The other weapon we have in our quiver is the review process. The Standard refers to various types of reviews, all of which are important, and all of which serve their purpose. The most fundamental form of review usually occurs as an internal review, where a designer or design company provides their design to an internal reviewer. These seldom work well when the reviewer is not involved at various stages all along the way. If the sole involvement of a reviewer occurs at the eleventh hour, there is very little benefit. Another type of review is the third-party review and the external review board. Typically, these reviewers are brought in either at specific intervals or when the project reaches a milestone during the design/construction/operation process, or on some relatively arbitrary interval, say annually. To be more beneficial to the mine, the recurrence of reviews should tend to be more frequent, especially during the design process, when meaningful variations to the design process can be implemented.
Independent review boards serve a very unique role for mine operators. A typical independent review board for a tailings facility may consist of any number of individuals, but there are usually three or four members, each with a slightly different background and area of expertise. Normally the review board members have at least two decades of experience. With some of the industry’s most senior review board members entering retirement, the average age of these review boards is becoming younger and younger. Still, based on my personal and recent experience, most review board members have at least three decades of experience. The review boards can be a huge benefit to the mine and their engineering team, especially if they are given unlimited access to the project documents and the design engineers. With a very modest amount of time spent on any particular project, these review boards can sometimes make significant positive changes to the work that others are completing. Never underestimate the value of a review board.
As mining practices continues to grow, expand and evolve, so does the geotechnical design community evolve to respond to the ever-changing nature of mining. Without these changes, the practices of geotechnical tailings engineering would stay in the past, a place we do not want to revisit.