commitment of the code at all levels of the gold industry. It's a global effort at the present time. So we'll never make that 100%, you're right. There is going to be one out there, but we can make a lot of progress compared to where we are today.
Robert Dunne (New Crest Mining): I'd just like to say a lot of us have been talking about what's going to happen in the future-long-term in the future with the gold mining industry. Something I'd like to do is really take something in short steps forward and it really relates to the issue of what are we going to do now or in the short-term future. We talked about the problems in terms of cyanide and cyanide vs. the other industries. We have a tailings dams break in other industries. Yes, we may hear about it, but it doesn't carry the rhetoric with cyanide. So what is the reason for that? Why is that? Possibly part of the reason is we have some death of fish in the river, or we have bird deaths on the dams, etc. So it carries an extra public image to people and to the press. Now the question is to bring it back to the same denominator is something that Eric said early on-What is the issue if we enforce reducing cyanide levels into all tailings dams to a specific level such that if at any stage the tailings dam did break the issue would not be the cyanide, it would be the tailings dam itself. Now the question is, in terms of the UNEP, if we want to reduce the effects of cyanide in the environment, possibly the way to get there is to destroy it before it goes out to the tailings dam. You have two issues in mine sites-(1) is cyanide going to the site (transport of cyanide), (2) in the tailings dam. The issue is if you can work with these risks. One of my fellow colleagues put it this way: The environmental people are effective because the mining industry has been so efficient over time. The environmental groups will keep changing the goal post and making it more stringent for you because you are so efficient you will be able to find the technologies to be able to work down there. So even though you haven't been able to do it now, if you set those goal posts, the mining industry will have to move to that particular position.
Anderson: Thanks Rob. Any comment.
Danni: The issue of the economics of destroying the cyanide entirely, can you comment on that? Is that a reasonable alternative?
Barnes: Going back to your presentation from earlier today, Glenn, and looking at those species that you put up there and what you see in the way of impact to those species, I think that begins to drive this question relative to what you might have in a tailings pond. What you have in this truck system can economically run to the point where you wouldn't have any impact on those species looking at the numbers that you put up there. And that becomes a whole issue-2 ppm in the tailings dam-is that in fact still a risk to some of the wildlife. Looking at your charts up there, I think that's what you're saying. So whether it's economical or not begins to get into this issue of the species that are present and what the impact might be on the species. It's certainly on the table, and you know for our steering committee relative to some sort of a numeric value for what might be appropriate to be released in the environment is something we started talking about. And we also talked about whether there should be a destruct system as part of what we might look at or envision in the code. It's certainly something we're going to debate, we're going to talk about. But I don't think that you're going to have an off-the-shelf good-for-every-location number.
Danni: That's just the point. I think we have to be very careful to prescribe that we just have to kill cyanide at every facility and that's the solution. Because that's just not appropriate at every facility. Many facilities, as you are aware, do have cyanide destruct, and there's good reason for it. But again it's not a one-size-fits-all technology.
Miller: I think I'd agree with that because if you have 50 ppm in Nevada, that is probably higher than I would like to see. I think 20 probably is more of a reasonable level but going below 20 when the chances of a dam breakage in Nevada are really remote probably is not terribly necessary, and it would waste reagent and the like. But there may be some areas with high water, like Guyana or somewhere else like that, where water management is a real issue; where complete cyanide destruct may be entirely appropriate. I think, probably it's going to have to be a site-specific kind of discussion exactly like that. Now, how that ultimately turns out, I don't know, but site specificity is going to be important.
Fleming: I'm giving a paper on Wednesday morning and there are a couple of others on Wednesday morning on cyanide recovery, so I hope most of the people are still here then. In my paper, I'll be demonstrating that you can recover and internally recycle cyanide for between one third and a tenth of the price of bringing new cyanide into the plant. There are several technologies out there that are available. If this technology is properly engineered into the flowsheet right at the start, you can demonstrate very rapid incremental payback on the capital needed to install this kind of technology. So it's not only showing environmental stewardship by reducing the shipments of new cyanide to a mine site, but I believe significantly reducing the costs by being able to use this internally recycled cyanide very much cheaper than new cyanide. I believe the industry's got to move toward this technology. It makes strong economic sense, and it's a really good story to be able to tell the environmental lobby.
