Monthly Archives: August 2019

Resources from Deserts

We don’t really think of deserts as all that important – they just seem like desolate, lifeless places, but they really are very important – enjoy the read!  Please follow the link provided to find the article at it’s source.


Resources from Deserts

What Resources Do We Get From Deserts?

By: Susan Dorling
Reviewed by: Michelle Seidel, B.Sc., LL.B., MBA
Updated January 22, 2019

Bizfluent –

“Deserts are arid, hot or cold biomes that cover close to one-third of the earth’s surface. From their sunbaked sand dunes, ancient rock shields and barren salt flats to the ice-encrusted continent of Antarctica, all have one thing in common: a lack of water. Deserts receive less than 10 inches of precipitation annually that quickly evaporates in the dry environment. Many deserts are hotbeds of natural resources.

Deserts and Minerals
Rich mineral resources are found chiefly in deserts, and some are unique to deserts. Those minerals that occur naturally in dry saline inland bodies of water require sediments and near-surface brines for their formation. Minerals such as borax, sodium nitrate, sodium carbonate, bromine, iodine, calcium and strontium compounds are created when water in desert lakes (playa) evaporate.

The dry sands of a basin that was once a huge lake in Africa’s Sahara Desert produce a mineral-rich dust that blows across the Atlantic to the Amazon. It is believed by scientists that this dust enriches the soil that helps sustain the Amazon rainforest.

The Borax Story
Borax is renowned as a detergent booster, cleaner and freshener in its natural, unprocessed state. The boric acid derived from borax is a herbicide and insecticide. It is also used in the manufacture of agricultural chemicals, fire retardants, water softeners, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, glass, ceramics, enamel, paint and coated paper.

Borax is mined mostly in Searles Lake, Borax Lake and Death Valley in California, salt marshes in Nevada and the Alkali Flat in New Mexico. The industrial phase of Death Valley in the northern Mojave Desert began with the discovery of borax near the mouth of Furnace Creek in 1881. From 1883 to 1889, millions of pounds of borax were extracted from the mines at Harmony Borax Works in Furnace Creek. Massive wagons with seven-foot high wheels were laden with tons of borax and hauled by colossal teams of mules and horses to the railhead near Mojave. The 165-mile journey took 10 days each way over the primitive terrain. This slice of the Old West was the inspiration for the brand “20-Mule Team Borax,” sponsor of the long-running western television series, Death Valley Days. Billions of dollars of the mineral salt have been mined in the Death Valley Desert since those early days.

Economically Important Sodium Nitrate
Sodium nitrate is a saline mineral, or type of salt, that occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables and grains. It is also mined extensively in desert areas, formed through water evaporation. Other minerals such as gypsum, sodium nitrate and sodium chloride (table salt) may also be formed. The Atacama Desert in Chile, South America has the richest cache of sodium nitrate, minerals have been mined since the 1900s, nearly 3 million metric tons alone during World War I.

Sodium nitrate was one of the earliest food preservatives. Before refrigeration, it was used for curing meat and fish. A key ingredient in processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham and deli meats, it preserves the red color and prevents bacteria. Sodium nitrate is also used in the manufacture of fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, dyes, enamels, explosives and flares.

Fossil Fuels
Oil and natural gas are a complex blend of hydrocarbons formed over millions of years from the decomposition of plants and animals. They occur in liquid (crude oil), gaseous (natural gas), and viscous or solid form known as bitumen (asphalt). Found in tar sands, asphalt is used for roofing and road surfacing throughout the world. Oil and natural gas are the most important of the three primary fossil fuels. Along with coal, they are the world’s primary energy source.

The five largest oil fields in the world are in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. In 1936, oil was discovered in the sub-tropical Arabian Desert, the largest petroleum-producing region in the world ranging over most of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the next largest hot desert after the Sahara where oil was discovered after World War II.

Metallic Minerals
Of the 15 major kinds of mineral deposits formed by groundwater in the Western Hemisphere, 13 occur in deserts. Mineral deposits are created, enhanced or preserved by geologic processes in arid regions due to climate. Groundwater leaches ore minerals and deposits them in areas near the water table, concentrating the minerals so ore can be mined.

Among the many valuable metallic minerals found in deserts are deposits of gold, silver, iron, lead-zinc ore and uranium in the southwestern deserts of the United States and Australia. Copper occurs in the United States, Chile, Peru and Iran.

