Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Peru Trip Photos And Comments

We leave for the USA late tonight.  I had the chance to do other things than just work on bearing orders and look into mining.

I mentioned at one of the places I commented online that Peruvians do not think politically much like Venezuelans, want proof?  (*Click* on any image for a better view)  El Comercio is Peru´s top newspaper.

94% of Peruvians do not want a "Chavez Model" for their economy.  Only 25% think President Ollanta Humala is doing a good job...  66% think that First Lady Nadine Humala is doing a bad job in her role.  Hmm, sound like any "First Couple" we know?

Here are some surfer-dudes, I took this from the top of the cliffs of Miraflores (Lima), that day the biggest waves were some 5 feet.  They can get substantially larger.

I wrote my two previous mining articles based mainly upon my conversation with Ing. Luis Vargas Barbieri, the Director of Minas y Petroleo, Peru´s weekly paper on mining.  We talked at his office, behind him is a painting by his son:

A curious pair of ads from his paper, Peru´s only real gold refinery (left, which did not allow me to visit) and a Russian hotel there in Lima:

We did have dinner with three of our customers (front, L - R: Collections Director Raul (leaning in), customer Daniel Ramos, Managing Director Cesar Rodriguez, back, L - R: customer Carlos Quispe, customer Silvestre Huaman, Sales Director Roberto and some gringo...):

Lily´s younger grandaughter Alondra delebrated her first birthday and Baptism on the same day.  Here are Lily´s two grandaughters (Camila on the left, 18 months, and Alondra) at her party (75 people showed up):

The next day we went to a Peruvian "country style" restaurant, "La Rustica".  Peru is very proud of being, well, Peru!  Here is La Rustica´s drink coaster:

At La Rustica, little Alondra with her proud grandpa Cesar:

Here are cousins Viviana (who took the pictures of me doing Tai Chi a week or two ago) and Mauricio.  Viviana is the youngest of Lily´s three children, and Mauricio is the youngest of Oscar´s five (both are siblings of my wife).    Viviana and Mauricio get along very well.  Why?  Because they both show each other respect and accept the other for whom they really are.  We need more people like that...  (Viviana recently stayed with us for a few weeks back in January and February).  Both are about 15 and are studying hard to try and come to America to study at American universities.

This next picture shows China´s most popular pickup truck!  It is called the "Wingle" (look hard), although I do not know if that "Wingle" rhymes with tingle or with "ting lay".  It is made by Great Wall, one of many Chinese car brands here in Peru.

Finally, I invite one and all to participate in another contest!  The first one who answers the below question about the "QR" code below wins 0.05 Bitcoin (worth almost $30 as of now).  The answer MUST come by blog comment below, and send me your wallet number (sooner or later) to collect your BTC!  The question is: "What is so unusual (VERY rarely seen) about this QR Code?"  The black border making the outer square is not the answer.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mines and Metals in Peru

My last article was a macro-level view of the gold industry here in Peru.  Today I would like to look at specific gold mines and projects that may help raise production if they come online as expected and hoped.  I will also examine the exports of other important metals, especially copper, which brings in more money than gold does.  Finally, I will take a quick look at oil & gas production here and their prospects.

Platinum and palladium have lately gotten some notice, but Peru does not produce these and similar platinum-group metals.


Yanacocha is Peru´s (and South America´s) largest gold mine.  It is located in the northern mining region of Peru, high up in the Andes in Cajamarca Department ("State").  The mine is owned almost in whole by Canada´s Newmont and Peru´s Buenaventura (I believe Buenaventura´s shares are available as well on the NYSE).  Golf production at Yanacocha has been going down, it is estimated by Minas y Petroleo that production will fall soime 14.6% from  2012 to 2013 (from 41,865 kg in 2012 to 35,756 kg in 2013).

Minas y Petroleo lists "Barrick" as the second largest producer, the table notes that includes all of Barrick´s production in Peru, it is also declining (from 26,900 kg in 2012 to 20,488 in 2013, a drop of 23.8%).

Yanacocha and Barrick represent over one third of Peru´s gold production (both years), so this is a serious matter for those in Peru who want more revenue from gold mining.  Overall, Peru´s esitmated 2013 gold production will drop about 3.9% (some of the other mines are taking up production some, and "informal" mining production is oncreasing as well.  That 3.9% works out to some 6200 kg less in 2013 (or about 198,000 oz (total, from 2012 to 2013) less, this number should be put in context with what should be coming on line soon, see below).