Anderson: Thank you. Yes, Ray.
Beebe: I like the part of the discussion I've heard regarding the flexibility of accomplishing something. Because, I must say, I'm a little bit put off by the suggestion that there is a, or my a, your a, or somebody else's a technology that must be adopted because it will automatically provide Harold with the figure he needs as his enforceable number. I don't think we could do that, I don't think we should do that. And if we were looking for something that was unenforceable, I think that would be a real great way to progress toward it. So let's don't talk about my unique process or something like that. Let's talk about what's the real problem. And the real problem is the use of cyanide as a means of attacking mining.
Devuyst: I don't think anybody said my unique process. There are many, many, many ways to achieve the goals of having no cyanide in the ponds. One of them is what Chris just said, recycling. I really don't understand where you come from.
Beebe: You set the ground rule to say you must not allow cyanide in the pond.
Devuyst: I didn't tell you must, I said this is all opinion.
Beebe: This is no more an opinion than it is to say that the dam failures that have been suffered are the result of bad design, bad management, etc. and that's something we can fix. Would we rather have a guaranteed low cyanide entering a tailings pond when we know the tailings pond was designed and built in an inadequate way? I don't think that that's a normal engineering approach and I subscribe to Harold's position that there's a lot of different ways to approach it.
Devuyst: There's a lot of different situations I agree with you. If it's not needed it's fine. But when it is a hazard, when a dam were to fail, would you rather have the cyanide or no cyanide?
Beebe: I'd rather have a dam that was properly designed and workable.
Devuyst: You can't guarantee that.
Beebe: And I don't think you can guarantee the operation of any of the cyanide destruction processes.
Devuyst: I think you can.
[Two speakers talking over one another-could not decipher.]
Anderson: Well, again, that's why I say, should the session be called where to from here or why are we here. That's what I was thinking about. Rob, you were approaching the microphone.
Rob: The issue is you can't build a dam that's totally safe because part of the issue is the risk factor. You build a dam that's going to take a one in a thousand rainfall year, and build it with a risk factor associated with it. So in certain areas, if you are situated near a river, there's a high potential possibly that that one in a thousand will be next year. Nobody's going to change it. And you're going to have spill in the river. Now the question is, if you're there, what do you do about it ? One of the things, if you are there, and I take on the question I just raised as point two, is a number to try and discuss or debate, you know, get the debate going. As an industry we should be seen to be doing something about it. We have a tailings dam in Indonesia and the way that we deal with it is we said we wanted the cyanide level going into the tailings dam to be 1 ppm or less. Whereas with all water coming in if you did break it was going to be less than .1 mg going out of the tailings dam. We took that on in terms of yes, there is a cost if you want to be there and you want to be responsible, and if the tailings dam did break what could be the issues to deal with. And that was the cost we had fixed in.
Norm Greenwald (code manager for the UNEP Project): It's going to be my job to actually write this code.
I'd like to thank you all for this great input, it will all be reflected in the document.
Anderson: You'll be the first one to get the transcript.
Greenwald: Seriously though, I just want to introduce myself and ask all of you who have specific ideas on how we can make a document that can be applied globally to allow the industry the flexibility to operate in the different environments and the different countries, and it will simultaneously increase the level of control and management of cyanide. Please take an opportunity to come see me in the next couple of days, I will be here for the next three days. There are a lot of conflicting ideas on how to do this. I have been to Australia and South Africa to Canada in the last month, trying to get input on this project and we're trying to make it as reflective as we can of the different ideas. But it's got to fit the world and it's got to fit a lot of different situations and it's got to be something that not only large, well-capitalized companies can adopt, but the lesser companies can adopt. So we're trying to walk a very fine line and any and all input I'd appreciate with the recognition that this has got to fit a lot of different places and a lot of different situations.