Southwest Rocks and Gemstones
Deserts of the Southwest are a treasure trove of economically important semi-precious gemstones such as turquoise, opal, quartz, topaz, amethyst, jade, chalcedony, petrified wood, and precious gemstones such as diamonds. Gemstones are used in jewelry and decorative items as well as in flooring, countertops and other building applications.

While many gemstones are also found throughout the world in temperate and other zones, turquoise is found exclusively in desert regions. The most popular and valuable opaque gemstone, turquoise is a mixture of hydrated copper and aluminum phosphate that produces a lustrous stone with an exquisite sky blue or blue-green color and delicate veins known as matrix.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.


Types of Industrial Pollutants

I trust you’ll enjoy these articles I found.  Have a great day!


Types of Industrial Pollutants

Types of Industrial Pollutants

Bizfluent –

By: Gerald Hanks
Reviewed by: Michelle Seidel, B.Sc., LL.B., MBA
Updated January 22, 2019

“For nearly 200 years, American consumers have relied on industrial processes to create the products we use every day. From the smallest electronic devices to the largest vehicles, industrial methods of production have revolutionized modern life. Unfortunately, a major side effect of increased industrial production is pollution. Industrial pollution can affect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the ground we walk on and even the light we see and sounds we hear.

Air Pollutants
The image of smokestacks belching black, noxious fumes into the air often comes to mind when people think of industry. While visible air pollutants are dangerous, industrial processes also create invisible gasses that can pollute our air supply. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas used in the production of polyurethane and other plastics. Even “light” industry can emit toxic gasses; dry-cleaning plants, for example, use perchlorethlyene, a chemical linked to liver damage, skin irritation and respiratory failure. Perchloroethylene can leak into the atmosphere when dry-cleaner workers transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer and when the dryer exhaust is vented into the air outside.

Water Pollutants
Industrial processes can also contribute to water pollution. Since many industrial methods use fresh water for various purposes, industrial facilities must dispose of the toxic runoff from these methods. The runoff frequently flows into other fresh water sources, such as rivers, lakes and groundwater wells, which local residents use for drinking and bathing. Phosphorus runoff from fertilizers used by farmers near Lake Champlain in Vermont prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to react to water pollution problems there in 2015 –and the cleanup is still in progress.

Toxic Waste
Many industrial processes also produce waste products that can have devastating effects on the health of those exposed to them. Toxic waste can be difficult to recycle and poses serious problems for disposal. Such waste products can include substances that pose biological hazards, risk exposure to radioactivity or contain chemicals that can contaminate soil and water supplies. An ongoing river dredging project in New York’s Hudson Valley seeks to remove soil contaminated with toxic PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, generated by a General Electric plant

Noise-Related Industrial Pollution
Industrial pollutants are not strictly limited to the solid, liquid and gaseous states of matter. Industrial processes can also cause loud noises. Noise pollution occurs when the sounds of industrial tasks impair the hearing of workers, bystanders or residents in nearby neighborhoods. Twenty-four percent of those with hearing difficulties suffered after they were exposed to occupational noise pollution. ”


Sciencing –

Updated April 24, 2017
By Susan Berg

“The term “pollution” refers to any substance that negatively impacts the environment or organisms that live within the affected environment. The five major types of pollution include: air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, light pollution, and noise pollution.

Air Pollution
A major source of air pollution results from the burning of fossil fuels. Vehicle and factory emissions are common sources of this type of air pollution. The burning of fossil fuels contributes to the formation of smog, a dense layer of particulate matter that hangs like a cloud over many major cities and industrial zones. Air pollution contributes to respiratory problems such as asthma, lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and other lung ailments. Nitrogen and sulfur oxides in the air contribute to acid rain, which is a form of precipitation with a lower (more acidic) pH than normal. Acid rain harms forests, species that live in water bodies, and degrades outdoor statues, monuments, and buildings.

Water Pollution
A major source of water pollution is runoff from agricultural fields, industrial sites, or urban areas. Runoff disrupts the water body’s natural balance. For example, agricultural runoff typically includes fertilizer or toxic chemicals. Fertilizer can cause algal blooms (an explosive growth of algae), choking out other plants and decreasing the amount of available oxygen necessary for the survival of other species. Raw sewage is another type of water pollutant. When sewage gets into the drinking water supply, serious stomach and digestive issues may result, including the spread of diseases such as typhoid or dysentery. A third source of water pollution is trash. Improperly disposed of items, such as plastic bags, fishing line, and other materials may accumulate in the water and lead to the premature death of animals that get tangled within the garbage.