OK, re the Conga mine (nearby to Yanacocha, this mine has been delayed by protests now for a few years), I now have heard three versions:

1)  from the Cajanarca newspaper editor, that Conga is a HUGE wolrd-scale gold mine, much bigger than Yanacocha

2)  From Ing. Luis Vargas (Editor of Minas y Petroleo), that Conga is mostly a copper mine (well yes, almost every copper mine produces much more copper tonnage than gold tonnes)

3)  from a local contact here who grew up in Cajamarca Department, who also said that Conga would be a huge gold producer

The only written reference from Minas y Petroleo that I have handy lists Conga as a copper mine (with gold) whose "EIA" (I have not been able to track down exactly what that is, but I believe it is a formal plan that includes the detailed environmental impacts statement equivalents, the measures they take to lessen the impact on the locals (up to 13,000 will be affected to some extent, but I think it is really only about 1000 who will have to move...) has been approved by the Peruvian government (in late 2010), but protests have been intense enough so that Newmont and Buenaventura have considered just abandoning the project (it would be VERY expensive).  They have recently built a dam, however, their newest idea is "dams first, then the mine"), there are three or four lakes that would be destroyed by the project.  I myself looked at a detailed study done by a group from Spain (among others, including 12 parts of Peru´s governement), and it LOOKS like, if done right, that the locals would benefit (this first dam now holds about twice as much water as the lake it will replace -- the main factor), and there would be many jobs...  But, resentment, led especially by the political hard left, is leading the charge to stop the mine.

Cecilia Jamasmie files occasional accounts of what is happening around Conga, it looks like  no one should hold their breath looking for production to begin soon:


Conga is estimated to produce some 680,000 ounces per year (Minas y Petroleo), which does not look like would be enough on its own to stop Peru´s current gold production decline.  That is a big increase-

Some new proposed mines have presnted their "EIAs" to the governent.  Coriani looks to be perhaps a successful model of how to negotiate with the locals in good faith.  Coriani is Bear Creek Mining, and it will be a silver mine (and lead amd zinc -- polymetallic like most silver and gold mines are).  Bear Creek worked very hard with the Aymara (the "other" main Andean Native Americans (the Quechua are the largest group, the direct decendants of Cuzco´s Incas and seems to be spreading the wealth around...

Ollachea (est, production when up and running) is some 112,000 oz / year.  Shahuindo will produce some 90,000 oz per year.

The total from the above three gold mines (Conga, Ollachea and Shahuinda) would be around an 890,000 oz increase, that would more than offset the 198,000 oz less in 2013...  Conga´s 680,000 oz (about 21,250 kg) is some three times the 2013 - 2012 shortfall.

(Ed. Note: Everyone is invited to check my arithmetic!  Please have at it and let me know if I got something wrong)

The way I see it, and Ing. Luis Vargas essentially agreed, is that in the very short-term production of gold in Peru will fall.

Cecilia Jasmasmie (not at the above link, but in a nearby article there at mining.com wrote that Peru has about 4% of the world´s gold reserves.


I write a lot about gold and a lot about Peru.  But, Peru is really a GIANT in copper!  Chile would be KING, see below table.  Peru is the third largest producer in the world and probably has the third largest copper reserves.  The below data comes from this link:


World Copper Producers and Reserves
Production Reserves
(metric (metric
Country tonnes) tonnes)
Chile 5.7 million 190 million
China 1.5 million   30 million
Peru 1.2 million   76 million
USA 1.1 million   39 million
Australia 970 thousand   86 million
Russia 720 thousand   30 million
Zambia 675 thousand   20 million
Congo 580 thousand   20 million
Canada 530 thousand   10 million
Mexico 500 thousand   38 million

Peru is currently in third place, both in production and reserves.  I am going to guess (but of course do not know) that perhaps large unexplored countries like Russia and Congo may have more waiting to be discovered, with perhaps Canada (up in the arctic) and China (up in Tibet and maybe in Yunnan or Xinjiang)...