Anderson: Harold, did you have a comment?
Barnes: Just a couple of comments. We talked about tailing dams and the need to blame the designer of the dam that was not properly designed. When you go back to how the operation was being run and how it was being managed, most often what you begin to see is that the designer's criteria to the way he designed the dam is not the way it is being managed. We've got effective cyanide management within our grasp. We don't necessarily need new technology. We've got within our grasp the way to manage a lot of it much better than how we're currently managing it. If you share that information from the larger companies that operate in a different way than the smaller companies, it will then be interesting in that kind of information is shared. You begin to operate in that way. If you look at many of these dams that are being used as a water-storage facility, they were never designed to be a water-storage facility. And another comment on the reagent and whether you attempt at recover it or attempt to destruct this . . . You guys who have worked in the industry for a long time, why would you want 500 ppm in tailings ponds? Come on, you're burning up reagents. You're throwing away a lot of cyanide. When we begin to look at the way it's being managed, then maybe the issue is one of copper and copper not being suppressed and is carrying it out there. But why do you have those kinds of levels in that tailings pond to begin with? We're sitting here saying it may be 20 or 50 ppm as the appropriate number. Why are you letting that amount of reagents to get out there? So recycling or a better way of managing the amount of cyanide that's used in these processes. That kind of stuff is available. It's here for us right now. This is not something we're going to need to go out do research for ten years-it's there. Just a matter of applying it and applying it on a global basis industry wide.
Anderson: Thank you.
Young: One thing I debated about when I wrote the article for the Cyanide Symposium Proceedings book that I presented today was do I put certain things in here which tend to make me angry and I know a lot of other people angry, and that is when it comes to fairness. I just dug up some facts that I was coming across and I decided, and I'll just read a few of these to you, and if you guys could comment, I'd appreciate it. In the U.S., there have been no human fatalities in mining. Few have been reported worldwide. Roughly 1,000 birds die annually in the U.S. from drinking cyanide-process waters, whether it's a tailings pond or a what have you, it doesn't matter. Mines pay as much as $30,000/bird to prevent that, that's $30M and more. To put these numbers into perspective, I gathered the following information, all of it came from 1999, various sources. The hard rock mining industry employed 239,143 miners and witnessed 25 fatalities. This equated to .0023 accidental deaths per miner. In 1999, approximately 1,500 gun deaths were reported with 80M gun owners, this equated to .000019 accidental gun deaths per year. In 1999, it was estimated that 80M birds died flying into buildings and communications towers, etc., etc. The communication towers, buildings, we don't fine them, but yet the mining industry pays $30,000 per bird. To me there needs to be some equity here. I think that's what you're seeing is that the mining industry is fighting back, trying to fight back, and we're in a corner, we're a wolf at this point. If you guys could comment on that, and a good way to attack that.
Anderson: Thank you.
Miller: I think the response of the mining industry in Nevada particularly, regarding walleye mortality was actually very good. They've taken an issue that had tremendous public visibility of the mining industry was killing migratory waterfowl. Talk about negative press. And they made that to be a non-issue. I mean there's still some mortalities you indicated, but it is less than other industries. It is an acceptable degree of mortality. This is the kind of thing that the industry needs to do more of, not less of, even though they may be spending those numbers. Those numbers are probably developed by some resource economist, but it's an issue that I think there's general acceptance that this was very good thing to do. And that's why I think that those are the kinds of things the industry needs to do, not retract them. I don't think I've seen anybody in the Nevada Mining Association who would say "Let's stop having to net the process ponds," or "Let's stop having to do the de-tox in the large tailings facilities." They won't do it publicly anyway.
De Vries: Bob McQuivy, who was at that time head of the Nevada Department of Wildlife at the Big Bird Symposium ten or 11 years ago, put it very nicely. He said the birds flying into tall buildings are socially acceptable.
