Andy Robertson will be inducted in the Environmental Management and Stewardship category, sponsored by FLSmidth, at the gala dinner in the Brown Palace Hotel, Denver on February 16 (www.im-halloffame.com). He co-founded SRK, Gemcom and Infomine and now is inducted into the International Mining Technology Hall of Fame.
[Editor’s note: Andy Robertson is Executive Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of InfoMine, which runs MINING.com.]
During his career in the mining industry, he has worked tirelessly to protect the environment, communities, water quality and water supplies. Because many of mining’s impacts come from sediment discharge and acid rock drainage (ARD), the management of tailing and waste rock stability and geochemistry are crucial to protecting the environment. Robertson’s background is in rock-mechanics, geotechnical engineering, and he has (self-taught) expertise in geochemisty; his career has focused on setting the environmental stewardship bar high for the industry and for the work products he delivers.
He is passionate about improving the design, construction, operation and closure of tailing dams since integrity of these dams is crucial to protecting current and future (perpetuity is a long time) generations from extreme events and ‘black swans’. To make tailing dams of today and the future safer, he advocates for a) ever improving technology for the design, construction and long-term stability of tailing dams; b) fiscal capability – to construct and operate tailing dams that do not leave a debt burden on our grandchildren and c) governance – so that today’s designs account for the needs of succeeding generations and changes in societal expectations. With the goal of making tailing dams physically and environmentally safe, he continues to serve on multiple peer review panels and independent design review boards for some of the tallest and most challenging tailing dams in the world.
Robertson was instrumental in pioneering the use of Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) – one of the first systematic techniques for failure analysis – and MAA’s (Multiple Account Analyses) to engineered solutions in the mining industry. FMEA was originally developed in the 1950s to study problems that might arise from malfunctions of military systems.
When Robertson was 30, he, Oskar Steffen and Hendrik Kirsten formed Steffen, Robertson & Kirsten (SRK), the first consulting firm in Africa to specialize in mining geotechnics. Four years later he moved to Canada to start the first overseas branch of what would later become SRK Consulting. Numerous US offices were formed under his guidance and SRK maintains a focus on protecting the environment through its engineering work.
From the 1980s-2000 Andy worked on foundational research for the testing, prediction and control of acid mine drainage. He was a contributing member of the British Columbia ARD Task Force, which published some of the industry’s first ARD guidelines. He has written and contributed to industry technical guides on mine waste management, uranium mill waste disposal (for the National Uranium Tailings Program, Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, CANMET, 1987) and guidelines for the rehabilitation of mines for Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (1991). These guidelines established the foundation for environmental best practices in the industry.
Ever innovative, in 1982 Robertson founded Gemcom (Geotechnical Engineering and Mining COMputing) a company that financed, developed and sold the mining industry’s first PC based exploration database, ore deposit modelling and open pit mine planning software. In 2012 Gemcom was sold to Dassault Systemes, subsequently the name was changed to GEOVIA.
In 1989, as part of his vision to make mining information widely available, Robertson launched InfoMine (initially as part of SRK). Later he saw the power of the internet to allow universal access to the information and implemented a digital strategy that remains the cornerstone of the company. Under his leadership InfoMine created many valuable offshoots including EduMine.com, a training resource for mining industry professionals. It offers industry and university recognised certifications and has over 6,000 registered students; CareerMine.com a recruiting tool that links qualified candidates to career opportunities; and Mining.com – an internet mining news publication. In addition, InfoMine offers a number of other database mining information sites, including a used mining equipment listing site, a suppliers directory, and an on-line mine costing tool called CostMine. He recently oversaw the creation of ConferenceMine, a technical conference division that facilitates the exchange of mining knowledge, experience and lessons learned.
In 1994, Robertson founded Robertson GeoConsultants (RGC), a highly specialised, international mining consultancy based in Vancouver, BC where he continues his work on tailing and waste rock stability and geochemistry, all of which are crucial to protecting the environment.
Robertson’s interest in continually raising industry standards to protect the environment has been a pervasive theme in carrying out his work and in making contributions to the industry.