Peru´s current production is dominated by four mines / companies:

Major Peruvian Copper Producers
(2012 metric
Mine / Company tonnes, est.)
Antamina 430 thousand
Southern 298 thousand
Cerro Verde 249 thousand
Xstrata Tintaya 161 thousand
Above Total: 1,138 thousand
Peru Total: 1,326 thousand

Source: Minas y Petroleo

The above Peruvian total for 2013 is very close to the estimate to the growth rate anticipated from 2012.

Minas y Petroleo reports that there are several new copper mine additions and new mines that are planned to be coming online soon.  Copper production in Peru will likely continue to grow.


Peru has always been famous for its silver production.  In recent years I have read that Peru and Mexico used to fight it out for No. 1 producer, but Ing. Vargas told me that China now produces a LOT of silver.  Here is a table I found (rounded numbers), Ing. Vargas is right, China just overtook Peru:

Top World Silver Producers in 2012
Country of ounces)
Mexico 162
China 117
Peru 111
Australia   57
Russia   45
Poland   41
Bolivia     40
Chile   37
United States   33
Argentina   24

Silver was estimated to grow its production a little over 1% in Peru in 2013.  It is not clear how much the silver mine Coriani silver mine will produce, but it will contribute to Peru´s production, perhaps bringing back into second place (?).

Peru has some 22% of the world´s silver reserves.  If silver makes a comeback in use has money (highly unlikely), well, that would likely increase its price.

***  I am still waiting for an passionate expert on silver to come and write a piece as a "Guest Post" here, an opportunity to gain fame among your peers!  ***


Many metals are found together, in Peru´s case many are "porphyrys" of rocks, especially igneous rocks.  Learn a little something about Copper Porphyry here:


At that link you can find information on the Grasberg Mine (Indonesia, the world´s largest copper and gold mine) as well as the new Oyuu Tolgoi getting a lot of attention in Mongolia (so close to China and all).

Peru produces several other important other metals, many from porphrytic deposits:


Among those top three base metals, Peru has a modest but real share of world reserves, between some 4% and 8%, depending on whose mnumbers you believe.  Molybdenum (used to make steel tougher) is often found with copper.  Zinc and lead are often found with silver.

Production of these base metals in Peru is "reasonably stable".  These metals are produced in LARGE QUANTITIES there in Peru, the production figures are in the thousands of metric tonnes per year.


Oil and gas production is not as great as earlier hoped, although there seems to be enough natural gas in the southeastern jungles to justify another gas pipeline.  So, that´s good, I have earlier written about Peru´s great progress in powering some of Lima´s car fleets with NatGas as well as LNG (liquified natural gas).

There does not seems to be much progress in finding more oil however.  This would be a tremendous boon to Peru )and the world if they found enough).  Much of the country is unexplored, and I have been told that there are geological basins that *might* have oil and gas.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gold And Other Metals Production In Peru

On this trip to Peru, I have finally had enough time to take some time to try and hook up with Peruvian experts in the gold mining industry (in particular) but also have a look at the other metals that Peru produces.

Mining in Peru is such a BIG and complex set of industries that I have decided to write two articles: this one more focused on gold and the macro environment of gold production in Peru, and my next article will cover other metals (especially copper, a much bigger business than gold) as well as some comments on natural gas and oil in Peru.

Mining is the backbone of the Peruvian economy.  Yes, mining is a dirty business, but with no mines, we would have no (little) metals, and life would be very different...  Gold mining, done in a sloppy way, badly pollutes the environment.  ALL mining, done poorly, pollutes badly.  Peru has a long and sad history of having parts of its environments wrecked by pollution, although standards are getting better.

Mining exports are about 60% of Peru´s total exports.  Other major Peruvian exports include agricultural products (like coffee, cocoa, fresh flowers, fishmeal, fruits and vegetables), textiles, artisanal products (souvenir-like products) and some steel manufactured products.


I had the great fortune to meet with the Editor (Ing. Luis Vargas Barbieri, a gentleman of the "old school", now in rapid decline worldwide) of Minas y Petroleo, the weekly mining journal here in Peru.  We discussed, both at his office and over lunch, the current state of gold and other mining in Peru.  He also gave me a few issues of  Minas y Petroleo for my inspection, and where I took much of the data for this article.  2014 is their 20th year of publishing!

Muchas gracias, Ingeniero!  Ingeniero means "Engineer" in English, it is considered a prestigious title in Peru, as would be "Architect", etc.).

