MINING IN NOVA SCOTIA: a case worth thinking about.
Halifax Chronicle Herald: Old Nova Scotia gold deposits are new again.
June 18, 2017 (http://thechronicleherald.ca/business/1478906-old-nova-scotia-gold-deposits-are-new-again)
The resurgence of gold mining raises questions concerning employment, development, sustainability, fairness, and of course the environment. They are not easy questions to answer. What is the best thing to do?
Global economic uncertainties have driven the price of gold up to about $1600 (Canadian). That price is high enough, as the linked article explains, to justify the increased costs of extraction associated with low-grade deposits, which means that mines closed long ago being re-opened – and that much more earth must be moved in order to remove usable amounts of ore.
The re-opening of such mines means jobs and money, and opportunities for economic growth. But questions remain: who gets the jobs, and where do the money and the growth go? And what happens to the hills and valleys that the gold is removed from?
In considering these questions, the Church teaches us to consider at least the following principles:
Dignity and the importance of work
Work is both a requirement of life and a privilege for each of us as individuals. It provides opportunities for moral and creative growth, and allows us to care for our families – especially when the jobs are meaningful, challenging, and well paid.
The article suggests that perhaps 200 jobs will be created, by just one of several new projects.
• Will those jobs go to locals who need jobs, or want better jobs, or will they go to specialists who may have to be imported?
• Are the jobs sustainable? Will they make careers, or will they last only a few years?
The common good
We all share a single planet. Our economies and our environments are linked, no matter where we live. Mining projects in particular can have both local and broad-reaching effects, on both the economy and the environment, now and far into the future.
• God gave the world, and everything in it, to all of us. We are all meant to work with the rich resources the planet offers us, for the good of the world and for each other; and to share justly in the fruits of our labor. To enable that, we have developed economic systems that are intended to acknowledge both initiative and leadership – which are hugely important talents – while recognizing the differences in talents, abilities, and limitations that are given to us at birth – all of which come from God, and not ourselves. We can develop the abilities that are given to us, but we cannot create them.
• From a project such as this one, where do the profits go? Do they go back to the people, the province, or to companies?
• If the profits go to companies, do they go to local companies, who will be here after the mine is closed, with a continuing stake in the local economy, or to companies located far away, where the state of the local economy and environment are of reduced concern?
• Are the work, and the profits, sustainable, or are they short term?
• Are all of the real costs of the project – including restoration and clean up – really accounted for?
Care for the environment
• God gave the world, and everything in it, to all of us. We are all meant to work with the rich resources provided by our planet, and to work with them in ways that will allow to leave the planet to our children in a condition that is at least as good as when it was given to us.
• The article indicates that about 25,000 tonnes of crushed rock will have to be moved, every day; and that a tonne of crushed rock will yield enough gold to make a few paper clips. Does the return provided by that much gold justify the digging of holes the size of football fields?
• To remove the gold, the rock must be crushed and chemically leached. What effect will those processs have on ground water and drinking water?
• What happens to any plant and animal life that is displaced by the digging?
• The movement of 25,000 tonnes of rock per day will involve the release of large amounts of greenhouse gasses. Is that a wise use of the atmosphere we want to pass on to our children?
• Are enough trees being replanted to remove the carbon the project will generate from the atmosphere in a reasonable period of time?
• Does the world need gold badly enough to justify any damage that is left uncorrected?
Subsidiarity is a difficult concept to grasp. The church teaches us, however, that it is important. In essence, subsidiarity means that organizations such as governments and companies should not be bigger than they need to be in order to accomplish their tasks. Decisions should be left to the smallest and most local groups possible. For example, the federal government may not need to regulate parking in small villages on the coast, and we do not necessarily need multi-national companies to control growth and distribution of local food crops. Some of those decisions might better be left to those who will be affected by them.
The article indicates that at least some of the processes involved in this project are to be performed by companies on the other side of the world, and inure to their benefit. That might be a good thing. Perhaps, for example, companies in those parts of the world need work to support their families. On the other hand, shipping things across the world for processing is not efficient. Is it a good thing in this case?
The Church also teaches us of the importance of solidarity, of recognizing all people depend on each other – that we are all in the same boat. What happens in Nova Scotia today might happen in Ontario, Alberta, ,BC, Peru, or Nigeria tomorrow.
Prayer for guidance
Again, let us pray for guidance. And let’s talk to each other, and to our governments. With Pope Francis, let’s speak up for good in the world:
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
— Pope Francis, Laudato Si’