Minerals in National Parks – Leave Them in the Ground?

The extraction of minerals often leads not just to the consumption and depletion of the mined material, but also to the unintended but unavoidable consumption and depletion of rich and necessary biological resources, which are quite wasted in the process. This happens when minerals are located in nature reserves and national parks.

All the earth’s resources, animal, vegetable, and mineral, should be useable for the human economy according to the limiting criteria discussed previously. Parks and reserves are certainly conserved by banning mining in them, but this is not satisfactory because it locks up the mineral resources and causes negative attitudes to the conservation of biotic resources, with consequent careless destruction of them in impatient “break-outs”.

A better idea is to permit mining in nature reserves within limits imposed by the over-riding requirement to renew the biotic resource at a rate equal to or greater than the rate at which mining depletes it.

Great extra care would be necessary to conserve the biotic resource while getting the mineral. The rate of mining would have to be restricted and much work done to save the life species and restore the land, not necessarily to its original form but to a condition that would permit the survival and strengthening of all the life species originally there.

All this would involve the outlay or loss of money, but this is not a “cost”, rather a transference or delay of throughput. This is discussed in the post “Costs – What Really Costs Us and What Doesn’t?” and elsewhere.

Traditional mining methods, where overlying biotic resources are left out of consideration altogether, are more costly than what is proposed because they entail faster depletion of resources, that is, faster economic shrinkage.

So how is the money to be provided to pay wages for restoration and recovery work and to compensate for the restriction on the rate of extraction and sale of minerals?

As discussed elsewhere, the conservation of resources available to the whole community is required, and the necessary monetary effort must be shared by the whole community. It is unfair and impractical to load it all onto the mining company.

Restoration work should be paid for out of general revenue, which can be augmented for the purpose by taxes on unnecessarily high consumption of non-renewable resources, such as motor spirit from fossil oil, or on unhealthy non-essential like alcohol, tobacco, gambling and junk foods.

In addition, mining companies would be subsidised to an extent sufficient to enable them to mine, pay wages, turn a profit and compete with less restricted miners elsewhere.

With the development of world political and legal unity also called for in this document, and with growing awareness of the vital economic necessity for conservation of the living environment, mining companies in more and more parts of the world would be subject to the operating restraints set forth above and the need for subsidies to keep restricted companies competitive with unrestricted ones would decrease.

The foregoing paragraphs really point up how different the economics of the future must be from current economics. Several sacred “laws” would be violated by the proposals made in this section:

  • The law of the survival of the fittest, the most competitive companies surviving.
  • The law that money income must be maximised and outlay minimised.
  • The view that companies must bear the entire cost of their operations.
  • The supposed need for governments to keep out of things in general and particularly not to subsidise anyone.
  • The supposed need for less regulation and restriction of economic activity, not more.
  • The law that more and greater taxes are always bad.
  • The law that if something can’t be done by the private sector then it’s not necessary or desirable.

Not to mention the different concept of “cost” that will develop though these postings.

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