After the usual pleasantries (children, etc., he has five, all grown), we got down to business.  Overly general for the moment, he told me that there had been a small decline in gold production in Peru in very recent years, based on lower production at Yanacocha and other major gold mines as well as very slow replacement production coming online (Conga has been slowed down a lot, but it looks like it will come online in say a couple fo years, though there are still issues to be worked out).   I mentioned Yanacocha and Conga here: http://robertmixblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/review-of-panorama-cajamarquino.html.

His estimate is that gold production will continue to stagnate or decline a bit, perhaps until the companies, the Peruvian government and the locals (both for and against mining) are all able to make some deals happen.  All three components: gold mining companies, the Peruvian government and the locals are all powerful players, all need to be onboard for any mine to get going.

Here are the latest statistics for gold exports, in ounces and US dollars:

Exports of Gold from Peru
Gold Exports Gold Exports
(thosands of (millions of
Year troy oz) US dollars) Comment
2001 4294 $1,166
2002 4750 $1,501
2003 5777 $2,102
2004 5956 $2,424
2005 6876 $3,055
2006 6674 $4,032
2007 5967 $4,187
2008 6418 $5,586
2009 6987 $6,805 peak production
2010 6346 $7,758
2011 6415 $10,104 price spike
2012 5370 $8,153
2013 5567 $8,172 (est.)
Source: Minas y Petroleo (Peru, Issue No. 834)

The figures speak for themselves, but note three things:

1)  Production has indeed been falling reasonably slowly but resonably surely since the peak in 2009

2)  Note how important the dollar volumes are from 2010 to now (call it an $8 billion dollar range) vs. much lower in 2001...

3)  The figures do not include (as far as I can tell) the informal and polluting production from "Madre de Dios" (the SE jungle) area, this is a real issue, as that area of Peru has  one of the world´s largest biodiversities and even a couple of almost completely uncontacted native Amazonians (latter was true as of a year or two ago anyway)


It looks like the rather optimistic comments I had in earlier articles about Peru and gold will likely NOT come about as quickly as I had thought.  The above link from a year ago noted that the Editor of the Cajamarca newspaper thought Conga would be huge (well, yes) and coming online soon (no).  No other big gold mines are expected to come online soon in Peru.

Here is where Peru stacks up vs. other major gold producers (from mines only, the USA also produces a fair amount of scrap gold from jewelry and electronic goods) worldwide, Peru is currently in sixth place, maybe they will soon capture No. 5 from South Africa, maybe not:

2012 Gold Production -- Major Producers

Country (tonnes)
China 403
Australia 250
USA 230
Russia 205
South Africa 170
Peru 165
Canada 102
Indonesia 95
Uzbekistan 90
Ghana 89

Quick math check: (165 tonnes) * (approx 32.11 oz / kilo) * (1000 kg / tonne) = 5,298,000 toz (close enough (1.35% difference) to above figure 5,370,000 from Minas y Petroleo).


We went on to talk about other issues related to gold production in Peru.  Gold is found in all three mining regions of Peru (the North -- Yanancocha, South America´s largest gold mine), the Center (famous more for silver, lead, copper and zinc production with some gold as well) and the South (copper and gold).  Note that he told me that gold is almost always produced at mines where a lot of copper is produced!  There is a correlation, but it is not all that high, based on copper vs. gold production at top mines.


The next piece will be more about specific mines and metals production in Peru.

Thanks for dropping by!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A Pretty Good Day In Lima

Saturdays back in the USA are sometimes a very leisurely day, or a day to run errands to get stuff done that may be hard during the week (food shopping, household chores, etc.).  Every married person knows this.

But, here in Peru, Saturdays are often busy, people doing other things.  Ameru works half the day, and they sold almost $1000 worth of bearings (not bad, Saturdays are usually extremely quiet), most of them to a customer in the provinces (which I like a lot, bigger footprint in Peru, and they pay in advance -- no credit risk!). I did a little bit of "work" but not much, they close at just after noon.


Just before my wife and her sister headed out (that story is coming very soon), I took "Los Lolos" (the family nickname for their parents, a few of you have met them!) to lunch.  Here is my photo of them while we were walking to get lunch this afternoon.  Ana is 83, Eleodoro is 93 (still works outside doing construction and stuff, I have shown him before in my blog).  When they walk together, they walk the "old-fashioned way", she takes his arm.  (Our daughter LOVES this stuff!)


