The Westward Look hotel sits proud in the foothills of Tucson. Down in the flats, the lights of the city sparkle and shine like a sea of energy washing over the privileged. You know that somewhere in the pinpoints of light somebody is being robbed, beaten, raped, and maybe killed. But violence is not the predominant activity. Civil order is probably the norm.
These were the thoughts last evening as I sat with two other old engineers in the mining field. We shared stories, opinions, and predictions to a stream of brandy. One of the topics we touched on was violence against mines. What follows is a collation of random opinions on the topic. Some are mine; many are theirs; and a few are formulated in the writing of this piece.
A new mine is developed in a local community. The local community benefits: the young men buy motor bikes; fathers buy trucks; a restaurant opens; two banks appear to compete; the brothels are filled and busy. This could be the basis of one of those endless papers on sustainable mining.
But there are questions: What is the boundary of the local community? Who are the members of the local community? Do the villagers a few miles up the valley count as locals? After all they belong to a different tribe, have different heritage and genes than those in the obvious local village, and in fact have long considered the mine-locals enemies. Logic concludes the village up the road does not constitute a local in the term as used in international conventions and writings.
But the young men of the village up the valley are not persuaded. They covet goods and bemoan the loss of the local ladies to the brothels of the mine village. They young men find a local leader in a disgruntled mayor, clinging to power. He concludes that the best way to cement his power base is by raising resentment of the village near the mine. That is a fine old political technique: vilify the neighbors.
At the national level, there is a new president. She has majority support, for she is conservative. The opposition leader with socialist tendencies seeks to frame the president as ineffective. Maybe he can win the next election if the present government is proven ineffective—unable to keep the country at peace.
An unholy alliance of the national opposition leader, the disgruntled mayor, and the local lads is cemented. They take up guns, cut power lines, and attack the mine. A few die but nothing out of the ordinary. The plan all along was to cause mayhem at the front gate and to retreat before personal safety was an issue. They go back to a few beers and a bottle of rum, thoroughly happy with youth and excitement. The mayor smiles. The opposition is energized. The president sends in the army. The mine’s shares fall.
An eastern European newspaper reports the incident as poor locals protesting environmental impact by capitalists. Church groups fume about human rights. NGOs trot out opinions devoid of facts. Academics seek government grants to study the situation. And bloggers blog from the perspective of the Westward Look.