Soil Pollution
Soil can become polluted by industrial sources or the improper disposal of toxic chemical substances. Common sources of soil pollution include asbestos, lead, PCBs, and overuse of pesticides/herbicides. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in charge of cleaning up uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, which are referred to as “Superfund” sites. Many of these sites are abandoned or improperly-managed industrial zones.

Light Pollution
Light pollution refers to the large amount of light produced by most urban and other heavily-populated areas. Light pollution prevents citizens from seeing features of the night sky and has also been shown to impede the migration patterns of birds and the activities of nocturnal animals.

Noise Pollution
Noise pollution typically refers to human-made noises that are either very loud or disruptive in manner. This type of pollution has been shown to impact the movement of sea mammals, such as dolphins and whales and also impacts the nesting success of birds.”



Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Industries and Air Pollution

A few articles relating to various industries and the types of air pollution they cause.  I trust you will find them informative.  Please follow the links provided to read the complete articles at their source.


Industries and Air Pollution

How Do Factories Cause Air Pollution?

Sciencing –

Updated April 19, 2018
By Maria Kielmas

“The presence of chemicals, particulates or biological compounds in the atmosphere can harm human and animal health and damage the environment. Factories and other industrial installations have caused such pollution since the dawn of the industrial age by burning fuels, carrying out chemical processes and releasing dust and other particulates. Air pollution can be controlled through the installation of filters and scrubbers to clean exhaust fumes from factory processes, and by taking steps to minimize the generation of pollution at the source.

Energy Sources
Factories need an energy source to power their production processes. In the United States, this has been electricity generated by fossil fuel burning, in particular coal. Air pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants include nitrogen and sulfur oxides, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride gases, and arsenic, lead and other metals. Power generation for factories may cause greater air pollution than the factory processes. Natural gas is the least polluting fossil fuel for power generation. It emits nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide on burning but in far lower quantities than coal

Metal Smelting
Metals provide machine components, vehicles, instruments and infrastructure in factories. Metal smelters that process and refine mineral ores and scrap metal create silica and metallic dusts during initial crushing and grinding. Heating and smelting processes produce emissions of sulfur and carbon oxides. Aluminum smelting can emit arsenic particulates, while lead and gold refining produces mercury and cyanide emissions.

Petrochemical Smog
Factory processes involve varied combinations of cleaning, painting and heating, while other raw material or appliance treatments release volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. These are carbon- or hydrocarbon-based chemicals that quickly evaporate in the air. In the presence of sunlight, they react with other air pollutants like sulfur or nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhausts to create peroxyacetyl nitrates, commonly known as photochemical smog. This looks like a thick brown haze and can linger for days or weeks over urban centers.”


Air Pollution Caused by Industries

By: Sarah Brumley
Updated January 26, 2019

Bizfluent –

“When drilling rigs retrieve oil and gases from deep within the Earth, they bring up a host of flammable gases and chemicals that affect life on the surface. Although the list of air polluters is long, the oil, gas and automotive industries and electricity generation are major players. Even natural events, such as dust storms and wildfires, add to air pollution.

Greenhouse Gases
Many industries contribute to greenhouse gases. Electricity, meaning power generation, is responsible for 31 percent of greenhouse gases; transportation, 27 percent; industry, 21 percent; commercial and residential activities, 12 percent; and agriculture 9 percent, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Carbon dioxide makes up a full 82 percent of greenhouse gases. Methane (10 percent), nitrous oxide (5 percent) and fluorinated gases make up the rest. Over a century, however, methane is 21 to 25 times as effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Oil, gas, coal mining and landfills together produce more than half of U.S. methane emissions, says the EPA.

Oil and Gas
Besides carbon dioxide, oil and gas operations produce nitrogen oxides and hydrogen sulfide, which create smog; and flammable, toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Methane is just one VOC. Oil and gas operations also produce hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) such as benzene, toluene, n-hexane and many others, along with tiny particles of soot.

Fracking operations launch health-threatening silica particles into the air as well. Over time, accumulations of silica in the lungs can cause silicosis, a disabling lung disease, and can contribute to tuberculosis. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control identified tuberculosis as the most “distinctive” cause of death in Texas, whose economy depends heavily on oil and gas production.

One 2013 study from the MIT Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment estimated that air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths a year. The chief source of early death by pollution is road transportation — that is, tailpipe exhaust.

Motor vehicles account for almost half of VOC air pollution, more than half of the nitrogen oxide emissions, and 75 percent of the carbon monoxide emissions, the EPA says. The EPA’s master list of chemical compounds released in road transport runs to 1,162 entries, from (1, 1-dimethylethyl)-benzene to hydrogen cyanide.