My wife and here sister went off to see the Met!  The Metropolitan Opera of NYC is perhaps the best opera company in the world.  In Lima?  Well, The Met has a special deal, with quality cinemas now in 66 countries (and some 10,000 screens) where they show a live performance on some Saturdays at noon (US ET).  And they have one here in Lima.

(Sidebar: why do I even write here about operaHere´s a little secret for you socio-economic climbers out there: the richest and most connected of every city go to the opera, you want to get to know the right people, you go there, source: Esquire magazine.  Also, to make it (as a singer) in the opera, you have an excellent voice and work very hard to get there, only the top succeed, opera singers are not to compared to, say, Peter Frampton...)

My wife is a big-time opera fan, almost a fanatic (one of her friends is a fanatic).  She has been an opera fan ever since she lived in London in the 1970s and 1980s (two hitches there).  When we lived in the DC area many years ago (before we got married and for some 16 years thereafter), she subscribed almost year to go see the opera at the Kennedy Center, a very nice place to see opera.  When we moved to our current city, she has joined their opera as well, but there are fewer performances and the quality is not as good.  I´ll discuss one other drawback of the oepra in our town in just a bit.

The performance this week was Jules Massenet´s Werther, I had never heard of it before today, it is sung in French.  I provide a link below to one of the most well known passages, sung by the very same guy (Jonas Kaufmann) who was singing at the Met, and only the best of the best sing at the Met...

So, my wife and Lily go off to the opera, they did not need to dress up because who goes to the cinema all dressed up (no one)?  I asked my wife to provide information, some of you may like these comments...  First here is a handy table to be able to make a guess as to how YOUR opera experience might go, based on my wife´s experiences in the below venues:

Opera Venue Audience Description & Behavior
The Met, New York City NYC´s elite, very formal, very well behaved
The Kennedy Center, DC
The nation´s elite, VERY well behaved
The Opera in our city Our city´s elite?, fairly poorly behaved
HD Cinema, Lima, Peru
The Lima elite, well behaved
HD Cinema in our city
Our city´s elite?, very poorly behaved

By "the Lima elite", of course I mean mostly the rich and white descendants of the Europeans.

And what do I mean by "poorly behaved"?  Well, everyone who goes to the opera (should) dress up, and be silent during the performances!  After all, opera productions are expensive to put on, and the rich and connected go there, so they should STFU! Sometimes there are quiet passges, and not all people (not even most) know the story lines and so are trying to pay attention while reading the subtitles...  It´s a respect thing.  And in most places they do.  But, not in our city!  The old ladies here talk among each other (or yell at their husbands), rustle papers (opening their snacks), smack their lips while eating and drinking...  Tut-tut!

The audiences in our city make my wife often want to pull her hair out!  It ruins the quality of the experience.  She even wrote to our local opera and suggested that they include an "Opera Etiquette" insert (English and Spanish) like some cities do.  The letter got nowhere, duh, and she is not just a subscriber, but a contributor (albeit a small contributor).

But, today things went very well.  Lily enjoyed the opera VERY MUCH and almost cried (that´s pretty normal at operas among women), she is now an opera fan, neither of them even KNEW that Lima had an HD screen showing it!  Now Lily (who likes culture as well) can see more of the opera as she can, her life will become a little better now,,, "gracias hermana!" (thanks, sister!).


When my wife is away, I am free...  I went to Starbucks (yes, they have one "on almost every corner" here too) and enjoyed a "Mocha Frappucino" (hey, it´s summer and hot now) while reading the News and Business sections of El Comercio, Peru´s biggest and most serious newspaper.  And Starbucks did a good job with my Mocha Frapucciono, the place was also jammed, I got one of the last places to sit down...


After walking back "home" and letting my coffee beverage settle (while wasting time on the Internet, although I DID get a joke out to my Joke List), I asked my 15-year old niece to take some pictures of me while doing my two favorite Tai Chi forms.  This is about the only exercise I do when down here, so I try to go three times a week.  I like the small nearby "Trinitarias Park", in Surco, a municipality of Lima; Tai Chi is much better done outside.

