Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Hole In The Ground Owned By Liars"

You just gotta agree that Mark Twain hits the nail a lot. Well, maybe the miners would take offense to his 'hole in the ground quote'. I had to chuckle though, at the disparity between the Mark Twain quote used by the big mining company CEO and Mark Twain's assessment of miners. On the one hand, the Northern Dynasty guy who is pitching the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay is trying everything he can think of, including opinion pieces in the Anchorage Daily News, where he quoted Mark Twain. He used the quote "The rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated" to intimate that the Pebble Mine is not down and out, after the British (and the Japanese) pulled their support for the mine for environmental reasons.

So to put Mark Twain's view of mining in perspective, the author of the Huffington Post article referenced above, used the other famous quote, "A mine is a hole in the ground owned by liars." Northern Dynasty is a mining company that is typically Canadian in that resource extraction is the end-all, be-all. Environmental concerns be damned. Just look at the devastation of the 'Tar Sands,' their petroleum pipelines, their fish farms, and now they want to even raise genetically modified fish, the first in the world.

'Manifest Destiny' was in full swing in Mark Twain's time and anyone who found a couple of specks of gold in a creek would be hitting up investors with promises of great fortune in the surrounding ground. Many more attempts at developing mines than ever got developed. How many more miners hiked over the Chilkoot Trail into the Yukon than brought back a fortune in gold? According to Mont Hawthorn, who tried this, not very many at all. The guy from Petersburg who is remembered for his success up there was the one who brought thirty odd cats to Dawson to sell to the prostitutes. Don't know how many times he did that, but he ended up buying downtown property and starting thriving businesses in Petersburg and Wrangell.

Successful or not, miner's money gets spread around, there is no doubt about that. But what other industry pays $100,000 a year salaries like Northern Dynasty promises? I'll call BS on that one for sure. In a nearby bonanza town, Dutch Harbor, there are 26 languages spoken in the school system. The big companies have brought in people from all over the world to work the low wage jobs in the 'lucrative' bottom-fish business. In this age of union-busting I don't believe those jobs at Pebble will be high paying.

The promise of big paying mine jobs is easier to swallow in Alaska because of the memory of high paying jobs to complete the Alyeska Pipeline. The urgency to finish that project was immense, thus the good paying jobs. There is no urgency to keep grinding rock up for the small percent of minerals in it over the next 50 years. The cash flow can garner a lot of bank interest if it gets under way though. They could start to develop a mine on the moon with the guarantees. Or they could level the rain forest in Brazil for more gold.

Putting the certainty of the demise of the salmon runs in Bristol Bay aside for the sake of argument, we not only doubt the credibility of Northern Dynasty's pitch, as Alaska survivalists, and that's what you have to be there, are steeped in looking at things realistically. You don't survive long in Alaska by not being a realist or you end up like Christopher McCandless who starved to death in an abandoned school bus in Alaska with game all around. The key word is risk management. Be Prepared, like in the Boy Scouts motto.

Big promises and disregard for the risks, as in Northern Dynasty's pitch, sounds more like a McCandless operation. And you know it wouldn't be any Canadians who starve on the Pebble Mine project. At least the miners in Mark Twain's time put their lives on the line, as overly optimistic as they were. The prospect of gold riches drives men to stretch the truth now just as it did in Mark Twain's time. There is no way to put this kind of behavior in politically correct terms.

What would you say to the man who lied and hundreds of thousands of people died as a result. I reference Dick Cheney who was behind the big 'weapons of mass destruction' lie. My own son was caught up in that frenzy of combating something that didn't exist, for some other reason. Does the term 'trail of tears' ring a bell, as regards all the dead and wounded men it took to defend that lie. Lies and liars are like that.

The Canadians have said that no farmed fish will escape into the wild to mix with natural salmon runs. Oops, they have been caught by Alaskan commercial fishermen far up into the Gulf of Alaska after escaping British Columbia fish farms. Now they want to raise genetically modified fish, which could render our stocks unable to survive in the wild? Miners especially seem to be the kind that would ensure that Pandora's Box is guaranteed secure.