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Between the Devil and the Green New Deal

We cannot legislate and spend our way out of catastrophic global warming.

From space, the Bayan Obo mine in China, where 70 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals are extracted and refined, almost looks like a painting. The paisleys of the radioactive tailings ponds, miles long, concentrate the hidden colors of the earth: mineral aquamarines and ochres of the sort a painter might employ to flatter the rulers of a dying empire.

To meet the demands of the Green New Deal, which proposes to convert the US economy to zero emissions, renewable power by 2030, there will be a lot more of these mines gouged into the crust of the earth. That’s because nearly every renewable energy source depends upon non-renewable and frequently hard-to-access minerals: solar panels use indium, turbines use neodymium, batteries use lithium, and all require kilotons of steel, tin, silver, and copper. The renewable-energy supply chain is a complicated hopscotch around the periodic table and around the world. To make a high-capacity solar panel, one might need copper (atomic number 29) from Chile, indium (49) from Australia, gallium (31) from China, and selenium (34) from Germany. Many of the most efficient, direct-drive wind turbines require a couple pounds of the rare-earth metal neodymium, and there’s 140 pounds of lithium in each Tesla.

It’s not for nothing that coal miners were, for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the very image of capitalist immiseration—it’s exhausting, dangerous, ugly work. Le Voreux, “the voracious one”—that’s what Émile Zola names the coal mine in Germinal, his novel of class struggle in a French company town.

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green new deal, commune, mining, renewable energy, JASPER BERNES, fossil fuels, finite resources

When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

When Is Mountaintop Removal Not Mountaintop Removal? In Alberta, of Course!

The Kenney government plays word games as it plans to strip-mine the Rockies.

In Alberta, the government of Jason Kenney has one definition for mountaintop removal, while most people have another.

You might think that excavating the top of a mountain until it’s reduced to a series of carved away “benches” that rise like giant steps to a last shred of a mountain’s peak is “mountaintop removal.”

If so, you disagree with the Alberta government.

Here’s someone else who disagrees with the Kenney definition. Australian coal miners.

While the Kenney government claims mountaintop removal can’t happen in Alberta’s water-sensitive eastern slopes, Benga Mining, an Australian firm owned by Aussie billionaire Gina Rinehart, says that’s the technique it intends to employ — and in a joint federal-provincial hearing no less.

Last week, the Kenney government told the Narwhal in a series of emails that open-pit mining can’t be called mountaintop removal if it only removes, say, 90 per cent of a mountaintop.

By Alberta’s definition, the top of the mountain has to be “completely” removed to qualify as mountaintop removal.

The Alberta Energy Regulator and Kenney spokesperson Kavi Bal both informed the Narwhal that open-pit mining can scrape off the sides of a mountain, devein coal seams and leave a ridge a pockmarked shadow of itself after removing tonnes of toxic debris, and that’s OK: because it’s open-pit mining, and not mountaintop removal.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Critics Skeptical as Alberta Reverses Course on Open-pit Coal Mines

Critics Skeptical as Alberta Reverses Course on Open-pit Coal Mines

Five days after Kenney defended the province’s mining push, the government says it was all a big mistake.

After months of ignoring a grassroots protest movement opposing plans to allow open-pit coal mining in Alberta’s Rockies, Energy Minister Sonya Savage said today the provincial government made a mistake and is now prepared to fix it.

In a brief news conference, Savage said the province would reinstate the 1976 Coal Policy, which prohibited open-pit mining on 1.5 million hectares of “Category 2” lands in the eastern slopes of the Rockies.

In addition, Savage said she had instructed the Alberta Energy Regulator that “no mountain top removal will be permitted” in the province and that all future coal exploration on the Category 2 lands will be paused indefinitely until public consultation is held.

Coal exploration by Australian miners on six existing leases in the foothills will not be paused.

Savage’s reinstatement of the Coal Policy directly contradicts statements from Premier Jason Kenney on Wednesday that the Coal Policy was a “dead letter” and obsolete.

The highly unpopular premier also characterized opponents of coal mining as urban snobs even though the majority of the opposition has come from his party’s angry base: ranchers, farmers, landowners and rural towns and municipalities.

The government’s abrupt change of course follows weeks of protests from hundreds of thousands of Albertans from all walks of life and all political parties.

They raised concerns about water security, selenium pollution (a legacy of open-pit coal mines), and the future of the province’s iconic eastern slopes.