Here are three photos, taken by my niece Viviana, this first posture is from the "Yang Style Long Form", most movements in Yang Style are slow and graceful.  This posture is named (thanks wikipedia!) "Step Back and Ride the Tiger" (Tuì bù kuà hǔ, 退步跨虎):

Yeah, I'm getting kind of old and bald, so what are you going to do about it?  Please also note that static pictures show next to nothing about how Tai Chi flows, it is a wonderful exercise, and hey, it might come in handy some someday (it is a legitimate martial art, although almost practioner does it for their health).

This next one is from the more combative style Chen Xin Jia.  This is a more athletic form and is more similar to real combat (like karate's "katas" are).  It is also rarely seen in the USA.  Some of the movements are fast!  I am nowhere near mastering this form (or for that matter any of the others).  This one is hard and dynamic.  Here I am setting up a punch, setting up is slow, but the punch is fast:

Chen style Tai Chi, near the end of the form, setting up two punches from down low:


Here is a Youtube of Jonas Kaufmann singing one of the more famous selections from Werther, that my wife and her sister saw today.

Massenet: Werther - Pourquoi me réveiller (Jonas Kaufmann)

  • by 70Tamas
  • 10 months ago
Jules Massenet: Werther Pourquoi me réveiller Werther - Jonas Kaufmann 

Blessed weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Tribute To Another Blogger

The view from our room here in Lima, Peru at 8:00 PM

We are in Lima, Peru, my wife is visiting relatives and friends, and I am here mostly on bearing business.  I am always sympathetic and supportive of other fringe bloggers slaving away to put their thoughts out there for anyone in the world interested enough to read...  One blog I have run into lately is by a Mr. Smith, who shares certain (superficial at least) things with me: he writes a non-commercial blog, is married to a no-nonsense foreign lady and writes whatever he feels like.  Mostly it is a daily account of his personal life.  I invite you to take a look:


I like it because it is deeply personal and he not afraid to use strong language (eg, "filthy atheist" is my favorite of his terms).  There are a number of differences between us however.  He is a macho man living in Korea with his Dragon Lady, and unlike us, they have two young Children of the Rice (we have one grown daughter).  Korea is an interesting country.

So, today, in sincere honor of Smith´s blog I will depart from my customary writing style and write about my day today.  Nothing special.  Skip this if you want, I don´t care.


I woke up at 8:30 AM, happy that my brief bout of "Atahualpa´s Revenge" had passed.  I ate a small but careful breakfast so as not to re-invite trouble.  I then walked across our in-law´s Peruvian style compound to work, where I sat through a meeting I could only partly understand.  The meeting was about different pressures (collecting money, making deliveries with our limited manpower and fleet, divisions of responsabilities, teaching one of our younger guys how to better work with customers, etc.).  I said very little, as those matters are beyond my scope.

I enjoyed a cup of coffee and [hygiene details deleted].

I then examined our upcoming proposed purchase from Iljin (one of our two Korean bearing suppliers), and found it OK.  I took a boring photo of our upcoming export shipment to our customer in Costa Rica (a pallet of bearings and hub & bearing assemblies), hey, The Economist magazine once called the bearing industry one of the world´s most boring industries, who am I to argue?

Since the computer was on anyway, I went to waste some time at some favorite websites (zerohedge.com, and more recently, bitcointalk.org).  Nothing new anywhere, same old stuff.

My wife went off to the "Mercado Indio" (Indian Market) to purchase gifts.  I have already been to the Mercado Indio, there is little of interest for me there.

After work I walked to a nearby park and did my two Tai Chi forms.  I did not perform them well, as it has been eight days since I last did them.  Well too bad.  I needed the exercise.  At least there was hot water for the shower when I got back.

I ate a clean dinner and walked three blocks to Wong, the local supermarket to buy some juice, milk, and raspberries.  Here is a picture of tropical fruit for sale there:

Fruit uncommon in the USA, L - R middle row (below bananas): Carambola (Star Fruit) and  Mamey (olive green), and Maracuya lower right

All of the family has left to go see some movie in Spanish, which I passed on (something about a pregnant woman), but at least we have two more DVDs that Eleodoro (my wife´s father, 93 years old) likes (Combat!, the show I liked when I was a kid and that Eleo likes too).  Maybe tomorrow night we two can watch.another three or four episodes.

Taking another page from Smith´s blog is a song for you to enjoy.  I do not know why, but this song has been going through my head for several days.  Perhaps many of you will remember Jacques Cousteau and the wonder he brought us decades ago (this song I should arguably have put at the end of my last article about the book I reviewed: The Pillar to the Sky).  I hope you enjoy the song, I did.

