Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Monday, November 29, 2010

An interesting property dispute

In north Kaneshie (a suburb of Accra) there is an ongoing property dispute which has now reached some kind of impasse.

One man has built a house. Another has built a wall through the house.

We are all eager to see the result of the pending court action.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why the Canadian political landscape seems so familiar.

It's like a movie.

High in his tower, Prime Minister Stephen Harper searches endlessly for the 
source of ultimate power--the Majority Government of DOOM.

Two stories come to mind. The Senate, now stacked by Conservative appointees, quashed a piece of legislation without debate. Now it is true that the Senate is supposed to act as a brake on the House of Commons, but it should appear that there is an intellectual process involved, not simply the actions of mindless undead.

Recent Tory appointments to the Senate killing the climate bill.

And now the PM has decided to extend Canadian presence in Afghanistan a few more years. Why bother with debate over such a trivial matter? One would hope that the Opposition would have more to say.

Michael Ignatieff and his personal manager prepare for another campaign. 
"A vote for me is a vote for against for against Mordor!"

Talk about "loyal opposition".

Ignatieff consults the Magic 8-ball for yet another important policy decision.

Of course there are those that seek to return Canada to a state of democratic grace.

"Of course I pledge to help destroy the One Ring. My preciousssss!"

Voting Bloc is not an option for most of us in Canada (outside of Quebec). I would equate them with dwarves, working on their things and not bothering much with the rest of us.

The Green Party is the party of hobbits.

"Go hobbits! Longbottom, er, leaf for all!"

The trouble with hobbits is that they aren't renowned for their strength.

No problem. I hear four hobbits are on their way to help.

But in the end all politicians are the same.

The majority government is mine!!!!

Next election--whenever it is--destroy the Ring. Destroy power. Don't vote.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Some thoughts on NI 43-101

In mining work, dishonesty can have obvious rewards. Some of the scandals that occurred in the fairly recent past—Bre-X, Golden Rule, have led to an increasingly onerous set of regulations on reporting.

Some standardization in the rules of reporting mineral exploration results is a welcome step and the agencies which initiated these steps should be congratulated for their attempt to bring clarity to the market.

Nevertheless, it is important that while bringing clarity we don't make the entire system opaque. One problem with the NI 43-101 setup is in the review of reports. Many of the reviewers do not have expertise in geology--in fact, they are lawyers and accountants, and they expect the document to read like a legal acounting document. This places a burden on the poor geologist writing the report, and favours instead larger geological consulting companies who have legal and accounting staff to vet reports prior to submission.

It is a truism that when the major players in an industry feel threatened by smaller upstarts, the most certain way to overcome such competition is through enacting industry standards.

Additionally, geology is not like most of the other "hard" sciences. There is, of necessity, a great deal of interpretation of observations. Simply reporting observations is only part of the science--the interpretation is the key area. Much of this interpretation follows from previous experience. Consequently, it is common for geologists to make a key interpretation about a project on the basis of previous experience. But this is not something that translates easily into an accounting or legal document.

Two geologists may make the same observations about a project and arrive at different conclusions. This is a reflection of the nature of geology, and is not something that is helped by needless quantification. 

The rules of reporting on mineral properties make it very difficult for a geologist to express certain reasoned opinions which have arisen from interpretations of observations in light of past experiences. This means that a great deal of the value that a geologist can bring to a property is no longer reportable, and the exploration progress on a property must be reduced to the reporting of a series of dry numbers. The flavour is lost.

Consider this--in 1897, the Ashanti Mine began production. It was financed by the issuance of shares, at 100 pounds apiece, on the London Stock Market. How was it promoted? The founders of the company simply reported that they had visited the site in Ghana, and that the valley was full of artisanal miners recovering gold from rich seams within the bedrock.

Early this year I wrote an NI 43-101 report on a property in Sierra Leone--a report which is still bouncing back and forth between myself, the company in question, and Canadian securities regulators. One of the earlier issues, since resolved, was my contention that the number and extent of artisanal mining operations on the property meant that it would be reasonable to assume some chance of successfully exploring the property for gold.

The securities regulators took exception to that conclusion. I had no specific numerical measurements of the gold recovered by the miners. There were no numbers to report. So the observation had to be withdrawn, or at least, very heavily discounted.

Were the Ashanti Mine property being explored for the first time today, it is highly doubtful that it could be brought into production. The actual structure of the gold shoots are like long, thing, curving cylinders that plunge steeply near the surface, and gradually level out at depth. The gold-bearing zones of the shoots are only a few m in diameter, but they are perhaps 3 km in length, and each one carries 2-4 million ounces of gold.

A cylinder is very difficult to find, let alone completely define, by drilling. The only way they could have been found and mined was the way it was done. Artisanal mining was observed at the surface, and so a proposal is made to start at the surface and mine down. No drilling, just start mining. But in today's environment, it would be impossible to raise the financing for such a venture (what are the numbers?), and it would be practically impossible to define a resource using the normally accepted methods (which are more suitable for bodies with a tabular geometry).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dynamic stability in probability density plots

Probability density diagrams of the two dimensional phase space portraits of climate proxies show two forms of stability. The first is the obvious form--stable (in this case, ice volumes) over comparatively long periods of time, broken up by brief periods of rapid change where the ice volume changes to another metastable state.

Using a stacked time series (from Huybers, 2004), we observe a different form of stability--one in which repeated cycles of growth and decay generate ring structures in the probability density plot.
Just as a car driving around a track at a constant speed is a form of stability, so are the two "limit cycles" inferred in the frame above. The system is stable, even though it is in a constant state of motion.

In the animation below (click and with luck it will run), the probability density space is characterized in the early Quaternary (about the first half of the animation) by stable cycles, which give the ring forms as in the still image shown above, but in the late Quaternary, the rings disappear and are replaced by probability peaks.

Both segments of the record show multi-stability, but the forms of individual metastable states in the early Quaternary differ from those of the late Quaternary.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Close-up with copper

In the back alleyways of SCC, about 50 m north of the main highway out of Accra (to the west) is an unnamed transformer workshop. There, old burnt-out transformers are unwound by hand, and new transformers are built.

Shop owner in foreground. The fellow behind him is unwinding a voltage regulator.
All right--the place doesn't look like much. Maybe you wouldn't feel comfortable buying a transformer from such an establishment in Toronto or wherever.

Isn't that beautiful?

The old copper wire is sent off to be melted down and is drawn out again. I didn't ask if they ever used pennies. They check gauge with a micrometer and their work standard is really good. It just takes awhile to receive a product.

We went to see them about building a three-phase step down transformer. We have this submersible slurry pump which we brought over in 1997 and used from an American vessel--it ran on 208 V 3-phase power. We have a newer pump arriving shortly by sea, and the local generator we picked up for it provides 380 V three-phase power. While waiting, we would like to use the old pump.

Apprentice unwinding the voltage regulator.

We went over the circuit diagrams for the transformer we wanted. He was willing to price and acquire the materials and dielectric oil and seal the whole thing up at a reasonable price. But that hand winding--it would take a week. He was willing to guarantee the work.

Reluctantly we decided to assemble one ourselves using store-bought transformers, stepping down the phases separately and recombining them. We successfully tested the contraption yesterday and are spending the next couple of days getting it field ready for deployment next week.

Three phase transformer. Inelegant, but it worked once we replaced the fuses that came with the transformers with the ones which should have been supplied.