Monday, January 21, 2013

Mining in the Jungles and Deserts

Dear Madame L, 

I've been watching these great shows on the History Channel about mining in jungles and other remote places around the world. 

Since you used to live in some of those places, what do you think of these shows? 

Sincerely, Don't Want to Freeze in the Dark, But....

Dear Eco Friend,

Madame L hasn't watched any of those shows you mention because she thinks life is too short to waste with those History Channel reality-wannabe-shows. (Even though the History Channel used to have interesting and worthwhile shows, it seems to have opted to go another direction for the past few years.)  

But Madame L has heard about the shows from other sources, and, as you say, Madame L used to live in some of those places and has visited some of those mining sites, and here's what Madame L thinks of what those shows are doing:

They are glorifying the destruction of millions of acres of land which, if saved, could contribute to decreasing greenhouse gases and slowing down global climate change, not to mention saving thousands of species of animals and plants from destruction. What else? All this:

The New York Times article Madame L refers to points out that as much as one quarter of gold production around the world now "originates not from licensed, regulated and monitored mines, but from often illegal, unregulated artisanal, or informal, mines — much like those dramatized in these series...." 

In addition, "Artisanal miners succeed where large, centralized operations fail by evading regulations and targeting gold that has eroded over eons into river sediments, known as placer deposits, that are broadly distributed over vast landscapes."

Madame L has personally witnessed the results of such mining operations.  Madame L has some photos showing the damaged landscapes, the poverty-stricken miners on their barges breathing in mercury fumes as they refine the gold they get from the stream bottoms, the signs warning visitors not to enter or they'll be shot, the clinics reminding people to take their anti-malaria drugs, and so on. 

Madame L would like to post some of these photos here but has apparently reached her Google Blogger-imposed limit. Madame L is getting so annoyed by this situation that she may soon be moving her blog to a different location. 

Meanwhile, you can find some of the photos on Jeff's blog and read more about this issue. 

But, without even looking at those photos, Madame L asks all of her Dear Readers to imagine this: ancient and gigantic trees being burned in the middle of the jungle, falling with a crash in the night, so that some illicit mining operation can cut roads through the jungle to a new area which they will exploit. 

Imagine the resulting moon-like landscape, except it's mud-colored, with deep grooves worn into the ground where torrents of water have been sprayed by gigantic hydraulic engines to make the silt run down to where it can be processed; dead trees torn up by their roots; and desolation for miles around. 

Imagine the lives of the miners on their little barges, and what it's like for them when they take their little bits of refined gold to town where they're ripped off by representatives of big mining companies and financial operations. 

Imagine the little shacks where they live and the little run-down clinics where they go to for treatment of their chronic coughs and their malarial fevers, and imagine the little stores where they pay four times more than people in the towns and cities for basic food supplies and necessities.

Or imagine this: a desert which would, like most deserts on Earth, have had some secret oases of life even in the apparently most desolate places, but now has been invaded by rivers and pools of toxic waste dumped there by miners and manufacturers; imagine seeing suffering camels and mules and goats in the area, dying miserable deaths after they drink from contaminated streams or eat poisoned shrubs. Madame L has seen that, too, and it made her cry.

Not only are these mining operations destroying the land, plants, and animals of those areas, they're filling the rivers with toxic pollutants and providing breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects and mammals.

So, that's what Madame L thinks about those shows that glorify the dirty business of mining and pretend to care about nature. They're fraudulent in every way. Please don't watch them any more, and please consider not supporting the businesses that support those shows.

Sincerely, and bitterly,

Madame L

No comments: