Chasing Mirages

Tag: water pollution

Dongjiang Expedition Part 5: Rare earth hell

by on Nov.17, 2013, under Posts

China’s rare earth metal production is a complex issue with implications at every scale of governance, from tiny villages to international treaty organizations.  This recent NYTimes article provides a summary of the issue over the last few years.

Our journey into rare earth territory in northern Guangdong and southern Jiangxi provinces reminded me of the wild wild west I had read about as a kid – clandestine mining operations, gun battles between outlaw gangs struggling for territory and even violent clashes between artisanal miners and authorities trying to shut down illegal mines.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , more...

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.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , more...

Don’t Mess with Sichuan

by on Dec.08, 2010, under Posts

I thought you might appreciate the irony in the picture below.  This trashed sign, lying amidst various pieces of litter on the side of a highway running along the still-mighty ( not for much longer, thanks to a series of 22 dams currently being built or planned) Dadu River (大渡河), reads   : Please care for the flowers and grass, littering is strictly prohibited (请爱护花草,严禁乱扔垃圾).

(continue reading…)

3 Comments :, , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site: