Friday, March 11, 2016

Let's talk about mining....

So the Downstream Business Coalition and the Friends of the Boundar Waters are spouting all kinds of nonesense about how mining on the range for copper and nickel is going to permanently destroy the environment and turn Northern Minnesota into an unlivable moonscape with sulfide waste turning all of rivers yellow and children drying.

Think of the children crying....

In the Friends of the Boundary Waters world water will flow uphill into across the Laurentian divide into the Boundary Waters and kill everthing in site.

Puppies are going to have sad faces for generations.

Oh, and we can all get jobs in the tourism industry at minimum wage which we can use to live happy middle class lives.

Ok, I am exaggerating, a little bit.  Sadly not ver much.  I had someone tell me the other night that the mining on the range is resulting in high autism rates.  What the fuck are you talking about?  There is no link at all between high autism rates and mining.  The sudden increase in autism rates are actually that we expanded the definition of autism and now are testing for it more widely.

Ok, but enough of that rant.  Lets talk about mining.

Back in our great grand parents days, or mabe great great great grand parents days the way that mining was done is ou dig a hole chasing a vien.  You pull out the obviously good stuff.  You bring it to the surface, crush it, roast it over a fire.  Pull out the metals and dump the rest out in the woods, or even better, in a river so it goes away from you.

Methods have changed slightly.

Ironically some of these methods were used right in teh great lakes watershed and although it is taking a long time to recover where, for example, thoudands of tons of nickle ore was smelted over cordwood north of Lake Huron, Lake Huron is still alive, and the blatent pollution has be curtailed, although that area is going to be dealing with the effects of our great, great, great grand parents poor management for a long time.

Up on the iron range itself many of the rocks that are now going to be mined have been dug up as well, the have been blown out of the way and then dumped into the piles of overburdon because the were not the iron ore that they were after, and no one at that time cared about .3% copper, or had a way to extract it effectively.

Technology has changed.

In the modern world when you are starting a mine that is going after these materials ou actually have to know what you are going to do with your waste.  ou have to be able to make sure that your waste material is going to stay where you put it and not leach sulfides across the landscape.

It is not a perfect world where none of that will happen ever.  But the truth is that we don't live in a perfect world, the glaciers crushed and scattered this very material all over the entire state of Minnesota and we can still grow corn here.

Mining is different now.  I recently visited a mine that was built in this century and when they drive a truck up from the mine and need to take it out on a public highway they have to wash it so that there are no materials being tracked off site by the tires.  That is right, every vehichle coming out of the mine has to go through a carwash, all of the water from the carwash has to be cleaned via reverse osmosis.  All of th rainwater that falls on site has to be cleaned versus reverse osmosis...

The water that leaves that mine is cleaner than the water that leaves your faucet.

Sounds horrible, doesn't it.

But can't we recycle all the copper we need?

No.

Copper is already extremely widely recycled.  It is valuable and people don't just throw it away when it is used.  There is an entire computer, phone, electronic recycling industry in this country.

Yet we need more copper, why?  Because we keep building more stuff.

Thirty years ago we did not have cell phones, not every household had a computer, the copper wires that ran down the street were the phone line and power lines, maybe cable television.

Not anymore.

This is a modern world and more and more of it is getting wired.  The more of it that gets wired the more of a demand there is going to be for copper.

But can't we just recycle all the pennies?

Pennies are mostly zinc, it is not the same stuff.

That is all for now.


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