Climate, Time, Contaminants

April 12-15, 2015 | Vancouver, Canada

Keynote Speakers

The conference program will include the following excellent keynote speakers:

Chris Moran, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland, Australia

Topic: System modelling and expansion of the scope of “environments”
Chris Moran
System modelling is the representation of the connections between components of an entity of interest whose components are defined by a specific system boundary definition. For example, imagine that the boundary of a given system is defined to be the lease boundary of a mine. Within that boundary there are a number of objects (or components) that are involved with water. Indeed, on many mine sites all components have water associations. Water transport infrastructure, i.e., pipes and pumps, create the connections between components, that is, water stores (or reservoirs/dams) and tasks that require water, e.g., mining, mineral separation, dust control.

Systems models have been established for a range of mines and mining environments globally. These models, which maintain underlying discipline of mass and energy balances, have been applied to a number of challenges and to define opportunities to improve water management.

In this presentation, I will outline the basic properties of a systems model and place it into context of other, more familiar models, viz., engineering and scientific models. The utility of systems models will be demonstrated by examples. These examples will be drawn out to illustrate the value of managing water in extreme environments at the individual site level and at regional scale. At site level, we study how well matched the site infrastructure is, given the water stores and demands compared to the climatic conditions. When the system boundary is expanded to a region the mines themselves become the components in the model and natural systems, e.g., rivers and infrastructure (again pipes and pumps) connect them. With this system representation it is possible to examine whether a region can be managed in a more resilient fashion than the mines as separate entities.

The second contribution of this presentation is to raise the question as to whether the scope of the term “environments” is sufficiently broad. I contend that extremes in the operating context beyond those driven by climate are of significance in guiding the minerals industry to improved water management. The examples I provide to illustrate this point are:

  1. Extreme volatility of the price-cost relationship for minerals and mined energy products. This extreme can result in a deterioration of hard won improvements in water management if indiscriminate cost cutting removes the ability of sites to maintain initiatives.
  2. Initial research on the information flows between work area groups on site has indicated that there can be extreme disconnects in information flow between them. In one example, the environment group was the only information link between the mining and mineral processing teams in water management. Is such a system extremely efficient or extremely fragile rather than encompassing the adaptability we know is needed from systems that are resilient to external shocks such as those from extreme climatic events?
  3. Extreme changes to the onsite workforce. A number of large mining companies are actively exploring how to radically reduce the number of people that will operate on a modern mine site. What are the implications for water management? Are water management technologies and processes being designed with such extreme changes? Are the important links to community that we know are so often associated with good water stewardship threatened by this extreme shift?

I will draw on lessons from system modelling to provide some ideas of how we should , at least, be stating the important research questions that arise from broadening the scope of the term “environments”.


Professor Chris Moran is the Director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) at The University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia. 

Previously, he was the Founding Director of SMI’s Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry, which conducts research towards achieving sustainable water management in the sector. 

Professor Moran has published widely in the scientific literature and broader media. He serves on various government panels and committees, as well as UQ boards. He is a Director of the International Mining for Development Centre (IM4DC), and has had formal advising roles for state and federal governments on nutrient management, groundwater, coal seam gas and underground coal gasification. 

Professor Moran’s objective is to connect the multiple disciplines involved in minerals and energy to meet the challenges of demand and supply into the future.


Richard LeBreton, Diavik Diamond Mines, Canada

Topic: Managing groundwater under extreme conditions – an example from the Diavik mine

There is increasing worldwide experience in managing groundwater at mines located adjacent to surface water bodies. It is important to identify and characterize the potential flow paths, and to implement the mine dewatering system to deal with on-going recharge. The Diavik mine must also manage the water under arctic conditions. Diavik is located adjacent to Lac De Gras in Canada’s Northwest Territories, about 300 km to the north of Yellowknife. Three diamond pipes are mined, initially with two open pits, and currently using underground methods below the pits. Although the pit slopes are excavated in strong granitic rock, it was essential to achieve good depressurization during early mining to ensure an adequate level of stability. Consequently, the mine installed a state-of-the-art monitoring system which has subsequently been used by the Large Open Pit (LOP) Project as the basis for research into the behaviour of pore pressures in hard rock systems. The paper provides a description of the dewatering and monitoring systems used at Diavik, and the outcomes of the research work carried out by the LOP using the Diavik data.


Richard LeBreton is the senior geotechnical engineer for surface infrastructure at Diavik Diamond Mines (2012), in the Northwest Territories. Mr. LeBreton has for the last 8 years supported open pit mining operations and the transition to underground mining at Diavik’s Lac de Gras mine site. During this period, Mr. LeBreton acquired extensive front line experience with groundwater management in a sub-arctic environment from both a slope stability and an operational perspective.


Lisa Wade, Goldcorp, USA

Topic: Goldcorp’s Water Stewardship Strategy

Goldcorp recognizes water management as a significant concern shared by the company and the company’s stakeholders. Optimizing water management can help to ensure water security and production, reduce costs, reduce impacts, improve operational excellence, and address stakeholder concerns. These benefits can be realized both within and outside of the operational boundaries. Optimizing water management will help Goldcorp succeed in an increasingly competitive and demanding marketplace. External stakeholders such as local communities, government and nongovernmental organizations, shareholders, institutional investors, and financial institutions, combined with stricter regulatory standards, will continue to challenge the company to operate to higher and more effective water management standards.

