Resilience, the old way

Resilience, the old way

Nov 3rd, 2016

Resilience, the old way was often the result of “simple over-design”. As a matter of fact especially when invasions provided very cheap labour, as slaves and, in modern times, war or political prisoners of some kind.

Souvenirs about Resilience, the old way

I remember my first job as a civil engineer, in North Africa, at the end of the seventies. The mission was to check over 200km of single track railroad for foundation stability and bridges integrity. Someone high-up in the ranks had signed-off a massive purchase for totally oversized power units. However, happily, someone down in the ranks had spotted a potential problem: would the infrastructure resist the new units?

The French  colonialists had designed and built the lin. I remember my emotion holding in my hands detailed designs calculated and handwritten in ink pen by a certain Mr. G. Eiffel. Yes, the same of the iconic Paris Eiffel tower and the unbelievable Maria Pia Bridge over the River Douro in Portugal.

Resilience, the old way

Construction begin: 5 January 1876 Construction end: 1 October 1877 Inaugurated: 4 November 1877 Closed: 1991


Artillery fire had damaged some of the bridges during the war. However,  they still carried their loads. In many cases we scratched our heads in disbelief seeing trains travelling over with minimal deformations. Resilience, the old way was the result of significant over-design and highly redundant hyper-static load-carrying members. They were still working if some of their components were damaged.

I also remember my awe while admiring a 30km long 3-6m high dyke, supporting the track. Perfectly joined mortar-less hand-cut rock blocks armored its full length and height. Every so many kilometers a series of culverts of the same make (no prefabricated stuff in those times) would allow local Oueds flashfloods to purge. My local colleagues explained that 30,000 “prisoners” had worked for 5 years on that dyke. Resilience, the old way thanks to cheap labour provided by war.

What about today?

Today nobody can neither afford nor desire Resilience, the old way.

Over-design bears costs that our societies are not ready to bear anymore. Just think about Requests for Proposals and construction bids. Although a lot of good intentions are touted, at the end, price, hence “economic” design, wins. And even if over-design was accepted, environmental criteria would lead to its rejection.

All that to say that next week at  risks and resilience (in mining) I hope we will discuss how the industry should turn towards more sensible ways to evaluate risks. I also hope we will discuss  how we can increase resilience by understanding how inter-dependencies may alter the risk landscape of an operation or a corporation responsible for multiple operations around the world.

We will do our part presenting a course on Risk Assessment, Decision Making and Management of Mine Waste Facilities and three papers.

The paper titled Military Grade Risk Application for Mining Defense, Resilience, and Optimization will explain what you can expect from a meaningful risk assessment.

We will also present in cooperation with SNC Lavalin  Application of Enterprise Risk Management Approach to Manage Tailings Management Risks and finally, in cooperation with Robertson GeoConsultant’s Jack Caldwell Ten Rules for Preparing Sensible Risk Assessments which examines common risk assessments pitfalls and mistakes and shows how to fix them.


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Category: Hazard, Mitigations, Risk analysis, Risk management

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