As if Colombia miners didn’t have enough home-grown flak

I’ve gotten a couple notes recently from people who want you, the audience, to know how bad mining is for Colombia. There’s this:

La locomotora minera: Brutal ecocidio contra los colombianos . Translation: The mining locomotive: Brutal ecocide against the Colombians.

And this video here, which arrived with a note saying it had been “banned by Colombian TV.

This video rubbed me the wrong way.

The basic problem is that it conflates big mines with tiny, informal mines. They rightly show aerial photos of the pockmarked landscape of an informal mine and say that air pollution is highest in Antioquia, the state with many informal mines. They also say that a gold mine uses as much water as a city of 600,000 people — this would obviously be a big mine. But there is a big difference between the big and small ones. The small ones use fewer resources per day, but leave a devastating footprint because they don’t have the technology to recover the land. While in a properly running big mine, water isn’t used up, it’s just used for processing and then discharged — and it should be clean upon departure.

The conclusions of the video seem fine: stricter environmental rules to protect jungles, populated areas, sacred sites and waterways. But the rhetoric in this video is the problem. I suspect that by spreading a generalized fear of mining, this campaign is going to slow or stop the construction of the bigger, more controllable, more responsible mines, and leave both workers and the environment exposed to the hell of informal mining.

The other part of it that’s interesting is to see the similarities, both in style and in logical flow, to this:

So where do these come from originally? The Colombia one is labeled with this group, which seems to have nothing to do with mining, while the Argentine one is labeled with this group’s name.

My more cynical side wonders if this whole campaign was funded by the small-time miners. The tell is in the Argentine one, where they say they need a law against “mega-minería.” Banning mega-mines without controlling the small ones is a recipe for more of the crappy informal mines that currently exist all around the continent.

5 thoughts on “As if Colombia miners didn’t have enough home-grown flak

  1. westslope

    Mines can generate enormous rents that get distributed into higher profits, better public services and high wages. Economies of scale dictate size.

    Large, publicly traded mining companies have significant reputation capital to protect and are thus fully incentivized to minimize environmental and social costs. They are most vulnerable to hold up by local people.

    The artesanal miners possess little technology and are accountable to no one. Productivity is low. The state receives no benefits but often has to deal with the environmental and social costs regardless.

  2. westslope

    I suspect that the Argentinian activists do not like the aesthetics of open-pit mining. Fair enough. Otherwise, is all the bull-shit necessary? Enough!

    Dear Argentinian progressives: If you figured out how to manage a modern economy, then these mines wouldn’t look so bloody attractive to local folks and their political leaders.

    So what is next on the hit list? Oil and gas in the Neuquén basin?

  3. La Ley

    One of the actors on the Argentinian video, Raúl Taibo, owns a leisure house in the Los Reyunos Dam, San Rafael, Argentina. His house, as many others is 6 km away from Sierra Pintada Uranium Mine, but downstream! Others actors are from Cordoba, historically opposed to open pit mining, specially uranium. That’s mainly the reason of their opposition. Besides, Conciencia Solidaria (the ONG) usually push very hard to convince these actors. From time to time, a few of them lighten their environmental guilt by being anti-mining soldiers. That’s also the way is going to happen in Colombia.

  4. La Ley

    I have make a terrible mistake in my previous post. It was definitely an unconcious betray of my mind, maybe due to a constant bombing of anti-mining media. Well, where it says that Raúl Taibo owns a house “downstream”, it should say: “upstream!”.
    By the way, the downstream community, Villa 25 de Mayo, has provided several drillers to the mining sector, and hence, it has no issues against mining.
    Sorry for that mistake, it’s hard to accept it, but harder to misinform.

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