Goldcorp recognizes the importance of establishing and implementing a Water Strategy and the increasing value of water as a shared resource. This presentation summarizes the strategy as well as the specific milestones to be achieved through the Water Strategy implementation. Incorporating Goldcorp’s Water Strategy into the core business pillars will result in realization of the many opportunities.


Lisa Wade holds a B.S. and an M.Sc. in Environmental Engineering from Montana Tech in Butte, Montana. She began her career in copper mining in Arizona but soon moved into the gold mining industry starting in Winnemucca, NV working at the Twin Creeks Mine. As her career continued, she moved to the Mesquite Mine in Southern California, and was introduced to the challenges of permitting a mine expansion in California. Lisa’s first overseas posting began as the Environmental Department Manager at Newmont’s Yanacocha Mine in Peru where she learned to speak Spanish and manage many issues at that very large operation over the course of three years.

She continued to live in Latin America and work in the gold mining industry for 10 years, first for Newmont and then for Goldcorp. Lisa worked through a wide variety of environmental and socioeconomic issues at Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine which were all complex in their resolution. After 15 years of experience working at various mines and projects, Lisa moved into the role of Environment Director for Goldcorp in 2010, where she is today.


Leslie Smith

Leslie Smith, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Canada

Topic: Are we demanding too much of hydrogeologic simulation models when they are applied in extreme environments?

Powerful computational and visualization tools now exist to aid hydrogeologists in the construction of simulation models that are used to guide the assessment of potential environmental impacts associated with mine development and mineral waste management. It is also generally the case that the bar has been continually rising on the threshold and detail expected by regulatory authorities when evaluating models and predictions submitted as part of an environmental assessment. What has not changed is the complexity the modeler faces in describing a hydrogeologic setting and anticipating its influence on groundwater flow patterns and solute transport. This presentation provides a perspective on what constitutes reasonable expectation for model predictions and model forecasts when applied in extreme mining environments. The issue of reasonable expectation is perhaps best addressed in the context of a model as a decision support tool containing embedded uncertainty, rather than a (somewhat) precise mirror of site conditions.


Dr. Leslie Smith is a Professor in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia, where he holds the Cominco Chair in Minerals and the Environment. Dr. Smith has carried out research for many years in the application of groundwater models in complex geologic and hydrologic settings. He has also conducted external reviews of groundwater studies and simulation models of numerous mining projects in North and South America.


Geoff Beale, Schlumberger, USA

Topic: Mine water management in extreme environments

Geoff BealeThe increase in the size and depth of remote mining operations has driven the development of some new and innovative approaches for mine water management. Extreme geological environments have required new approaches for grouting to minimize inflows, particularly in karst and evaporate formations. Mining close to lakes and rivers has demanded coupled monitoring of potential ground movement and water pressure. Cold weather dewatering may require a more stringent design for dewatering wells, horizontal drain holes and other infrastructure. Sites located in extreme wet areas need to adopt careful control measures for in-pit surface water. Sites located in extreme dry environments may require alternate facility designs to minimize water loss. The presentation draws on worldwide mining experience to illustrate some of the issues and highlight some of the solutions.


Geoff Beale has worked for over 38 years in surface and groundwater control for the mining industry. He has worked in over 60 countries worldwide, in all major industrial commodities, and in all climatic zones.

Geoff is most noted for his global knowledge of open pit and underground mine dewatering projects, and has been involved with many of the world’s largest dewatering operations. In addition, he has broad experience in the operation and environmental aspects of leach pads, waste rock facilities and tailing systems. He has extensive mine closure experience, and has been a lead player in the closure program at a number of mine sites.


Michael Nahir, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, Government of Canada

Topic: Giant Mine remediation project – stabilizing arsenic mine waste using freeze technology

Michael Nahir

The Giant Mine is located in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, and produced gold from 1948 until 1999. Processing of the Giant Mine ore created arsenic trioxide dust as a by-product. Approximately 237,000 tonnes of the dust are currently stored underground in fifteen purpose-built chambers and mined-out stopes. To prevent the release of arsenic into the groundwater around the mine, the site’s Remediation Plan calls for the arsenic trioxide dust and the rock around each chamber and stope to be frozen using an active or hybrid freezing system to initially cool the rock and dust, and passive freezing to keep it frozen over the long term.

In 2009-10, a full-scale optimization study was constructed to test the freezing methods and performance at one of the smaller dust containing chambers, with ground freezing beginning in 2011. The chamber was surrounded by 38 drill holes and freeze pipes, with an additional 31 instrumented drill holes completed to collect performance data. The study included tests of active freezing, passive freezing, and several variants of hybrid freezing systems. It also included testing of a range of installation and hardware options that are being considered for the full program.

The presentation will provide an overview of the project, present review results of the deep thermosyphon tests, preliminary results of the study along with how the results are being used to assist in the full-scale design.


Mr. Nahir is the Director of the Major Project Technical Office for the Contaminated Sites Program for the Canadian Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The department manages the remediation and closure of abandoned contaminated sites, primarily due to mining, in Canada’s North.

Michael has been working in engineering and project management of contaminated sites remediation for 21 years mostly with the Canadian federal government. His experience has been focused on cold regions and in particular mine site remediation and closure. In the capacity of Engineer or Project Manager key projects in Northern Canada include: Giant Mine, Faro Mine, Colomac Mine, Discovery Mine, Rayrock Mine, United Keno Hill Mine, Mt. Nansen Mine, Venus Mine, Silver Bear Mine and Tundra Mine.

Michael holds a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Manitoba and M.Eng. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Alberta.

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