Friday, January 8, 2016

On the other hand -- UN SDGs and mining

I think it was Harry Truman who used to say he was looking for one-armed economists, so they couldn't say "one the one hand, ... on the other hand." I have a similar reaction to the prospect of copper mining in Minnesota. One the one hand, I absolutely don't want to see it happen. One the other hand, I fear our government's ability to show enough common sense to say "No, it's not worth it." I used to know a joke about the fellow in a small town who lost money every week in a Friday night poker game. When asked why he continued to play in an obviously crooked game, he replied "but it's the only game in town."

iron mining tailings mound, northern Minnesota
iron mining tailings mound, northern Minnesota
Photo by J. Harrington

If Minnesota does allow copper mining, I'd like to see us attain maximum local benefits with minimal negative impacts. Are you old enough to remember Bing Crosby's version of "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive?" Well, the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, UNDP and the World Economic Forum have released an Executive Summary draft of Mapping Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals: A Preliminary Atlas. It lists as the first key finding:
Mining impacts all 17 SDGs, to varying degrees, across a wide range of issue areas that present both challenges and opportunities. Challenges require mitigating the negative impacts of mining; opportunities require enhancing the positive impacts of mining. The specific opportunities and implications of the SDGs, targets, and actions will differ depending on company strategy, commodity, location, mine cycle stage, and legacy.
If Minnesota is unwise enough to permit copper mining, allowing it only within the context of increasing the state's sustainable development makes the most sense to me. Reading through the draft, I think there are a number of missed opportunities created by the way we've gone about regulating mining in the past, up to today. The world in which Minnesota and mining exist is far, far different that the world in which mining started here and Minnesota became a state. We're past time for a major adjustment and that, I believe, involves more than adequate financial assurance. Here's a quick for instance: how much cooperation and collaboration occurs between local and state government, mining operations and utilities to maximize minings role in infrastructure development, things like renewable energy and broadband? I suspect not enough but I don't know. To quote, again, from the draft report:

"...there is a strong and proven business case for companies to contribute to the realization of each SDG.

"This is especially true for the mining and metals sector."

Maybe we won't be able to cooperate until the anticipated round of court battles is over. I know I'd rather see those resources go into creating a better way to manage mining and still protect the environment. Cutting regulations and subsidizing the industry isn't the way to get where we want and need to be. Don't be surprised to find more to read about that in future postings.

Meanwhile, I hope the Vikings game turns out to be worth watching and that the development of frost bite over the next week or so becomes an indication of the common sense Minnesotans frequently display.

Developers

By Alice Lyons  
Read the Q & A 
Greed got in the way. We built a fake estate.
Levinas said to see ourselves we need each other yet

doorbells, rows of them, glow in the night village
a string of lit invitations no elbow has leaned into

(both arms embracing messages). Unanswered
the doors are rotting from the bottom up.

It’s another perplexing pothole in our road, loves.
Hard core from the quarry might make it level,

hard core and cunning speculation into matters
concerning love and doubt, concerning want and plenty.

O the places where pavement runs out and ragwort
springs up, where Lindenwood ends but doesn’t abut

anywhere neatly, a petered-out plot of Tayto
tumbleweeds, bin bags, rebar, roof slates, offcuts,

guttering, drain grilles, doodads, infill, gravel!
A not-as-yet nice establishment, possessing potential

where we have no authorized voice but are oddly fitted
out for the pain it takes to build bit by bit.

When the last contractions brought us to the brink
of our new predicament, we became developers.

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