One fourth of motor-vehicle pollution comes from heavy-duty trucks, which typically get 5 or 6 miles per gallon and account for about 4 percent of traffic. In June 2015, the EPA proposed new rules to increase fuel efficiency by up to 40 percent for any truck larger than a pickup.

Power Plants
Electricity generation is responsible for almost as many early deaths from emissions as road transportation, according to the MIT study.

Almost 40 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the United States comes from power plants. Coal-fueled plants are the most polluting. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) states that in 2014, power plants produced 2.04 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, with 76 percent, or 1.56 billion, coming from coal plants. Coal generated 39 percent of U.S. electricity in 2014, according to the EIA.

Power plant emissions have long been unrestricted. However, in 2014, the EPA proposed new rules to cut plant emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Agriculture is known more for water pollution than for air pollution. The EPA, however, considers crop and livestock dust air pollutants, and agriculture produces more than 90 percent of ammonia pollution, which has multiple adverse health effects, from nose and throat irritation to chronic lung disease. The methane that farm animals produce as part of their digestive processes makes up 26 percent of U.S. methane emissions, and manure management adds 10 percent more.”




Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Dangers of Dust in the Workplace

Here is an in-depth article from the World Health Organisation regarding dust in the workplace.  Please follow the link to read the full article.

Dangers of Dust in the Workplace

Hazard prevention and control in the work environment: Airborne dust (WHO, 1999)
© 1999 World Health Organization

“Executive summary
Airborne contaminants can occur in the gaseous form (gases and vapours) or as aerosols, which include airborne dusts, sprays, mists, smokes and fumes. Airborne dusts are of particular concern because they are associated with classical widespread occupational lung diseases such as the pneumoconioses, as well as with systemic intoxications such as lead poisoning, especially at higher levels of exposure. There is also increasing interest in other dust-related diseases, such as cancer, asthma, allergic alveolitis and irritation, as well as a whole range of non-respiratory illnesses, which may occur at much lower exposure levels. This document has, therefore, been produced to aid dust control and the reduction of disease.

Whenever people inhale airborne dust at work, they are at risk of occupational disease. Year after year, both in developed and in developing countries, overexposure to dusts causes disease, temporary and permanent disabilities and deaths. Dusts in the workplace may also contaminate or reduce the quality of products, be the cause of fire and explosion, and damage the environment.

As a matter of social justice, human suffering related to work is unacceptable. Moreover, appreciable financial losses result from the burden of occupational and work related diseases on national health and social security systems, as well as from their negative influence on production and quality of products. All these adverse consequences, which are economically costly to employers and to society, are preventable through measures which have been known for a long time, and which are often of low cost.

The aim of this document is to help educate and train people in the prevention and control of dust in the workplace. It also aims at motivating employers and workers to collaborate with each other, in tandem with occupational health professionals, for the prevention of the adverse effects caused by dust in the workplace. Of course, dust is only one among the many workplace hazards, which include other aerosols (such as fumes and mists), gases and vapours, physical and biological agents, as well as ergonomic factors and psychosocial stresses.”


Safety Risk –

Dangers of Dust in the Workplace and How To Handle It
March 8, 2013 by Dave Collins

Guest post

Dust is a very dangerous occupational health hazard to millions of workers out there. There are so many sources of dust and almost any manufacturing company produces dust of some form. Some of the most serious respiratory diseases as well as skin conditions contracted from the workplace can be attributed to dust. The dangers of dust can either be short term or long term.

Short Term Dangers
The immediate dangers of dust arise from the combustive nature of dust and the dust particles suspended in the air the worker breaths. They are few but can be severe enough to cause instant death or serious physical impairment. Here are some of the short term effects of dust:

Risks of injury as a result of explosion
Rarely a cloud of dust, which may be highly inflammable, explodes leading to serious fires. The blast produced by the explosion can give rise to projectile objects that can cause injury due to impact. Larger objects may cause death by hitting the worker while smaller ones may penetrate into the body and cause internal injuries.

Respiratory problems
The dust particles suspended in the air when small enough can be inhaled into the upper airways (the nose and the pharynx) causing blockage and lead to breathing difficulties. For those already suffering from respiratory problems such as asthma and pneumonia; dust can exacerbate the problem and cause acute attacks.

Skin problems
Dust may contain irritant chemicals such as those used to treat timber. If such dust settles on the skin, it can chemically react with skin causing itchiness, redness, scaling and dryness. Dust may also have corrosive effect leading to ulceration and breaching of the skin’s integrity.

