Mineral wealth: consider the impact

By Tina Casagrand

We have these luxuries: laptops, cell phones, fertilizers, drink containers, hybrid mopeds, cars, car batteries, watches, jewelery. All comprised from minerals. All crippling the land and people closest to the raw sources.

Consider this video from Falling Whistles, a nonprofit organization committed to peace in the Congo. The country’s rich mineral resources position it as a victim for exploitation.

Beyond the social impact, mining challenges environmental sustainability.  These conflict with the economic benefits that regions might enjoy from fostering  such practices. The following articles look at current issues in mineral extraction and sustainability:

  • “Forget Oil, Worry about Phosphorous” by C. Robert Taylor
    Daily Yonder, September 2010

    “The world’s agriculture depends on a mineral that is declining in production and is controlled by a cartel of companies. Dwindling U.S. reserves of the nutrients needed to produce biofuel feedstocks and political instability in countries where most phosphate rock reserves are held suggest that this plan may be replacing energy dependence with phosphorus dependence.”

  • “The Whole Fracking Enchilada” by Sandra Steingraber
    Orion Magazine,  September/October 

    Steingraber argues that “hydrofracking is the environmental issue of our time.” She highlights its links to every negative environmental problem and illuminates the destructive drilling technique that natural gas companies use to extract the gas. “We are literally shattering the bedrock of our nation and pumping it full of carcinogens in order to bring methane out of the earth,” she writes. It’s destroying our bedrock and making people sick — and yet people still lease their land to these companies. Educate yourself and take action.

    + Explore the Gasland website. Gasland, a film by Josh Fox, showed at Columbia’s True/False Film Festival and blew viewers away with its straightforward exposure of fracking.

  • “Power Struggle” by Marguerite Del Giudice
    National Geographic, March 2008

    Iceland’s natural resources run clean: water and geothermal energy made possible by unique geological conditions. It can power factories, revive dying regions. “With the old way of life doomed, aluminum projects . . . had come to be perceived, wisely or not, as a last chance. ‘Smelter or death.'” A smelter plan required damming a significant river, and when faced with the environmental reality,  Icelanders began to protest.  This isn’t so much about aluminum or hydroelectricity as it is the problem of choosing between economics and the environment — a decision that, unfortunately, continues to haunt sustainability issues.

    + Watch the “Growth vs. Green” video


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