Tony Turtle Hampson, an Australian miner lives in a tent because he cannot afford a million dollar home. In the Oppenheimer park in Vancouver lots of homeless people who cannot work in the mining industry are living in tents—and seeking permits to do so. In Tennessee, a developer of million dollar homes mined the coal on the property before building the houses, and he is now in trouble—accused of mining without a permit.
All these stories about miners, tents, and million dollar homes put me in mind of the mine houses I knew.
The house I grew up in was provided by the mine. They owned it, they painted it, and they even replaced the lightbulbs. Mine standards dictated that all walls were white and all woodwork a dark green. My mother would surreptitiously lift color swatches from the local paint store and dream over them as the servants brought afternoon tea. Her dream was a pale yellow living room and a pink bedroom—she never achieved either.
With the money I have earned from the north American mining industry I have painted most walls in the house white–no surprise there. There is a garish red wall in the kitchen offset by a pale gray wall in the living room. The bedroom is all green. The red wall in the kitchen is a family tradition that goes back to the time I was at university on a small salary and could afford only the on-sale red paint to redo the kitchen.
At least East Geduld provided my father a house. At least I have been able to pay for a house in Vancouver from mining. But others are not so lucky. Consider this story from Australia:
Wharfie Tony ‘Turtle’ Hampson lives the Australian working man’s dream—plenty of work, plenty of beer and a fat weekly pay cheque which allows him to spend months of each year travelling.
“You can’t get places to live here, and we have to pay what they ask. You come home with $1,600-$1,700 a week so you can’t grovel about $300. But you can get a house for that in Queensland, a good house. It’s outrageous.” Hampson, who sleeps on an inflatable camp bed and whose kitchen is a microwave perched on a plastic table outside the tent, is one of thousands of workers living in the resource-rich Pilbara affected by the housing shortage.
Houses in the area regularly sell for more than $1 million, a benchmark more usually reached in the upmarket suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, while rents can be more than $3,500 a week for a house. In Dampier and nearby Karratha, a caravan parked in the driveway or backyard of a home is a familiar sight and many workers camp in the open.
This story leaves me speechless. It is hard to feel sorry for a guy bringing home $1,700 a week, drinking beer, travelling months each year, and dreaming of owning a million dollar house. Unless you can summon up outrage that he has to pay $300 a week to pitch his tent on somebody’s lawn and use their inside toilet.
My liberal Canadian lady friend loudly points out that is all the mine’s fault: they should provide housing for this fellow, just like they did for you. Then she proceeds to rant and rave about the people living in tents on the lawn at the park on the east side of Vancouver. The mining companies here in town should house them too she proclaims. Seems the homeless have invaded the park with their tents and an entourage of well-heeled, well-housed supporters and they are taunting and challenging the police to move them.
Typical Vancouver where the rich find their jollies supporting the homeless, attacking the government, and demanding that somebody else shoulder the burden. And the homeless buy nice tents to set up in a beautiful park closer to the city center than any miner could afford.
They do it somewhat differently down south. Consider this story from Tenenessee and the coal mining industry:
Federal authorities have cited a prominent East Tennessee developer for illegally strip-mining coal at a gated, luxury golf resort touted as an “eco-friendly community” under construction in Campbell County.
I note the houses they are building will cost more than that magic figure of $1 million:
Rarity Mountain, located south of Jellico on Pine Mountain, is billed on the company’s Web site as an “eco-friendly” development of 5,000 acres, with houses starting at $1 million “set among rocky cliffs and lush moss paths.” “The area’s natural resources are being left intact in order to preserve the beauty and richness of East Tennessee mountains,” the Web site states. Coal, however, is one natural resource that has not been left intact, according to OSM.
There is something so entirely logical about this story: build a gated-wall, promise million dollar homes, mine the resources to pay for it, and return what’s left to a preserve of beauty and richness.
I mean, here is the solution to Australia’s mining homeless and to Vancouver’s tent-city. Go find an ore-body, erect a gate, mine the reserves, and build dwellings in the reclaimed woods. There must be many places in British Columbia where the tent-city folk could be settled amongst the trees and creeks of an old mine. My liberal lady friend tells me however they won’t like that as they will not be close to sources of drugs and prostitutes. There are obvious advantages in living close to the center of the city.
Likewise in Australia: maybe this fellow who has lots of beer and cash in his tent would rather not be far from the city or the airport from which he travels many months of the year. Maybe he would not like to be on a remote mine site surrounded by western desert and howling winds.
PS: I have no basis for the title of this posting. I guess I just read to many rags at the supermarket checkout counter.