Visual disturbances
Small dust particles may deposit in the eye and occlude the lens and also cause irritation of the eyes. This will manifest with excessive production of tears which is very uncomfortable.

Long – Term Dangers
These are the most common and the most severe dangers of dust in the work place. They take years to develop and at times it may be difficult to associate them with exposure to dust. Some may take as long as 50 years after exposure to manifest. Here are the common long term effects:

Asthma and pneumonia
These are airway diseases that cause difficulty in breathing. Asthma is caused by allergic reaction to allergens including dust particles. Pneumonia on the other hand is caused by deposition of dust particles in the lungs and encourages infection.

Lung cancer
This is the most dreaded long-term and the most severe danger associated with workplace dust. It may take too long to develop and this makes it very difficult to link to dust exposure. If not recognised early, it always leads to death.

Skin cancer
This is quite rare but can be very severe if it happens. Irritant dust contains carcinogenic chemicals that can cause skin cancer when it comes in contact with the skin.

How to Lower the Dangers
Most countries have laws or legislations that govern occupational exposure (Australia) and companies in which dust is produced are expected to adequately protect their workers from the effects of dust. As an employer, you are expected to try as much as possible to minimise the amount of dust expended from the workplace. Here are some of the ways you can ensure that dust is adequately dispersed:

Adequate ventilation
An exhaustion ventilation and/or diffusion ventilation can be used. The former removes localised dust as in a chamber while the latter ensures balanced dispersion of dust within an area where it cannot be totally eliminated.

Use of dust extractor or a vacuum
Most companies now use these services to rid the workplace of dust. Dust extraction equipment serves to clean off tiny dust particles by sucking them. They are especially important in cleaning off dust that might accumulate under the machinery, a situation that increases the risk of explosion.

Use of protective clothing
Workers should be provided with aprons, head covers, dust masks or ventilators that keep the dust away from coming into contact with the body.

Heath education and regular health check for the employees
Workers should be educated on the health effects of dust as some may disregard the protective clothing they are provided with. Regular check-up can recognise the effects early and allow for successful intervention.”


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.

Indigenous Peoples and Mining

An interesting course is available at this website regarding how mining affects indigenous people groups.  Take a look.  I have added the basic introduction – this course is not affiliated with DustWatch CC in any way.  The post is added for interest sake alone.


Indigenous Peoples and Mining 1: Indigeneity Concepts and Context
Areas of Study: Environment and Community

This course examines the complex idea of indigeneity and surveys several active mining regions in the world to discuss the Indigenous context in those countries.

Authors: Amiel Blajchman MES, PGDip BusEnv, PGDip LACS (Co-Author), Corey Dekker (Co-Author)

“This course begins by introducing and critically examining the concepts and theories that underpin the idea of indigeneity. It then discusses some of the most active mining regions of the world, providing key contextual information about Indigenous peoples in common-law countries (Canada, United States, Australia) and Latin American countries (Mexico, Peru, Brazil). It also emphasizes Indigenous experiences with colonization, because these experiences frame the way many Indigenous peoples view mining and development activities today.

One of the overarching points we wish to stress at the beginning of this course, and which is reflected throughout, is the incredible diversity of Indigenous peoples—culturally, linguistically, developmentally, and in terms of their aspirations. In some parts of the world, such as the Amazon rainforest, Indigenous peoples might be some of the least advanced civilizations remaining in the world, relying on hunting and gathering to survive and having very little interaction with the outside world. In other parts of the world (such as Canada, the United States, or Australia), Indigenous people actively participate in politics and the community, run businesses, and use modern technology.

Indigenous peoples’ aspirations vary, too. In some cases, they may aspire to have legal, political, and social space to continue a way of life that they have developed over thousands of years. In other cases, they may aspire to find a way to balance the retention of their cultural uniqueness while also participating in the modern world. The authors of this course are attuned to this fact, even though a survey of contemporary Indigenous peoples’ aspirations is not covered in this course.

One characteristic that all Indigenous peoples share is a deep connection to their history. Although some people might consider the material we survey in this course to be ancient history, these events and stories form the basis of the relationship between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples. It’s important that anyone who might have interactions with Indigenous peoples (particularly in the context of mining) be aware of this.

Indigenous Peoples and Mining Series Background
The Indigenous Peoples and Mining series was developed to support mining professionals in understanding who Indigenous peoples are, how their rights and interests are recognized in standards and law, and to identify how contemporary mining activities impact Indigenous peoples.

