Fracked Earth Whirl

Protester “chipmunks” obstruct work at Utah tar sands mine.

By Kate Lanier

Mining and local communities: Scenes of conflict

__Pope Francis is at it again, saying there must be a “radical change” in the way mining industries interact with local communities and the environment. “The companies, the governments that are supposed to regulate them, investors and consumers … [of] mined material ‘are called to adopt behaviour inspired by the fact that we are all part of one human family.’”

__Utah “mining regulators have given the go-ahead for the next phase of the nation’s first commercial tar sands operation” in Uintah and Grand Counties. US Oil Sands of Calgary, Alberta, Canada will do the mining. State regulators will rely on the mine to “monitor for potential impacts to groundwater and comply with federal pollution standards.” Confident that’ll work?

__”Mining will never satisfy its appetite,” says San Carlos Apache Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler, whose tribe is in an “epic battle to save Oak Flat, its most revered sacred site.” Democracy Now interviews Wendsler Nosie Sr. of the San Carlos Apache Tribe and his granddaughter, Naelyn Pike, about the McCain-Flake giveaway of the sacred Apache site to Rio Tinto for a huge copper mine. The tribe has made a caravan from Arizona to Washington, DC in protest, with a nice assist from Neil Young.

__Uh-oh. Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that the popular initiative for restricting the Pebble mine project—which is on state land—“seriously impedes a regulatory process set out in state law and is unenforceable.” The proposed gold and copper Pebble mine is in the same area as “headwaters of a world-class salmon fishery.”

__Seems the US Forest Service got “thousands of public comments” so is now “considering a more stringent analysis of a mining proposal near Yellowstone National Park. British Columbia’s Lucky Minerals wants to “search for gold on federal and private land around Emigrant Peak in south-central Montana.”

__Imagine! A mining policy which gives “greater weight to social and environmental factors during the approval process.” That’s what’s been proposed for New South Wales, Australia, “giving hope” to those fighting such projects as Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley Warkworth Hunter coal mine expansion.

__Meanwhile, Shenhua Watermark, a spectacularly huge open-cut coal mine in New South Wales, Australia, could have an unknown impact on local groundwater and underground aquifers, but there’s no plan showing how Shenhua would manage such a crisis.

__Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, apparently is a coal-head, insisting that coal is “good for humanity.” His government’s approving coal mines all over the place. (more…)

Nigerian President-Elect Seeks to Shift Investment From Oil to Other Sectors

Nigerian President-Elect Muhammadu Buhari, who beat incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and will take office on May 29, pledged to invest more resources into other sectors of the economy like agriculture instead of relying on oil.

Buhari believes such investments will provide much-needed jobs for Nigerians, especially amid the massive drop of oil prices:

In the economy, we have to quickly turn to agriculture and mining because that is where you can do the quickest work and earn results.

In terms of oil exports, Nigeria is a top producer with the country being Africa’s largest petroleum producer. Moreover, it holds the most natural gas reserves out of all African countries.

In addition, Nigeria is a member of OPEC after joining in 1971. The country depends so much on oil and gas that it “accounts for about 35 percent of [the nation’s] gross domestic product.”

Although, being the country with the most oil includes some downsides such as corruption. Indeed, The Wall Street Journal reported on June 19, 2000 how, in spite of their profitability, resources, including oil, have been a clutch for African nations such as Nigeria.

‘With the advent of oil, the government lost its initiative,’ sighs Chidi Duru, a Nigerian lawmaker who blames the oil feeding frenzy for the decline of the country’s once-prosperous farm economy. ‘In a sense it has become a curse, not a blessing.’

Recently, allegations arose that the previous administration, under President Goodluck Jonathan, took $20 billion from oil revenues. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the country’s finance minister, denied it ever occurred.

Nigeria also depends on energy imports because its refineries are not reliable enough to fuel the country. For a country once believed to be the next Saudi Arabia or Kuwait when oil was discovered in the 1950s, oil has failed to develop the country, even though it accounts for as much as 25 to 30 percent of the country’s GDP.

In 2005, crude oil production peaked at 2.4 million barrels per day, yet “began to decline significantly as violence from militant groups surged, forcing many companies to withdraw staff and shut in production.” (more…)