Does mining dictate society and its progress; or does society & progress dictate mining?
Consider Swaziland. We have archeological evidence of mining in Swaziland 40,000 years ago. They mined hematite, presumably to paint their faces red and make them more fearsome in warfare. In spite of the Zulus, Chaka, and British incursions into that part of Africa, they remained independent.
Today the king of Swaziland has 40 wives, and each year eligible maidens vie to become his new wife of the year. Is this the outcome of 40,000 years of mining? Think Bomvu Ridge. I got a master thesis on that mine. The king got 40 wives and an active sex life—not to mention lots of offspring.
By comparison, the Bushmen, the San, who had no metals, got pushed to the desert by the Xhosas who now kind of rule South Africa as the ANC.
The Bafokeng are rich off platinum. But the Sotho and ANC lust after the riches. The Bafokeng kill and are counter-killed in the ugly fight that affects investment in platinum mining stocks.
Is all this death and destruction, all this displacement of peoples, and the harems of Swazi kings the result of mining?
On the basis of this cursory perspective of history, let us speculate on a future without mining or its products and the apparent benefits derived therefrom.
We could live like the Bushmen: dig roots from the ground and be pushed further into the desert by the Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana to clear the way for new diamond mines?
We could revert to a society like that described by Ann Rice in the Sleeping Beauty Trilogy. Primitive, sensuous, and to the benefit of the royalty who keep pleasure slaves. The preferred mode of transport is to be drawn in carriage by naked princes in bondage.
We could be like the Yamomoto in the forest, where most males die young in one-to-one combat against others set on breeding.
We could emulate the Anasazi and live in caves in the south, paying homage to the priests at Chaco Canyon. Meanwhile living off pumpkins grown in soil covered with rocks to capture precious water. Or build hilltop communities like Pueblo Benito. They were cannibalized by intruders from the south. But they survived until today and you can still visit the area and decide if you would like to emulate them.
Or you could build a non-historical history on the myth of being one-with-the-land. And subsist off salmon of the fall, and deference to totem poles. And deny the slavery and deprivation that was endemic. Romantic but not sustainable.
Why do our academics not examine the non-sustainability of this way of living? My answer: maybe they are the industy priests who grow comfortable in support of the ruling order.
My take on all this is that of a blogger: as normal humans we are greedy, bent on lust, desirous off offspring, and just trying to survive in adverse circumstances. The challlenge is to mine to the utilitarian benefit and avoid those golden age societies subsisting in primitive conditions—where life can be nasty, brutish, and short.