Landowner and conservation groups greeted today’s announcement with skepticism.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Babine Lake Mines Leaking Dangerous Contaminants into Salmon Habitat, Say Critics

Advocates want greater oversight as a mapping project identifies more than 170 mines putting waterways at risk.

Two closed mines on islands in Babine Lake are leaking dangerous levels of copper that could be damaging the Skeena watershed’s most valuable sockeye salmon spawning lake, The Tyee has learned.

In a report due out this week, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and the Lake Babine Nation say an analysis of monitoring data from mine owner Glencore shows wastewater from the mines has included elevated levels of heavy metals, including copper contamination up to 20 times greater than provincial water quality guidelines.

It’s unclear what impact that could be having on Babine Lake’s salmon stocks, which account for 90 per cent of the Skeena watershed’s sockeye.

But Donna Macintyre, fisheries director for Lake Babine Nation, says there is clearly a threat.

“Does it affect salmon? Obviously, if we’re putting discharge into the lake, and we’ve got zooplankton that the fish depend upon for food, it will affect them,” Macintyre told The Tyee.

“We have these guidelines for copper, all of the heavy metals that are discharged into the lake, but they’re basically for human consumption. Nobody has really done major studies on fish.”

Lake Babine Nation worked with SkeenaWild to analyze data that dates back to the mines’ operation in the 1970s. But the research focused on the past 12 years since the start of Glencore’s monitoring program at the sites. The studies were done on samples of water, sediment and tissue taken from lake trout and sculpin.

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Ugo Bardi’s The Universal Mining Machine

Ugo Bardi’s The Universal Mining Machine

Preface. Below I’ve excerpted some of Ugo Bardi’s “The Universal Mining Machine” (24 January 2008 europe.theoildrum), but I’ve left a great deal out of this excellent article, I encourage you to read all of it if you have time. The biggest problem the world faces is “Peak Diesel”, which is what my book “When Trucks stop running” is about. Bardi points out “that 34% of the energy involved in the US mining industry is in the form of diesel fuel.” Nor are there more minerals to be found: “There is little hope of finding high grade sources of minerals other than those we know already. The planet’s crust has been thoroughly explored and digging deeper is not likely to help, since ores form mainly because of geochemical (especially hydrothermal) processes that operate near the surface.”

Earth’s mineral resources

The Earth’s crust is said to contain 88 elements in concentrations that spread over at least seven orders of magnitude. Some elements are defined as “common,” with concentrations over 0.1% in weight. Of these, five are technologically important in metallic form: iron, aluminum, magnesium, silicon, and titanium. All the other metals exist in lower concentrations, sometimes much lower. Most metals of technological importance are defined as “rare” and exist mostly as low concentration substituents in ordinary rock, that is, dispersed at the atomic level in silicates and other oxides. The average crustal abundance of rare elements, such as copper, zinc, lead and others, is below 0.01% (100 ppm). Some, such as gold, platinum and rhodium, are very rare and exist in the crust as a few parts per billion or even less. However, most rare elements also form specific chemical compounds that can be found at relatively high concentrations in regions called “deposits”. Those deposits from which we actually extract minerals are called “ores”...

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Threatened by Coal, Ranchers Take the Kenney Government to Court

Threatened by Coal, Ranchers Take the Kenney Government to Court

Alberta is poised to let miners destroy mountaintops and vital watersheds grazed for a century.

When Jason Kenney’s government quietly abolished the province’s visionary Coal Policy last May to appease Australian coal miners, a shock wave travelled through cowboy country along the scenic slopes of the southern Rockies.

One of those waves arrived at the doorstep of the Rocking P Ranch owned by Mac and Renie Blades.

Another hit the nearby Plateau Cattle Co. owned by John Smith and Laura Laing.

Both families graze their cattle at the base of a fir-topped mountain called Cabin Ridge during the summer months.

Under the province’s 44-year-old Coal Policy the picturesque mountain lay within a landscape known as Category 2. That classification forbade open-pit mining and thereby conserved a precious watershed in arid Alberta.

But in one fell swoop the Kenney government ended that protection by killing the policy and most of its land classification system.

As a consequence the province abruptly opened up 1.5 million hectares of the southern Rockies to mountaintop removal in the middle of the Oldman River watershed, which supplies drinking water to more than a million Canadians. The government is now taking bids for some of that area until Dec. 15.

Australian leaders of coal mining corporations, who had lobbied for the abolishment of the Coal Policy, openly praised the government when their wish was granted.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Coal Curse – A Review

The Coal Curse – A Review

Governments are abrogating their first responsibility, which is to safeguard the people and their future well-being.

