Mining and society are intricately connected. We are so dependent upon mining that it is far more realistic to question how, when, and where we will mine than to question if we will mine.
But this brings forth some serious challenges. The resources we depend upon are finite, and we are consuming an ever-increasing amount of them. At the current rate of growth in consumption, it will not be long before we will need more resources than our planet can provide. What will we do then?
More significantly, what can and will we do to prevent this scenario from unfolding?
‘Rethink’ is an exploration into how society can become sustainable and what roles all of us play in achieving this goal. It is a call to action to begin the change now, with the recognition of the factors that can drive or inhibit such change. Most importantly, it is a dialogue on how we get from ‘here’ to ‘there’.
The headline in The Independent reads “World’s largest chocolate manufacturer adds voice to warnings of 'potential cocoa shortage by 2020'” (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/worlds-largest-chocolate-manufacturer-adds-voice-to-warnings-of-potential-cocoa-shortage-by-2020-9864437.html).
The problem is we are consuming more cocoa than we can produce, and it is getting worse. Imagine a world where cocoa is so rare few people can afford it. Imagine a world where cocoa is so rare, foods made of it contain little of it. Is this a crisis? Will we survive a global cocoa shortage? I think it is safe to say we would (although there are some that might say otherwise), but what if the scarcity crisis was due to hit copper in 2020? How would we fare?
At first, the thought might be how can I compare copper to cocoa? After all, one is a non-renewable resource and the other is not. Isn't the solution to the potential cocoa shortage to plant more cocoa trees?
No. Cocoa production faces many of the same issues mining faces, including: land tenure rights, inadequate infrastructure, water shortages, global warming impacts, poverty, and labour conditions.
As for simply planting more trees - it takes years to grow a cocoa tree to a producing age. To have more cocoa production in five years, the planning has to already be under way.
This is similar to copper production. Mining companies take years to find and develop mineral deposits into active mines – work that is risky and expensive. The goal, of course, is for copper to be in high demand when the mine is fully operational. One of the risks is it will not be. It is all about supply and demand.
More importantly though, should we be looking for a simple fix to our problems? Would planting more trees solve the issue? Not with exponential growth in demand.
This is the same with mining.
Simply attempting to produce more - cocoa or copper - is not sustainable.
While it may prove easier to plant trees than find and extract a new copper deposit, what really matters is what is being done to create sustainable cultures around the harvesting of our resources, renewable and non-renewable, and this begins with each and every one of us.