Spencer: I'd just like to come back again and make a comment on the whole issue of not getting the cyanide out of the plant and some cost aspects. The plants that we're looking at designing now, and they go down to as small as 100 tons a day, all have a recirculation of as much cyanide as we possibly can, and absolutely as little as possible having to be detoxified and go to the tailings dam. This is not necessarily for any good environmental reason, it's wise for a very good cost reason. It is interesting, so far in my observations it is anyway, everybody who has been pushing recirculation of cyanide and not putting it in the tailings dam is in fact not from the USA, they're actually from elsewhere. And what we see in most of our cases is a very high freight component. It's actually very expensive to get cyanide to where you want to use it, and it's very much cheaper to use what you've already got there and it makes absolutely no sense at all to put it out in a tailings dam and even less sense to destroy it before you put it out in the tailings dam. So when you sit down and look at the process economics, perhaps the U.S. is a slightly different case. But in most other cases, if you stop and think about it, it's actually far cheaper to try and reuse the cyanide you've already put there and already paid to get there than it is in fact to transport or haul a lot more in and kill it off.
Anderson: Don, maybe the solution here is DuPont has to raise their prices more.
Whitworth: Let me just make a comment. Fifteen years ago, the typical way to run a mine was to set the rate on a mill, or set the gallons on a heap leach or whatever, and then add a bunch of cyanide. Nobody cared how much you add, you just added it because you knew if you didn't have enough you wouldn't extract gold. If you added too much it was not a big deal. In the late '80s-early '90s, the cyanide industry could not make enough cyanide and so we forced you all to become semi-efficient with cyanide. And we did that by raising the price, and some of you probably paid $5 per pound for sodium cyanide back in those days. There is nothing like a good price increase to do that. Let me shoot a shot across the bow, you're going to get another price increase this year, and it is directly associated with natural gas. You make cyanide out of natural gas, that is the preferred carbon source. Price of cyanide is going up. It's in your best interest to accept what everyone has been saying here and to absolutely look at it, pay attention to it, and maximize its usefulness.
Anderson: Thank you.
Whitworth: Fifteen-20¢ per pound are the numbers people are talking about. That's just to break even. That's just to get us equal to where we were before the fourth quarter of 2000. That's what the natural gas and costing has done to us.
Kevin Gering (INEEL): Recently our lab in southeast Idaho has been under a bit of an attack from environmental groups in Jackson, WY. So I know firsthand what it feels like to be slammed by outright lies and misperceptions. And in our case, these people are having success in Wyoming because it's largely an emotional response. It doesn't matter what the claim is, whether it holds water, whether there is an substantative truth to what they're saying, as long as they can elicit an emotional response from the public, they won. I think the mining industry cannot get away from the emotional aspect. If you're going to sell your product to the public, you need to add their emotional element to it. Don't think that delivering the facts will be enough. The public's lazy, they won't listen to the facts, they won't rationalize it and say you know that makes sense. The first line for them is emotions. So you cannot divorce yourself from assuming some kind of an emotional element in your packaging of your product to the general public.
Anderson: Thank you. That's a good point.
Speaker Unknown: Beer, beer.
Anderson: Beer. That's a valued product that we accept the risk with, is that what you're saying? I'm very pleased that we got some of these issues out. I really appreciate the panel members, in particular Glenn Miller, taking it upon himself to carry the environmental movement on his back for us. You won't be too scarred I hope! But I also appreciate the audience participation and interaction. These comments have been taped and will become a publication in JOM-e, so you'll see how accurate and quick they are in getting them out. Which I'm sure they will. So that should close our session for today. Again, thank you for coming to this symposium. I'd like to acknowledge again the contribution of the Northwest Mining Association, Inco Limited, the International Precious Metals Institute, the Society of Mining Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc., The Center for Advanced Mineral & Metallurgical Processing, The Minerals Metals and Materials Society Extraction and Processing Division committees on Extraction and Processing, Waste Treatment and Minimization and on Precious Metals, and the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Department at Montana Tech for their support.
Direct questions about this or any other JOM page to email@example.com.
|If you would like to comment on the December 2001 issue of JOM, simply complete the JOM on-line critique form|
|Search||TMS Document Center||Subscriptions||Other Hypertext Articles||JOM||TMS OnLine|