The first part of historian Judith Brett’s Quarterly Essay, The Coal Curse – Resources, Climate and Australia’s Future, is a masterly dissection of Australian economic history since WW2.

Credit – Unsplash

It brings into sharp focus the divide between the protectionist – primary producer and manufacturing – forces of the immediate post-war period and the gradual shift to a neoliberal globalist model which favoured the mining sector.  The transition was marked by the Hawke/Keating 1983 decision to float the dollar, and Paul Keating’s “Banana Republic” outburst three years later as commodity prices and the exchange rate fell, illustrating the dangers of an overly rigid economic system being left too late to reinvent itself in a rapidly globalising world.

Luckily, economic expansion in Asia in the 1970s, 80s and 90s provided relief as demand for primary products soared – agriculture as before, but increasingly minerals and fossil fuels, notably coal and most recently gas.

The essay documents how the mining industry – minerals and fossil fuels – came together in the 1970s to convince a sceptical polity and community of its value to the nation. Initially through: “—the Australian New Right, a loose network of conservative men – and a few women – in high places, who combined a zeal for free-market economics with opposition to the progressive causes of the 1970s, including land rights and environmentalism.” – working through think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs and the Centre for Independent Studies.

The network honed their teeth in opposing indigenous land rights and native title, and gradually accrued political influence as the economic importance of mining exports increased. Then, when the need to address climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels became obvious in the 1990s, the network swung into action to oppose anything which would constrain growth in fossil fuel use – namely reducing carbon emissions.

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Ocean floor mining: What could possibly go wrong?

Ocean floor mining: What could possibly go wrong?

A recent article on undersea mining in The Atlantic brought back a detailed childhood memory. When I was in fifth grade, my class put on a sort of mini science fair and performance art program for parents. My project focused on the prospect of mining the oceans. I drew a large mural-like color illustration showing a submarine stationed just above the seabed where it hoovered up minerals with large hoses. 

The submarine had wide pipes running from it to the surface where a ship received the nodules of ore gathered by the hoses. During my presentation the classroom was dark, and my mural was illuminated using three small articulating lamps turned on and off by a classmate as I went through the distinct phases of the mining operations in a room meant to mimic the dark and foreboding deep.

It turns out these many years later that my cursory research into ocean mining as a fifth-grader yielded a roughly accurate portrayal of what is about to happen in the oceans starting early in the coming decade. The world’s nations may conclude a treaty governing undersea mining through the auspices of the United Nations as early as next year. Once that is concluded, large scale mining of ocean bottoms is expected to begin.

One method—already in use in coastal waters controlled by individual countries—will be to suck up nodules of ore lying on the seabed with huge vacuums and filter out the sediment that comes with it. This method will move quickly to the deep ocean once the treaty is approved resulting in huge, dense clouds of particles suspended underwater for possibly hundreds of miles from underwater mining sites. Scientists are worried that both the vacuuming and the plumes will destroy entire ecosystems about which we know little.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A Mining Explosion: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Green Revolution

A Mining Explosion: The Dirty Little Secret Of The Green Revolution

Mining Explosion

Leftwing darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed Green New Deal, despite its flimsy 14 pages total, is nothing if not all-encompassing and vaulting in its ambition. The bill was also crucial to Ocasio-Cortez’s rapid ascent to acronym status and anointing as the queen of green.

Thanks to her How Dare You tour, 16-year old Greta Thunberg is now the undisputed leader of the growing ranks of school-bunking climate crisis warriors all over the world. 

The Greta show arrived in MINING.COM’s hometown of Vancouver last week to take Make-Love-Not-CO2 youths (and second-life hippies) on yet another march and bridge-blockade. The footslogging Greta groupies are beginning to resemble the disastrous 1212 children’s crusade – with higher ground now doing service for holy land.

Much of the response to AOC and Thunberg (who seem to get on like a house on fire if the Guardian is to be believed) on the right has been mocking and dismissive, accusing the pair of swapping hamburgers for pie in the sky.

This is a mistake. 

Red turns green

Some estimates put the green economy in the US at $1.3 trillion in annual revenue already – that’s 7 percent of GDP – with a workforce of 9.5m Americans.  

Within the Green New Deal is a goal of “meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources”.  AOC has no deadline of course, but no doubt Greta would want that for the whole world before she hits drinking age.

A seminal paper by Bernstein’s European mining and metals team led by Paul Gait outlines just how fundamental a restructure of the global industrial economy is necessary to bring this – or even a fraction of this – about. 

