Treehuggers don’t like mining. They fear: the loss of trees; cutting down of old-growth forests; turning the soil to extract rare earths for their computers and electric cars; and anything that changes the landscape. Their websites call for replacement of cyanide by corn-starch, no use of mercury by artisanal miners, and windmills made of solid wood conveying electricity by means we know not of.
Kind of like the song by Gilbert of Gilbert & Sullivan fame:
If I did not in eloquent diction
Indulge in an innocent fiction
Which is not in the same category
As telling a terrible story.
Having been born and brought up in the virtually treeless mining landscape of the Witwatersrand, I am always awed by large trees. Although as one lady from Ontario said to me recently: “So many big trees in Vancouver are so very boring.”
She admitted to never having been all the way up the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve to view the old growth forest. It is accessible only by walking or bike riding some eleven kilometers, so it is a pleasure reserved for the hardy or privileged. Four hundred years of unhampered growth is impressive. It reminds you of how artificial are the large boring trees of the forests around Vancouver. Still logging is part of the BC economy and one of the reasons I am here, so I still view the ordinary trees with awe.
There is a mining project where we are comparing two alternatives. One would involve cutting down an old growth forest and constructing closure works that will endure for thousands of years. The other avoids the trees but would involve continued and expensive surveillance and maintenance. Not sure how opinions will fall on this one. No form of risk assessment, MAA, or decision making seems to help. Mere empty words and numbers that incite vociferous opinions.
My mantra for mining: plan, operate, and close the mine so that in the final analysis, there are more trees after than before mining. Not hard to do in practice. Let us do it. True they will take four hundred years to become old growth, but what a gift to the future.