November 2007

Engineering Exchange

Breaking ground in Eastern Canada

By H. Weldon

Bell Creek mill and mine in Timmins

Since opening an office in Sudbury, Ontario, last year, SRK has wasted no time getting its feet wet in the local mining scene. George Darling, principal mining engineer and office manager, SRK, retired from CVRD Inco prior to joining SRK. He believed SRK’s experienced engineers and exceptional reputation could play an integral role in the local mines.

SRK has alliances with some of the biggest names in mining such as BHP Billiton, CVRD Inco, and Xstrata, but it has also been known to work with the junior companies as well. At the Lakeshore Gold (LSG) Timmins West Mine, Darling and the SRK team recently worked on a pre-feasibility project. They realized that presenting a 13-chapter, 350-page pre-feasibility study to stakeholders would not only be time-consuming, but might also induce sudden-onset sleeping sickness to their audience members. With positive results in mind, SRK utilized Mine 24-d to present a 3D picture of the mine over a time period. The presentation was clear, precise, visually interesting, and very well received by the stakeholders.

Over at the Copper Cliff Deep site, CRVD Inco has brought together a group that is a true example of symbiosis in action. The group consists of three to four CVRD Inco members and several engineers from different companies. Darling applauds this partnership. “In a time of stretched resources, it’s interesting to find excellence in a variety of places and bring them all together, like a patchwork quilt, to work on a project with the same goal in mind.”

There are two mines at the Copper Cliff Deep site, located four kilometres apart. An important ore body has been located deep underground between the two mines and the CRVD Inco team is busy designing a new shaft to access the ore body and integrate the two existing mines.

The mining industry is constantly juggling how to be cost-effective while ensuring a safe work environment. This was recently exemplified at De Beers Canada’s Victor Mine, Ontario’s first diamond mine. Naturally, while excavating the overburden to reach the Victor kimberlite pipe, the steeper the slope, the more cost-effective it will be. As always, good ‘ole Mother Nature is the determining factor. The angle of the walls is dependant on the stability of the stuff it’s made of as well as erosion and the gravitational force pulling it down to the centre of the earth. An SRK Geotech team designed a “trial pit” to test what angles the pit walls would hold. With 35 degrees optimal, and 15 degrees at bit expensive to say the least, the SRK team installed instrumentations to monitor, evaluate, and come up with a recommendation for a safe and optimum overburden pit wall angle.

The SRK office in Sudbury started with two people and in the last year has grown to nine. This is a tiny office by anyone’s standards but the Sudbury team is confident in taking on any project within its realm. This is possible because SRK offices anywhere in the world can access the expertise of other engineers in their sister offices. Sam Gauvreau, a recent member of the Sudbury team, is pleased and enthusiastic about his decision to join SRK. “We work just down the street, but the next day we might have the opportunity to work in South Africa or Central America with world renowned geologists and geochemists.”

Of course, even the most efficiently run office can have the odd glitch. On a recent trip to Timmins for a mining conference, Darling and a co-worker were booked (by a well-intentioned office assistant) in a hotel that had recently been torn down! Not to worry, with the help of some locals with good connections, they found place to lay their weary heads.

They’ve only been here for one year, but with skill and determination, the SRK Sudbury office has found a secure foothold in Ontario. What next? Perhaps SRK will venture into Quebec, or maybe even the Maritimes, making them truly national engineering consultants, solving mining problems from coast to coast.

Post a comment


PDF Version