And all of it to the great benefit of mining.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining

Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining

Preface. Everyone talks about oil spills, but what about the dirty mining that will have a huge polluting footprint on the earth, and potentially destroy the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery among other side-effects? Renewables aren’t cleaner and greener than fossils, and require a hell of a lot of fossils to mine the ore, deliver it to a crusher, blast furnace, and fabrication, all accomplished with fossils. 

***

Sadasivam, N. 2019. Report: Going 100% renewable power means a lot of dirty mining. Grist.org

For more than a decade, indigenous communities in Alaska have been fighting to prevent the mining of copper and gold at Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery and a crucial source of sustenance. The proposed mine, blocked under the Obama administration but inching forward under the Trump administration, has been billed by proponents as necessary to meet the growing demand for copper, which is used in wind turbines, batteries, and solar panels. Similar stories are playing out in Norway, where the Sámi community is fighting a copper mine, and in Papua New Guinea, where a company has been mining the seabed for gold and copper.

Weighing those trade-offs — between supporting mining in environmentally sensitive areas and sourcing metals needed to power renewables — is likely to become more common if countries continue generating more renewable energy. That’s according to a report out Wednesday from researchers at the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The report, commissioned by the environmental organization Earthworks, finds that demand for metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt would skyrocket if countries around the world try to get their electric grids and transportation systems fully powered by renewable energy by 2050. Consequently, a rush to meet that demand could lead to more mining in countries with lax environmental and safety regulations and weak protections for workers.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Company Store

The Company Store

Leaves almost nothing to live on

In the song Sixteen Tons by Merle Travis (and made famous by Tennessee Ernie Ford), the idea of the ‘company store’ referred to a system of debt bondage that effectively trapped workers within an unfair system designed to harvest all of their labor at very low cost.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?

Another day older and deeper in debt

Saint Peter don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go

I owe my soul to the company store

       Sixteen Tons – Merle Travis

How exactly did the company store system operate?

Under a scrip system, workers were not paid cash; rather they were paid with non-transferable credit vouchers that could be exchanged only for goods sold at the company store. This made it impossible for workers to store up cash savings.

Workers also usually lived in company-owned dormitories or houses, the rent for which was automatically deducted from their pay.

(Source – Wiki)

This model was simple enough to understand.  “Pay” your workers with scrip vouchers, then sell them your marked up goods at the company store, pocketing a nice profit. On top of that, force your employees to live in company housing, too,  also at terms very favorable to the company.

Add it all up and the workers found themselves in perpetual service to their employer. No matter how hard and long they toiled, there was nothing left for their own private benefit after all was said and done.  The company succeeded in skimming off any and all  ‘excess’ for itself.

This vast unfairness eventually led to the formation of unions as well as to regulations providing protection to the workers.

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The Mining Industry Shows Its True Colors

The Mining Industry Shows Its True Colors

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…I won’t be fooled again.”

-President George W. Bush, 2006

Montana has been raped — in every sense of the word — by the mining industry for a century and a half. Anyone who doubts that need only look across our beautiful state at the ugly, dead, and polluting sites left behind when the mining barons took the gold and Montana got the shaft, as well as the tailings, the polluted groundwater, the streams devoid of life, the slag piles and the pits full of incredibly poisonous water.

Now, with the potential for an initiative that would prohibit the state from permitting mines that will require pollution treatment “in perpetuity,” the mining industry is once again trying to convince us that it is environmentally friendly, and, jeez, we shouldn’t be trying to stop them from creating perpetual pollution.

As reported late last week, the Montana Mining Association filed a lawsuit against Republican Attorney General Tim Fox, who determines legality for initiatives, and Republican Secretary of State Cory Stapleton, who certifies that the measure can appear on the ballot. They want the Montana Supreme Court to find I-186, the “Yes for Responsible Mining” initiative for which backers expect to gather the 25,600 necessary signatures this week, legally insufficient.

The Montana Mining Association’s Tammy Johnson claims “in general we think that this could portend a ban on future mining.” But that directly contradicts the schtick of Johnson and the various mining companies now trying to convince Montanans to stick new mines at the headwaters of the famed Smith River and under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area. They have been spouting about their new and responsible mining methods.

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The Two Most Important Reasons To Invest In Gold & Silver

The Two Most Important Reasons To Invest In Gold & Silver

As the markets and financial system continue to be propped up by an ever-increasing amount of debt and leverage, precious metals investors need to understand the two most important reasons to invest in gold and silver.  While one of the reasons to own precious metals is understood by many in the alternative media community, the more important critical factor is not.

The motivation to write this article is due to the increasing amount of negative sentiment and comments in regards to precious metals analysis and investing.  There’s a very interesting notion put forth by many commenters that the precious metals analysts and dealers are the frauds and charlatans, not Wall Street or the Central Banks.  I imagine they believe this because gold and silver prices haven’t performed as forecasted or compared to the insanely inflated stock, real estate, and crypto markets.

Before I discuss the two important reasons to own precious metals, I would like to provide some information about the fraud and corruption taking place in the financial industry.

Now, it is true that a few precious metals dealers have defrauded investors, but this is true with all sectors and markets in the financial industry.  However, investors frustrated with the precious metals tend to forget the massive amount of fraud and losses that took place as a result of the 2008 Housing and Investment Banking collapse.

For example, according to the article, Financial Crisis Bank Fines Hit Record 10 Years After The Market Collapse:

$150 billion (127.6 billion euros) – that’s how much US authorities have collected in fines from financial institutions for shady dealings with subprime mortgages since the beginning of the credit crisis in 2007, according to research by the British business daily Financial Times (FT).

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Drilling and Mining Interests Pushed to Shrink Utah National Monuments, Documents Reveal

Drilling and Mining Interests Pushed to Shrink Utah National Monuments, Documents Reveal

Cedar Mesa Citadel Ruins at Bears Ears National Monument

Even though Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke insisted “this is not about energy,” environmentalists and public lands advocates have long suspected the Trump administration’s cuts to national monuments were driven by its push for more drilling, mining and other development.

Now, internal Interior Department documents obtained by the New York Times show that gaining access to the oilnatural gas and uranium deposits in Bears Ears and coal reserves in Grand Staircase-Escalante were indeed key reasons behind President Trump’s drastic cuts to the two monuments in Utah.

In March 2017, an aide to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asked a senior Interior Department official to consider reduced boundaries for Bears Ears to remove land that contained oil and natural gas deposits. Hatch’s office sent a map depicting a boundary change for the southeast portion of the Bears Ears monument to “resolve all known mineral conflicts,” the email said, referring to oil and gas sites on the land that the state’s public schools wanted to lease out to increase state funds.

As the Times reported, the map that Hatch’s office provided—and notably sent about a month before Sec. Zinke publicly initiated his review of national monuments in April—was incorporated almost exactly into the much larger reductions President Trump would later announce.

In December, despite widespread public support to preserve protections for public lands, Trump announced he was gutting the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears to only 201,397 acres and the 1.87 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante to just 997,490 acres. The move was the largest elimination of protected areas in U.S. history.

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WORLD’S LARGEST SILVER MINES: Suffer Falling Ore Grades & Rising Costs

WORLD’S LARGEST SILVER MINES: Suffer Falling Ore Grades & Rising Costs

The world’s two largest silver mines have seen their productivity decline substantially due to falling ore grades and rising costs.  Gone are the days when silver mines could produce silver at 15-20 ounces per ton.  Today, the Primary Silver Mining Industry is likely producing silver at an average yield of 4-5 ounces per ton.

In my newest video, I discuss the changes that have taken place in the world’s two largest silver mines, the Cannington Mine in Australia and the Fresnillo Mine in Mexico.  Falling ore grades and rising energy costs have contributed to the doubling and tripling of production costs at many silver mining companies.  Investors who believe it still only costs $5 an ounce to produce silver, as it did in 1999, fail to grasp what is taking place in the silver mining industry:

A big problem that has confused investors is the reporting of the “CASH COST” metric by the mining industry.  Some silver mining companies can brag that they have a very low cast cost of $5 an ounce, but they arrive at that figure by deducting their “by-product credits.”  By-product credits are the revenues they receive from producing copper, zinc, lead, and gold along with their silver.

For example, Hecla Mining stated their silver cash cost of $0.16 per ounce for the first three-quarters of 2017.  They were able to report that very low $0.16 cash cost by deducting $175 million of their zinc, lead and gold revenues.  Hecla’s three silver mines had total revenues of $278 million, but they deducted $175 million in by-product credits to get the low $0.16 cash cost.  They deducted 63% of their revenues to arrive at that low meaningless cash cost.

According to Hecla’s financial statements, they only made $4.2 million in net income on a total of $417 million in total revenues Q1-Q3 2017 (including $140 million from their Casa Berardi Gold Mine).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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