Thursday, January 11, 2018

When is a mine not a nuisance?

You may have received a notice or heard yesterday about the U.S.Army Corps of Engineers accepting permit applications for the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay. Locally, there's the PolyMet proposal Permit to Mine that's out for public comment (neither of the scheduled public meetings are in or near the Twin Cities). And the administration in Washington continues to try to resurrect a Twin Metals mine proposal that could have effects on the Boundary Waters comparable to those feared to result from the proposed Pebble Mine.

take all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum?
take all the trees, put 'em in a tree museum?
Photo by J. Harrington

As near as we can tell, the United States doesn't have a current minerals strategy. A CBO report from 1983 seems as close as we've come in quite awhile, although it appears that the Department of Energy is working on a study. This could become significant if some "radical environmentalists" joined with some committed patriots to challenge one or more of these mining proposals based on public and/or private nuisance theory or a public trust theory for protecting wilderness. Let us reiterate here that we have no legal training or education and this is nothing like legal advice. Consider it more the musings of a gadfly and one who has tilted at more than their fair share of windmills.

Much of the major mining developments are undertaken and/or financed by companies and interests foreign to the U.S. That means foreigners get the profits and, historically, it has been the U.S. public that gets the clean-up bills. If that's not a nuisance, in at least a non-legal sense, we're not sure what is. We think economists call it an "externality."

Have we let economics prevail over what should be national core competencies? We've been thinking about these kinds of issues ever since someone recently challenged us to answer why it should be that wilderness might be more entitled to protection than someone's back yard. We're sure there are good answers to that question (private versus public nuisance?), we just haven't yet been able to formulate one.

Has anyone got a good answer as to where non-trade strategic national capabilities do, or should, fit into something like NAFTA or the TPP? Are those questions that should be determined by a WTO panel? Does that leave critical national capabilities at the same disadvantage to global profits as local environmental laws might be? Has the global trade pendulum swung to far in one direction?

If we were still living in Massachusetts, we'd probably be raising similar questions about the prospect of drilling for oil off the North American coastline. These can't simply be issues for global capitalism, since we've read that, as originally envisions, capital wasn't expected to move across national boundaries. Is it time to seriously reconsider not only the rules of the game, but what game it is that we're actually playing? How long have foreign interests been trying to influence our elections? Are we doing enough to protect all of our strategic interests? Does the U.S. need a minerals strategy?

Some Rights

Right to property
Right to protect property
Encrypt everything
Make private
I am so right and if I’m not
   I’m gonna burn yr FB wall down
Be something for sale
Be a strategy
Last fall was tough on us
Ask after me
Ask after me again
Small business owners
Big pharma
There are said to be 7000
   bodies buried under
   that university
If we write, it’s identity
If they write, it’s Reflections
   on American Legacy

Those aren’t just letters
Punk a bunch of coffins

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