To Mine Or Not To Mine
Written By Prince Edike C
A geologist and environmentalist
The Mining gains and flaws
Solid minerals and their associated ores have been the bedrock of modern society since the time of civilization. Ranging from building materials since the time humans conceived shelter as a basic necessity to the micro components of smartphone and drone in our current transited state of the art technological advancement. Minerals like gravel, copper, silver, gold, etc., have been so useful that hardly would most environmentalists today acknowledged this fact but denounce their significance without a full awareness that minerals; worked on by science and arts, have shaped our world to its elegant beauty and make our best cities, bridges, hospitals and transportation systems possible. While mining minerals have contributed to some national GDP; creating jobs and opportunities for development, the various activities which include the exploration, mining, haulage, expansion, and ore sales in addition to our perception and attitude towards nature have crisscrossed and tempered on our imagination about mining. These activities, as I will argue, have created within humans, an emotion similar to that of "a comfortable frog” that refuses to jump off gradually heated water, until the water heats up and the frog dies.
It’s a challenging question for lawmakers, regulators and major institutions globally, who are walking a fine line these days between supporting to sustain an alternative energy resource system, control population growth and resources development in order to keep millions of jobs, to sustain the increasingly demanding customer for positive micro economic fundamentals, and then encouraging massive infrastructural development on major strategic bottlenecks. Efforts in continuing to battle our current environmental challenges to sustain these developments within our planet earth bearing capacity haven't been so stretched than ever and to these effects, mining industry and its operations has suffered much despite its roles in building the bricks and blocks, the roads and bridges and the finest materials used to power the modern society and the industries in which it depends on. Mining industry has emerged as one of the most polluting and therefore, has come to be questioned more often since the inception of global agenda on major issues of local and international concern.
For the financial stakeholders of mining companies, mining has remain a source of huge financial gains amounting to billions of dollars in sales volumes while the environmentalists are working all hands on deck to make sure the ecological resilient of the environment; which apparently is hanging on a balance, is restored to normalcy and they are pushing for a more sustainable development approach and natural resource management or even closure or preservation of mine fields in some extreme cases.
This essay would limit mining to non-fuel minerals, for any attempt to generalize my opinion to include the fossil fuel drilling as mining activity will have to account for a total assessment of the entire energy and solid mineral industry.
Would you support mining?
The global annual mining industry outlook provides an in-depth assessment projects, spending statistics and market values of minerals. The general forecast for ores have always been positive, slumping only during uncertain conditions in the market but has never been beaten down by anti-mining activists. This very fact is simply as a result of the increasing use of minerals by the major industrials of the world to supply the ever increasing and demanding customers; ranging from building, manufacturing to telecommunications companies, supplying items with optima cost to their clients.
For thousands of years, humans have dominated nature and since the industrial revolution, man has built machines to mine, leaving unimaginable amount to tailings of heavy metals on our surface and groundwater. The negative externalities associated with mines are not usually considered by policy makers and effort to discount them as market failures have failed many times due to the way mineral market is skewed in favour of the corporation and the few benefactors. This phenomenon is also reflected in the global mineral production and usage. Less than 20% of the world uses more than 80% of the world minerals and this figure showed up also as the percentage of the world's most mineralised countries to those with fewer minerals, of which the former are mostly third world countries and the later are developed ones.
Environmentalists and other interest groups have converged to push for total sustainable development in all areas of life, and this has created a huge prolific awareness about nature's ways of sustenance. The principles of sustainability underpin modern condemnation of mining, and it considers mining as an activity that threatens nature's option value. Option value is the value nature has and the way it allows its components to recycle themselves. Mining in a nut shell, allows more to be taken out from the finite resources of nature while at the same time, releasing excessive amount of tailings and other mine wastes to the environment.
Mining if practiced with the best emerging state of the art technology, regulated by the finest of the environmental laws, with the various stakeholders justly compensated using principle of equity and justice, and it's waste strategically managed with the most efficient bioremediation or other waste state of the art management techniques, could resuscitate our present situation. However, this would require a sound system of governance. Such system would necessitate less interest in materialism and more focus on simple Eco-living and local economy strengthening to avoid the same global driven economy which has sucked much of the minerals in third-world countries to develop the West. Mineral sales creates one of the biggest trade deficit ever in post-modern economy and unless those countries that have minerals start developing the finished products, they will forever be at the mercy of the ones buying them off with "pea nuts spread", leaving behind mountains and valleys of decayed minefields.
In conclusion, the question whether to mine or not to cannot be answered without a holistic view of what mining really is and how it has brought materials of great benefit onshore from both surface and subsurface haulage. More also, mining hasn't been done anywhere in this planet without great damage to the environment but there can be instance, where mining if best practiced, with greater transparency in the organisation production and supply chain, effectively regulated and the proceeds equitably managed and distributed, would lead to economic development with lesser environmental and social negative impact. In my opinion, let's mine but let's do it responsibly with this generation, and the next ones in mind.