It has been a record dry season in southern California. You would not know this by looking at the lush vegetation, abundant flowers, and vast pools of the townhouse complex and everywhere else in this piece of paradise. The beach is cloud-covered all day long as the desert heats up pumping great masses of evaporation inland and keeping local temperatures in the 60 to 65 degree range. We left Iowa partly because of record heat: way up in the 95s with humidity and strong winds. Most unpleasant. And then to the mining news and this strange report:
The axing of 160 jobs at a south-east Queensland coalmine because of the drought is just the first of a wave of job losses set to hit the region, the state opposition warns. But Premier Peter Beattie says he does not expect mass job cuts as a result of the state’s worst drought on record. Tarong Mine today announced the cuts, which it said were unavoidable after dwindling water supplies had forced a scaling back of operations at Tarong and Tarong North power stations—which the mine supplies.
Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney today called the job losses the “human face of Peter Beattie’s failure” to secure south-east Queensland’s water supplies. “Unfortunately, unless we are very lucky, I think the job losses at Tarong will be the first of many, and Peter Beattie should be forever ashamed about that,” Mr Seeney said. “As the water restrictions continue to bite in south-east Queensland I think any industry that’s dependent on water will feel the full effects of that, and people who work in those industries are at risk of losing their jobs just as the workers of Tarong have lost their jobs today.”
Mr Beattie said Tarong was an isolated case. “I think this is a particular matter relating to a particular power station,” Mr Beattie said. “I don’t think the circumstances are that it will be widespread.” He said the government would offer retraining and moving allowances but he expected workers would be able to find other jobs. “We’re in the middle of a mining boom and there will be other jobs and other opportunities,” Mr Beattie said.
Meanwhile, Mr Beattie said a hold-up on pipes at a NSW dock would not stall the laying of the state’s recycled water pipeline. A shipment of about 1,000 pipes from South Korea for the western corridor pipeline has been held up at Wollongong because they failed a quality inspection and were unusable. Mr Beattie described the situation as a “hiccup”.
He said the government had ensured it had sourced pipes from three different manufacturers to ensure no delays and currently had a stockpile of 80 kilometres of pipes, or three months’ supply. “Some of them have not met the standards, hence we will not be paying for them … This will not have any effect because we’ve been smart enough to stockpile,” Mr Beattie said. “Yes, it’s a hiccup. “Is it a big deal? No, it’s not.”
I cannot work out if this is climate change, incompetent politicians, industry failure, or just a lapse of quality control. Maybe it is just a hiccup and no big deal. Maybe the heat in Iowa and the drought in southern California are also just a hiccup and no big deal. Regardless it makes for pleasant conditions at the beach. But that earns nobody any money and the miners are now out of work—at least until they find employment at another water-endowed mine.
I see at the beach the detritus thrown in the ocean: beer cans, plastic bottles, popped balloons and faded color ties, dead birds, and candy wrappers. Small stuff by comparison with the impact of deep sea mining as predicted by a professor at the university in Toronto. Sailing down through the harbors of Long Beach and Los Angeles with the long tankers and pleasure cruisers and tugs and every other form of sea-going vessel and observing the change of color of the ocean from place to place and listening to the comments of the drug-taker who crews for my daughter as he bewails to pollution in the sea and tells me how it was clean when he was a kid, and I am more baffled than ever on the source of the problem and equitable solutions. Are we to stop the tankers and their containers of goods for Wal-Mart? Should we all use wind power to move about as we are in this sail-boat refurbished from the hulk we found in the desert? Should we all cluster besides the oceans where neither air conditioning nor heating are required? Are we to mine only in areas of water surplus?
Regardless, it seems to me that a proper mining focus is on water balance and water conservation. I propose that every mine take a look at its water balance and identify ways to reduce use, waste, loss, and dependence on off-site water supplies. Let me know if you undertake such and activity and tell us of the results.