Office of Environmental Management

Mine Experts to Advise WIPP on Worker Safety, Regulatory Compliance

August 13, 2019

You are here

Members of a panel of mine experts tour the underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on a visit to the facility this month.
Members of a panel of mine experts tour the underground at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant on a visit to the facility this month.

CARLSBAD, N.M. – A panel of experts has been assembled to provide periodic reviews and recommendations on the safety and effectiveness of EM’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) ground control programs and future mine designs.

“We’ve assembled a truly impressive panel of experts to provide us with recommendations in two very crucial areas,” said Bruce Covert, president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the WIPP management and operations contractor. “Our team is looking forward to their input, which I know will help us ensure worker safety underground and regulatory compliance at WIPP in the years to come.”

Panel members bring decades of experience and technical expertise in highly-specialized fields, including geological and geotechnical engineering, geophysics, rock mechanics, imaging and sensing technologies, and numerical analysis and modeling.

The panel will make recommendations regarding improved design of disposal panels and drifts, or access routes. It will also review plans for maintenance of core areas of the mine, including identification of ground control alternatives and timeframes by area. Ground control includes the installation and maintenance of long steel bolts and wire mesh into the roof and walls, as the natural movement of salt closes mined openings.

“This panel will be vital in our ongoing efforts to ensure that WIPP remains prepared to fulfill its very important national mission,” said Kevin Donovan, NWP chief of staff.

The panel includes:

  • Lee Petersen with Itasca Consulting Group, who has a doctorate in geoengineering;
  • Navid Mojtabai, professor and department chair, mineral engineering, New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, who has a doctorate in mining engineering;
  • Priscilla Nelson, department head and professor, mining engineering, Colorado School of Mines, who has a doctorate in civil engineering;
  • Gabriel Walton, assistant professor, geology and geological engineering, New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology, who has a doctorate in geomechanics;
  • John Kemeny, professor and department head of mining and geological engineering, University of Arizona, who has a doctorate in materials science and mineral engineering;
  • John Head, senior associate and board member of mineral industry advisory firm Behre Dolbear. Head has a Bachelor of Science degree in mining engineering and a Master of Business Administration degree;
  • George Sturgis, vice president for project development, Hecla Mining.
Email Updates
To receive the latest news and updates about the office of Environmental Management, submit your e-mail address.