The cost to attend the South African Mining Indaba was R12,000. So there was another meeting called Alternative Mining Indaba. A report on that conference is at this link. The report is long and convoluted. I have difficulty in working out what their point is, but it is something to do with ethical mining. A quote:
So why are civil society groups excluded from the official mining indaba? The Alternative Mining Indaba believes that this exclusion is carefully designed because civil society will tell a different story, one of affected communities who live in despair, who suffer cultural shock, lose access to livelihoods, and then have to deal with a wide range of environmental and social problems.
With mining comes a host of environmental issues. Contamination of both underground and service water deprives subsistence farmers and big agricultural businesses of water. Cattle and grazing land is affected, depriving communities of an income. Air quality deteriorates and results in respiratory infections. In Rustenburg, where platinum mining is big, nearly 60 percent of people reporting to local clinics suffer respiratory diseases. This externalisation of cost is not captured in the financial records of the companies but is passed on to communities, who have no voice to protest, or influence policy.
The jobs on offer never materialise, migrant labour is attracted to mining areas, putting strain on amenities. This places an increasing burden on local government services. Rarely is this considered a cost to mining. InSouth Africa, with the living allowance, migrant workers live in back shacks or overpopulate informal settlements. Women who have lost access to their livelihoods turn to sex work with migrant workers, resulting in the proliferation of HIV/Aids. This further contributes to overburdening hospitals that can’t cope.
Mines often relocate people, not fully taking into account the rural lifestyles or subsistence livelihoods, and remove people to suburbs, from what we call a rural existence into the market economy. Contrary to illustrious and flashy sustainability reports, we have yet to find a community that will tell you that they are better off.
Apparently the solution espoused by Alternative Mining Indaba is this:
So, if we were at the Mining Indaba in any numbers, we would be calling on mining companies to internalise all the costs they pass on to society; doing business in a way that considers the broader environment in which they operate. This includes people, the ecosystem, the social crisis of unemployment, deepening poverty and inequality, and the looming crisis of climate change and a heating planet. We will be calling for a redistributive path, a just economic and democratised system, where the interests of all people, present and future, are considered above all else.
Ultimately they call for nationalization ofSouth Africa’s mines.
Now I am not a socialist, but rather fall into one of those categories defined by Gilbert and Sullivan in their remark “funny how everybody is born either a Liberal or a Conservative.” Gilbert was talking of Victorian politics, but could equally well have foreseen Canadian or American politics, with some party-name-changes. There were no Libertarians in those days, or at least they had no Ron Paul to talk for them.
Yet today I read a book that made me reconsider division into Liberal vs. Conservative a la Victorian politics. The book I found in a way-out store in the nether parts of Vancouver. Its title caught my eye: Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. As a conservative-liberal-libertarian, (but not an NDPer) how could I resist buying it.
It is published by Harper, and despite its title is a very serious examination of the origins of modern sexuality. The main thesis is very simple: modern concepts of marriage, sole partners, and child rearing are the product of 10,000 years of necessity brought about by the imperative to farm, control the land, and manage access to women as just another form of property.
The book maintains that this was not and is not the way of hunter gatherers. Rather in a society not dependent on ownership of land, but living off the land, there is a need to share, for that is the only way to survive the vicissitudes of fortune: some days one will bring back the meat, other days others will come back from the hunt with food. For the tribe to survive, sharing is necessary. And so it was too with sex. And so it is now with sex amongst those surviving hunter gatherers.
I once had many occasions to go into South Central Los Angles. I was assigned to examine houses damaged by the Northridge earthquake. I saw at first-hand a matriarchal society; one where most of the males were in jail or out of work, but where the women had the jobs and access to social security funds. It is a stable society, although nothing like that in Orange County. The women are in charge, choose their lovers, live with their mothers, and take no heed for the men they choose to sleep with. A real case of sex at dawn, just like before the advent of agriculture.
Thus I began to wonder if sharing resources is such a bad thing. Is the individual supreme or is the tribe what it is all about. Of course the answer depends on the tribe you are born into, grow up in, and now live in. Tribal norms are as flexible as human nature and adjust as well to the environment. You cannot survive to breed (the essential Darwinian imperative) if you do not belong to a tribe that survives.
Books have been written on this argument. You do not have to read them all. Just consider the sexual behaviour of Clinton and Gingrich, and the acceptance by voters of the sexuality of both; for their sexual practice proves the book is correct: we are not eternally monogamous by nature.
All well and good. But the issue raised by the Alternative Mining Indaba is: should ethical mining involve more sharing?
Here are my first thoughts on what constitutes ethical mining investment. Not sure it is the same as ethical mining.
- Invest only in mines that do not involve perpetual water treatment. Think of Kemess South.
- Invest only in mines where in the next five or even ten thousand years you will not blot out a valuable natural resource. Think of Pebble Mine.
- Invest only in mines, mining things we really need. Think copper and potash as compared to diamonds and gold destined for vaults and Indian dowries.
- Invest in mines in dry places that use filter-pressed, dry-stack tailings disposal. Think Rosemont Copper, northern Chile, and Nevada.
The list could go on long. But this sermon is long enough already. So I end, saying only: enjoy Sunday. I am off to a bottle of brandy and a Handel opera.