One of the privileges of being Canadian and American is that we can ask the question: What is ethical mining? Forget those trite old questions about sustainable mining and responsible mining! One of the privileges of being South African and a blogger is that we can answer the question: What is ethical mining?
We need not delay on the very old philosophical question of what is ethical. The answer to that is in the bones and brains of anybody educated in the Western wisdom. We acknowledge that what is ethical may not be given the same answer in the world of the “east/Islam” or what is now called traditional wisdom and knowledge. On which issue, I today attended a ceremony at which traditional customs were observed. Damned if I know what was prayed for. I could understand neither the language nor the gods to whom the prayers were offered. But the ceremony was impressive, even if the intent was vague. Regardless the questions were incisive. And the traditional knowledge woman was obviously most subservient to the man in whom the traditional knowledge was reported to reside.
The idea of ethical mining comes from a long article in the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. They report on a new initiative to promote oil sands mining. They note the following differences between CONFLICT OIL and ETHICAL OIL, namely oil from Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Iran and such other nasty places by comparison with oil from Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada:
Conflict Oil: Sudan’s oil field’s where indigenous peoples are killed by comparison with Ethical Oil from the Canadian oil sand mines where aboriginal people are gainfully employed.
Conflict oil which funds terrorism by comparison with Ethical oil from Canada which funds peacekeepers.
Conflict oil from countries where women are stoned to death by comparison with Fort McMurray where the mayor is a woman.
It is pretty obvious to any rational person that oil from Saudi Arabia is unethical by comparison with oil from Fort McMurray. Yet we never hear from those driving SUVs to Starbuck to buy ethical coffee about unethical oil in their gas tanks. Fact is they are spoilt and stupid and uniformed and prejudiced by ill-educated journalists.
Which leaves us with the question of what other mining is unethical? I grew up in South Africa where gold was mined by the Blacks supervised by the Whites. I will be excoriated for the following opinion, but so what, I am old, opinionated, and a blogger. The gold mined in South Africa before 1994 is unethical.
My father was one of the miners in charge of this unethical mining. In his defence and the defence of the other White miners, I note only that they had survived the Second World War. They were broken in spirit and devoid of ethical doubts. They had seen their friends killed and dying in the deserts of Libya and Italy. They knew death. And they understood they had survived by some metrical of statistics. They sought now only to live and breed and find a few moment of respite in lawn bowls and a beer afterwards. That a bunch of Black lived in appalling conditions, worked in the dark of dangerous mines, and left their families on distant plots was nothing by comparison with the five years of death and destruction of war in North Africa. It was not racial or unethical; it was simply surviving, living, breeding, and moving on.
Which makes us wonder what are the criteria for present-day ethical mining. Is it as simple as a woman mayor of the town? Is Germany now ethical because the leader is an Angela, not Hitler?
Let me propose that today, mining in Mongolia is unethical, mining by Canadians in China is unethical, and any mining by Canadian, USA, Brazilian, or Australian mining companies that is not fully in accord with the principles & practice of sustainable & responsible mining, is, per se, unethical.
In my unhumble opinion, mining in Nevada and Alberta is ethical because it generally leads to the benefit of the locals and is done decently, honestly, and openly. I know some aboriginals in Canada would deny this. But they do so on the basis of traditional knowledge, that is no better or worse than religion, which is not based on fact or science and hence is but a political chip in a great game of playing for more.
The world changes all the time. We cannot base future decisions on an argument of past stasis. Global warming may change everything. But hot climates have been a reality before, although maybe for different reasons. There will be winner and losers in all changes, climatic, political, or mining-induced. We cannot always desist from action because some will loose. The harsh law is that some will lose. All we can do ethically is mitigate and resist if there is no obvious utilitarian benefit for the greater whole.
It is past mid-night. I could, and maybe should, write more on this issue. I am tired and do not. All I predict is that this issue will be much debated. So join us and comment below.