"...Ay, Calypso, the places you´ve been to
The things that you´ve showed us
The stories you tell 
Ay, Calypso, I sing to your spirit,
The men who have served you so long and so well..."

(Click the link below if the image does not play the song)

mqdefault.jpg (320×180)


God Bless.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review Of: "Pillar To The Sky" (William Forstchen)

William Forstchen is famous for having written a "survivalist" fiction novel about two years ago (One Second After), about what happens to a small town in Western North Carolina after the Iranains hit is with an EMP (eletromagnetic pulse which then shuts down the electric grid).  It is not pretty, but a splendid book.

Forstchen is a military historian and of technology.  He thinks big, at least in these latest two books (his One Second got Newt Gingrich´s attention (who wrote the Introduction, and the military has (finally) started hardening up its electronics).


He has just written a new book Pillar to the Sky (2014).  This is a fictional account in "the near future" about putting up a "space elevator", a concept I have only recently heard of.  The general idea is that a high-tech" elevator" could take people and cargo up imto space much cheaper than the rockets we now use.  This subject did not attract my attention, though, because it was not obvious to me how it could be done, how much it would cost, etc.

Well, apparently the idea has gotten plenty of attention from aerospace and other technological people, including Forstchen.  Forsten was contacted by NASA to work with them (presumably to write a book, he is not explicit about what NASA asked him to do.  But, NASA has been looking for projects, and apparently this idea of a space elevator makes a lot of sense "by the numbers".  The upfront costs would be huge, this risks very high at the beginning, but once in place there would be enormous savings.  Also a good possibilty of solving the wrold´s energy problems!  I told you Forstchen thinks big...

I believe that Forstchen wants to publicize the idea of a "space elevator" (a "Pillar to the Sky" in his book) because it dies indeed look like the idea has tremendous merit.  I was more interested in the technology and the ideas, but he writes very movingly at points of tragedy (which he also did in his other book).

In brief, the technology and machinery describes is a little bit advanced, but apparently NASA and others think that this can work.

The story starts (I leave out the girl meets boy stuff that is seen in almost all fiction nowadays) with NASA on the verge of being defunded and the country (and world) sliding deeper into economic crisis.  The main character, an aerospce engineer goes to testify before Congress about this idea, and for the most part is rudely treated and told to buzz off after making a plea for funding the idea for NASA.  After that, a multi-billionaire invites him, his wife (also a space engineer) and their intrepid daughter to fly off to..., well, a country along the equator.  The rich man then has to find other investors (expensive...).

With a lot of the political crap you would expect (even privately funded with facilities in a foreign country) and hatred of the idea (by foreign oil exporters), they go ahead with the idea.  Agai in brief, they put up a space station in geosynchronous orbit from which they will drop carbon nanotubing starnds (very strong apparently) as well as send tubing up as well (for balance and for further use in the future (rg Mars space launches from there saving fuel, etc.).

Of course there are ups and downs along the way, including fatalities.  I will not go into these, as it would be far better for you to read the book itself.  Nor can I comment with authority on various points of the technology, but it all seems plasible to me.  Of course, the project is successfully completed in the end even with all the difficulties (hey, sad endings don´t sell very well, and Forstchen is openly encouragingactive examination and funding of this whole idea).

The first "Big Project" upon completion is putting up a large solar panel farm up there at geosynchronous and send the LARGE amounts of electricity back down to Earth.  LARGE amounts, enough to upset certain actors who (twice) take their shots at sabotaging the project.  (President Mix would have cracked down a lot harder on those guys than the fictional president does, just sayin´, naah, you do not want me as your president...).


If this technology is almost ready, and if it would perform as advertised (and I doubt that Professor Forstchen would push a silly technology), then there would be a number of benefits:

1)  carbon nanotubing (a very interesting material would ge a big boost

2)  the problem of sending down electricity from space seems to be solvable

3)  cheap electricity for MANY countries becomes possible, and cutting energy costs

4)  in the longer term, space launches from"up there" become much cheaper

5)  and the cost of "space tourism would come down a LOT.


In my opinion, the examination of the concept and technology are very worthwhile, way more so than the cost of the book and the time to read it.  Forstchen knocks another one out of the park.

Highly recommended to anyone who likes space, technology and "Big Picture" books.