Overcoming Public Bias Against Mining
On August 3, 2018, the retired director of District #11 of the United Steelworkers, David Foster, made the case for supporting the mining industry in Minnesota in the face of what he calls “the recent negative tenor of public discussion about the status of mining.”
Foster represented iron-ore miners in Minnesota as well as Michigan and hard rock miners in the trona, copper, potash, silver, and lead mines ranging from Idaho to Missouri. In the informative MinnPost article, Foster highlights the misguided efforts of ” far too many, liberal, urban political candidates and officeholders” who are encouraging a moratorium on new Minnesota mining leases.
Sadly, the knee-jerk reaction to mining isn’t limited to Minnesota.
Foster admits that, historically, mining is perceived as “the most exploitative industry in any society.” Mining disasters are the stuff of legend, and the courage and relentless toil of hardworking miners throughout history earned them a unique place in American folklore.
Today, there is still a legacy of “16 Tons and what do you get?”, a negative PR residue lingering in the subconscious of the voting public. This negative legacy makes the mining industry an easy target for short-sighted, politically correct “green” politicians looking no farther to the future than their own taxpayer-subsidized careers.
Abandoned mines and the mining industry, in general, have always been the convenient villains for TV dramas and pop fiction. 19th-century labor practices and obsolete but notorious working conditions have left the mining industry with a legacy of bad PR which today’s opportunistic green-leaning politicians are only too eager to exploit.
In the process, they may impede a vital industry which is crucial to the development and deployment of the green technology they support so wholeheartedly while pandering to their vastly misinformed green constituents.
900 Tons and What Do You Get?
Today’s green-leaning dreamers share a utopian vision of vast wind farms, as well as a plethora of geothermal, solar, and biomass power generating devices supplemented with low-impact hydro facilities. Not one of these technologies is possible without the raw materials which are liberated for a better future by the unpopular but resolute mining industry.
David Foster cites the example of wind turbines in his MinnPost community voice piece. One wind turbine requires 300 tons of steel for every tower, and miners need to liberate 900 tons of iron ore to make that tower. Not to be deterred, a devout greenie might be quick to suggest that the towers could be constructed with aluminum. Engineering objections aside, somewhere in the world a mining operation will have to provide the bauxite required for making that aluminum.
The same logic applies to electric vehicles which require lithium to manufacture advanced batteries, copper for solar or any electrical network, limestone for cement for reliable concrete foundations and zero-emission buildings, and silica for energy efficient glass. Metallurgical coal is a necessity for making steel.
Sadly, as the US green movement buries its collective head in the green sand, the rare earth minerals needed to manufacture every smart device on the planet are supplied by China, while Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina cover the world’s demand for lithium.
In the meantime, the US, with the highest environmental and occupational standards in the world, ignores its own mineral resources in Minnesota and throughout the country, resorting to imports from countries which show little or no regard for environmental impact.
Ironically, the mining industry itself is a leader in green technology innovations which can provide the raw materials for the green infrastructure as well as a sustainable economy to support it.
Staying Ahead of the Curve: Mining Goes Green
The mining industry is continuously developing green technologies to make mining more efficient. As this article at Eco-Business.com reports, the mining industry is motivated not only by cost savings for day-to-day operations but is actively confronting environmental concerns by reducing emissions and containing contaminants.
Kachan and Company, a “green tech” analysis and consulting company, has compiled a report detailing how,
“Companies are poised to reinvigorate mining with innovations aimed at making permitting faster and less expensive by reducing toxicity, power and water requirements.”
That’s good news for the industry, the planet, and the mining workforce.
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