Mining: Salvation or Condemnation?

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The news about the miners trapped in the San Jose mine in the Copiapo area has kept all of us in suspense. Together with that has come a challenge to the enforcement of existing safety problems in mining. 
 
As all this has occurred, a paradoxical and demagogic title in the newspaper Diario de Aysen recently stated: "Cerro Bayo Mine Purchase Creates 500 Jobs." That, as if the Minera Cerro Bayo just came into operation and never had fired her workers at the first drop in price of gold and silver or the depletion of some of its minerals. 
 
There is no doubt that Chile is a mining country. And we are proud as a nation to be that, without even the slightest analysis of its consequences. Thus, mining in our country is the classic example of "bread today, hunger tomorrow," because the sustainability of this activity is hardly discussed. This also follows being the best example of economic colonialism, of ecological and social mega-footprints, and why not say it, corruption. Worse still, its perhaps the best example of unconsciousness, blindness, underdevelopment and national stupidity. Because  "we learned the lesson from what happened to the salt mines" and why so easily forget the reasons that led to the nationalization of copper mining? 
 
And please excuse the miners, with whom I feel in some way brothers. If there is one subject I know about it is this, because my father was chief photographer at the El Teniente mine and already at the age of fourteen I accompanied him into the interior of the mine, which I ended up knowing completely. 
 
Apart from the direct knowledge of the mines (I also was in Chuqui and Fachinal mines), I am very familiar with the destruction of landscapes, valleys, rivers, mountains, communities. And with time I knew that the environmental weight of a kilo bag of copper, according to a Wupperthaler Institute study, is 750 tonnes of waste. The ecological footprint of mining is the largest of all human activities (which can be verified easily on the Internet). The de-nationalization of mining has meant that today 70% of mining in Chile is once again in the hands of transnationals and that those companies avoid taxation in our country. That is, they only give us some salaries and what they move in the economy are invaluable raw resources that we will never see again. Since 2006, they also have left us with just a royalty of 0.5 to 5% on production, after doing everything possible to avoid it and having got away with it thanks to a corrupt lobby that achieved a parliamentary majority. Still, the royalty has left the country three billion dollars over three years. And if that were not enough, mining only provides 1.5% of national employment, while it is the largest consumer and polluter of water and consumes 31% of the energy. 
 
Such is the power that devours, that they now seek to destroy Aysen to obtain and feed the new mining operations located 
in the Central Interconnected System (according to Endesa). These mines are Pascua - Lama and Cerro Casale (Barrick and Kinross), El Morro & La Fortuna and El Pachon (Xstrata), Caserones (Japanese consortium), Vicuña and Las Flechas (Tenke) and the expansions of Pelambres (Antofagasta Minerals-Luksic), Carmen Andacollo (Teck - Cominco), Los Bronces (AngloAmerican) and Amos Andres (Rio Tinto). 
 
With all this information in hand and for sure never arriving to the majority of Chileans, one can conclude that what some present as the new "proyecto pais" (project in the national interest) is really to the contrary. The plan to destroy Aysén is for the profit of a few energy transnationals seeking to continue enriching and selling electricity for the profit of transnational mining companies which in turn contribute little to national development. To the contrary, the mining companies steal from us and corrupt us in exchange for alms while leaving the pit and dirt. If this is not an absurdity, what is? Will we continue to be so naive or stupid enough to swallow these siren songs?  
 
 
Photo at San Jose mine by Jimmy Langman
 
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