Although we do need minerals, we must learn to respect the enormous costs associated with their extraction. The minerals extracted from the earth come with such enormous cultural, social, environmental and economic costs that they must be conserved, recycled and reused forever.
The problems with mining are systemic – they are a result of the nature and form of the industry. Mining consists of digging raw materials from the earth by brute force, crushing them, missing them with chemicals and extracting the minerals which they can be sold for cash. It is a waste management industry: as little as 0.02% of the rock may be valuable – the remainder is waste. Once crushed, the waste rock exposes toxins to air and water that can contaminate waterways, air and earth for miles around.
A good mining company is a “minerals” company: it is more interested in conserving and recycling minerals than in digging up new ones. It seeks alternatives to mining, not its expansion. It does not promote low grade mines.
The search for minerals is taking place in some of the most remote places on earth, and on the lands of indigenous and marginalized peoples. Mineral extraction is not necessarily the highest and best use of land; in our depleted environment, we cannot diminish wilderness, pure water and agricultural land any further.
The removal of minerals from the earth, no matter how carefully it is done, changes the environment and the landscape forever. Mining and smelting are large users of energy and producers of green house gases.
A good mining company will minimize the footprint of all its mines, and leave the land in as good condition as it was before the mine. It will manage its wastes responsibly. It will “mine for closure” from the beginning. If the land and waters cannot be returned to their former state, the company will not mine.
Mining is a short-lived economic activity. Most mines only last for 10-15 years, and their feasibility depends on the price of the commodity being mined. If the price falls, the mine will often close. Mining companies consistently avoid paying taxes, lobby against royalty regimes, and negotiate hard and tough with indigenous and traditional land-holders over benefits from the mine.
A good mining company will ensure that the riches obtained by transforming a natural resource into currency will improve the living situation and long-term economic prospects of those whose livelihoods are damaged by the mine. It recognizes that the resource belongs to the public and to the people indigenous to the area of the mine, and ensures that royalties and revenue-sharing adequately compensate for its extraction.
Mining is a dangerous form of employment. The wage differential between those who do the physical work and those who manage is one of the highest in the country.
A good mining company will ensure that those who do the work benefit from it, and will ensure that the senior management and investors in the company do not become unduly rich. The company will recognize and encourage unions and will ensure that workers are protected from hazards and industrial disease.
Please see the PDF file entitled Problematic Canadian Mining Cases at the bottom of this page.
No. MiningWatch Canada is a small organization based in Ottawa, Canada. We can not assist people looking for work at a mine site.
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