All the world’s major mining regions are home to Indigenous peoples. As the Indigenous rights movement has gained momentum, the mining sector increasingly finds itself having to navigate challenging issues that arise as a result of exploration and extractive activities on or near Indigenous lands. Exacerbating such engagements is the remarkable speed of these political changes. When most present-day mining professionals were in school, Indigenous rights were not even on the radar. Indeed, even today—speaking especially from a global perspective—Indigenous issues are inadequately covered within the mining schools. To students and practitioners alike, the course series will be of interest to anyone active in mining today.

Upon completing the course series, participants will come away with an awareness of how contemporary mining activities fit within a long and dynamic story about Indigenous peoples—their existence, historical subjugation, cultural resiliency, and collective effort to gain recognition as distinct peoples with corresponding rights.”



Follow the link for the full article – Cultural Survival –

“Anyone who has seen the massive 900-page book entitled The Gulliver File (1992) will undoubtedly concur that for better or for worse anti-mining activism is a global social movement. This book lists mining projects and their parent companies around the world in alphabetical order and gives background history and environmental impact information (albeit from a particular activist perspective) about each project. A remarkable feature of this compendium is that so many of the listed projects involve indigenous peoples. While mining sites are geologically determined and hence the typical environmental justice arguments may not be so easily applicable to this observation, the disproportionate impact of mining on indigenous people deserves further attention and understanding.

The somewhat ambiguous title of this book refers to a speech made by Charles Barbour, the erstwhile President of the American Mining Congress, who referred to anti-mining activists in the following terms: “Like Gulliver, the mining industry is a robust giant held down by a million silk strings.” (Annual address to the American Mining Congress, 1981) Barbour estimated that activists had tacked an extra 15 cents onto the cost of producing every pound of refined metal in the United States. (Moody, 1992) The Gulliver File was the product of collaborative efforts among some 90 groups around the world that are working on anti-mining activism — many of whom have strong indigenous support even though the goals of indigenous communities are not often aligned with those of environmentalists.

Almost a decade after the book’s publication, mining activities on and around indigenous lands continue to grow while amicable and equitable agreements between indigenous communities and mining companies are still few and far between. Instead of applying generic political theories to this phenomenon, we need to understand the unique characteristics of both mining and indigenous communities in order to find a way forward.

How is Mining Different from Other Industries?

Mining can be classified as a kind of “windfall development” similar to the establishment of a casino in an impoverished neighborhood, ushering in a sudden influx of wealth to a community. Mining, however, represents a kind of windfall development very different from other projects (such as casinos, stadiums, or army bases) because of its inherent obsolescence. Most mines have a lifetime of a few decades or less. Furthermore, mining companies can often have monopsony power over their areas of operation (a monopoly implies one seller of goods or services, while a monopsony entails a sole buyer of goods or services). In other words, mining companies have tremendous leverage in their areas of operation because they are often the only source of stable employment and infrastructure development.

Whether or not environmental and human rights concerns should be means to an end or ends in themselves is a timeless normative debate. The consequences of corporate behavior, however, can — and should — be evaluated on their own merits, without insinuation of motives.

That being said, we must still recognize the historical conduct of mining companies on a global scale and not deny the offenses that have led to their contemporary caricature. Perhaps the most persistent negative image of mining companies emanates from the narratives of mining life in Southern Africa where the institution of Apartheid was too often used to the benefit of mining companies, and vice versa. The management strategies of large multinational mining companies, most of which have had operations in Africa, were often quite secretive, thus fueling conspiracy theories. In the words of one De Beers executive: “We stride across Africa in a very satisfactory way in all sorts of strange places. Part of the secret is we respect confidences. We don’t talk much.” (Kanfer, 1993)

While many of the misgivings about secrecy and human rights violations by mining companies have diminished over the years, examples recur of notably disturbing ventures — though multinational mining companies are not always involved in these cases. The civil war in Sierra Leone, for example, is largely a resource war between rebels (who control much of the diamond mining in the east of the country) and the democratic government. The same is largely true of the strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with its diamond and cobalt mines, and the continuing civil strife in Angola (one of the most resource-rich countries in the world).

Even the recent war in Kosovo has been described by a notable New York Times reporter as being largely about mineral resources surrounding the Stari Trg mining complex. (Hedges, 1998) According to the mine’s director, Novak Bjelic, “The war in Kosovo is about the mines, nothing else. This is Serbia’s Kuwait.””


Dust Monitoring Equipment – providing equipment, services and training in dust fallout management to the mining industry.