Mining is a nasty activity, one that inevitably preys on countries with weak institutions and desperate populations, and with predictable results: environmental devastation, child labor, corruption, increased crime and prostitution, etc.
This advertisement, aired in Argentina, sums it up nicely.
Problem is, by my count, about half the people in this video are wearing jewelry. It’s black-and-white, so it’s difficult to tell exactly what variety – but my guess is that at least some of it is gold. These are movie stars, after all.
Countries like Argentina and the United States, with largely educated populations, relative wealth and abundant natural resources, are most prone to this kind of behavior. It’s a mutation of NIMBY-ism (Not-in-my-backyard) and not a particularly flattering one. You see, if we rich white folk (and anyone in the middle and upper classes of the very countries where such projects are proposed), are going to insist on wearing flashy jewelry, then we damn well better find a sustainable, socially-just way to mine precious metals in our own backyards, where we can keep a close eye on it.
Simply saying no to resource extraction in our home countries yet continuing to use them wastefully (Exhibit A: Petroleum), punts the problem to a less-developed country, where the very same issues take place with virtually no oversight and more extreme impacts (just a few examples here). We’ll give Argentina, and the folks in this video, the benefit of the doubt (Technically, it’s a developing country). But the United States, for example, sits atop the world’s largest gold reserves, yet in 2004, consumed 5 million ounces more than it produced.
What’s their excuse?