August 2019

What’s one aspect of the resources sector you’d like to learn more about, and why?

  • By AusIMM

We asked our members what they’re interested in outside their own disciplines.

Danielle O’Toole MAusIMM

Technical Director – Geotechnics and Mine Waste Engineering, SLR Consulting

With mine closure becoming more and more prevalent, it is incumbent on mine closure professionals, regardless of their area of expertise, to become familiar with a wide array of professional practices. As a geotechnical engineer involved in mine closure I am exposed to a variety of other specialities such as environmental aspects; stakeholder engagement; regulatory requirements; and other engineering requirements, particularly hydrogeology and geochemistry. 

While I rely heavily in my design decisions on specialists in the above fields, over the course of my career in mining I have gained a basic understanding of most of the requirements above. However, one area that I have not had much exposure to, and am becoming very interested in, is hydrogeochemistry, particularly with respect to acid metalliferous drainage (AMD). 

The hydrogeochemistry behind AMD appears to me to be an almost infinite loop of chemical reactions that need to be managed – solve one reaction puzzle and it can in turn create another one. An example of this is how depriving waste rock of oxygen can reduce acid generation, but making the environment too alkaline or creating an oxygen-poor environment can mobilise other metals. Gaining a deeper understanding of how and why materials behave as they do from a chemical perspective could certainly assist in my future designs.

Carla Vincent MAusIMM

Senior Geologist, Panoramic Resources – Savannah Nickel Mine

I would like to learn more about strategy, particularly of my upstream and downstream customers and suppliers but also of the business as whole. Continuing to learn about the strategy of my customers and suppliers helps me to understand where, why and how the geological strategy is aligned or out of whack with the value chain more broadly. 

Geological strategy is constantly being adjusted to meet business requirements – particularly drilling strategy, as this is often the most time-consuming part of delivering models to the wider business.  

This not only helps me to understand where and how geological information is utilised across the business, but it also helps me to communicate the limits of the current geological hypotheses and processes. 

I’m constantly curious about the methodologies other parts of the business use to maximise value, and have found that often these are transferable back into geology or can help identify roadblocks within the business chain. 

Graeme Wallis AAusIMM

Managing Director, Wallis Drilling Pty Ltd

As Managing Director of a drilling company, I’ve had plenty of exposure to the role of geologists. I’ve spent much of my career looking over their shoulders at drill core and there is definitely a bit of excitement when it appears that you are on the right track and may have indications of the mineral that you are trying to find. Gold has that lure. Whether a trail is in the dish, or there is some visible gold in a piece of core, everyone in the group gets that feeling of excitement when it appears.

That same sense of anticipation is there when drilling for minerals such as mineral sands in new untried areas of the country – mind you there are not many of those left now. However, even revisiting previously explored areas with new theories gives a sense of anticipation.

I also have an interest in learning more about mining history – walking around old workings where prospectors used to do their drilling with a shovel and mattock is fascinating and shows how strong the lure of gold is. When I lived in Kalgoorlie in the mid-1960s, all the old mine shafts were in fairly good condition. While I never went down any of them, it was fascinating to use a mirror to look down and see the work that had been involved in sinking these shafts.

Paul Weber MAusIMM(CP) (Env)

Director and Principal Geochemist, Mine Waste Management

I started my career as a geologist in Western Australia, moving on to a PhD during the late 90s downturn, and then onto a career in acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD) management. My takeaway message from 20 years of project work and consulting is that as an industry we must strive for source control of AMD whenever possible. This is important for our current and future social licence to operate (SLTO).

Hence, I know AMD is a current concern for communities and it is likely to be a greater issue in the future with changing generational expectations. I understand the importance of social licence, but I know little about the science of social licence. That’s what I would currently like to know more about.

Recently, I attended the AusIMM SLTO Forum in Melbourne to understand the issue in more detail. By continuing to listen to talks from industry leaders in SLTO, I am starting to realise that many of the technical challenges I face as a geochemist are also managed in a similar manner by social scientists. For instance, changing generational expectations and uncertainty can be managed by adaptive management processes in both fields of study. 

To wrap it up, I am looking forward to learning more about social licence, as the expectations of our communities will drive the way we manage AMD in the future.

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