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’.
Recently, I was talking about our newest exhibit – Water: Beneath the Surface (running April 25 through the end of August) – with a colleague when I was
asked ‘What does water have to do with a Mine Museum?’
At first, I was a bit surprised. Wasn't it obvious why we would do an exhibit on water? Clearly it was not, but rather than give the list of connections; I simply asked ‘Is water a resource?’
‘Of course it is’, was the reply.
While we are a mine museum, we are also a museum about natural resource usage and sustainability, and under that umbrella, water does fall.
Water, perhaps the most vital of all resources, is, like all resources, finite – clean water in particular. The solution to our growing water needs is not going to be found in tapping new sources indefinitely. It is going to be found in better managing the resources we already have.
Does this sound familiar to what is said of mined resources? It should.
Many years ago, we mined out the richest deposits of materials such as copper. Today, mining companies need to mine and process more raw material to produce the same amount of finished product than in bygone years. To achieve this, technology has saved us.
The same can be said for water. To meet our water needs, wells are drilled deeper, dams are built bigger, and new methods of producing clean water have been developed.
What will happen when the demand for mined materials can’t be met? Most likely, scarcity will drive prices up until a substitute for the material in question is found.
When it comes to water, scarcity also drives the prices up. But unlike other resources, we all need clean water, and there is no substitute.
So what does water have to do with it? Everything. If we fail to manage our water in a sustainable manner, nothing else will matter.