Chasing Mirages

Tag: mining

Dongjiang Expedition Part 5: Rare earth hell, continued

by on Dec.01, 2013, under Posts

Ganzhou (贛州) in southern Jiangxi (江西) is known as “The Kingdom of Rare Earth“.  It is also a place where the government has tried to cut production and curb illegal mining in recent years.  A useful rule in China is that you can tell what the most pressing issues are in any locality by looking at Communist party slogans.  The one in the picture above reads (approximately) “Illegal rare earth miners are destroyers of our children’s future”.  Another one, of which I was unable to take a picture, read “Illegal rare earth mining will result in immediate torching of all excavation equipment.”

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Dongjiang Expedition Part 3: Mining – a devil’s bargain

by on Apr.23, 2013, under Posts

Blocked mine shaft, labelled "Safe Production"

One of the most compelling books I’ve read in recent years is Collapse by Jared Diamond.  An important point he makes in the opening chapter is that there is often no way to operate a mine profitably provided that one accounts for all environmental externalities.  A simple example  is when an abandoned mine emits toxic run-off in perpetuity.  If mining companies had to bear the costs of treating this eternal source of pollution, there would be no price at which ore could be profitably sold because such costs would effectively be infinite.  Fortunately for mining companies, these externalities were largely ignored throughout human history and many have made huge profits at the expense of irreparably destroyed ecosystems.

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