Mining Ltd, a leading mineral extraction corporation based in China, has
officially announced its ground-breaking technology for extracting gold
from the water supply in the United States, including groundwater, rivers,
lakes and streams. After years of fastidious research, Jinshan has
concluded that most of the water throughout the continental United States
contains significant trace levels of gold particles. Its scientists have
determined that the concentration of particles is high enough to enable
the mining concern’s innovative new extraction process to cull significant
quantities of the precious metal from ordinary H2O.
Jinshan, a Chinese multinational, has
indicated they have found a surprisingly inexpensive means to process the
millions of gallons of American water necessary to reap the profits they
CEO Zhu Jintao was brimming with enthusiasm as he addressed eager members
of the US media via satellite link from a remote area of China where he
was vacationing with his family:
“We are projecting revenue somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 billion US
dollars, in the first year. As we ramp up the project, we hope to double
or perhaps even triple that figure within the next two years. Gold from
water! It is as if we have discovered a form of alchemy!”
Articulating with a powerful command of his second language, Mr. Jintao
“Naturally, we are quite pleased that the Bush administration has agreed
that the United States government will lend its full support to our
exciting new venture. Jinshan and the nation of China are most thankful
for America’s generous accommodation.”
While Jintao failed to broach the subject, it is worth noting that
Jinshan’s extraction process involves the use of highly toxic chemicals,
including cyanide, thallium, barium, arsenic, and mercury. Jinshan’s
"mining" is expected to quadruple the EPA’s legally acceptable levels of
each of these contaminants in the drinking water of over 1.4 million
Americans. Another undisclosed consequence of Jinshan’s “alchemy” is that
it will require that they construct over a hundred processing facilities
across the United States. Ecologists conservatively project that the
ecosystem within a fifty mile radius of each of Jinshan’s “mining” sites
will be uninhabitable by animal or plant life for at least twenty years.
In a move demonstrating unprecedented disregard for human and
environmental protections in the United States, the Bush administration
has given the green light to Jinshan. Over-riding the feeble objections of
Congress, President Bush has granted the Chinese concern unlimited access
to the National Park System for construction of its gold extracting
installations. He has also granted Jinshan an exemption from all EPA
standards and US environmental laws. In return, Jinshan has pledged to
share 10% of their profits with the American people through payments to
the federal government.
Groups like Greenpeace and the Sierra Club are expected to raise major
objections. Members will likely commit acts of civil disobedience and
possibly take violent measures against Jinshan to prevent the inevitable
environmental and public health disaster. Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff indicated that all who opposed the Chinese venture would
be arrested as domestic terrorists and detained indefinitely.
When members of the press corps questioned the constitutionality of such a
move, Chertoff quipped: “National security is the issue here. I do not
have time to debate the law with you.”
Despite the prospect of a powerful backlash leading to civil unrest in
America, President Bush has pledged to remain firm and resolute.
President Bush stated his position succinctly: “I refuse to back down on
the Jinshan Project. If necessary, I will deploy the National Guard to
protect our friends from China.”
Reading a prepared statement, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
explained and defended the administration’s decision on the Jinshan
“President Bush has decided that it is in the best interests of the
American people to allow Jinshan Mining Ltd to move forward with their
venture. China represents a strategic partner of growing importance, both
economically and in the War on Terror. It is essential that the United
States facilitate the proliferation of free market capitalism in the great
nation of China."
After a brief pause, Rice continued:
"Americans need to understand that they will
have to make sacrifices in the interests of our national security and
economic well-being. They also need to remember that we in the federal
government are here to help them. Mr. Bush has mandated that the revenues
we receive from Jinshan will go directly toward medical care for the brave
patriots who endure unpleasantries related to the project. All Americans
who are adversely affected by the Jinshan Project will receive the
Presidential Medal of Patriotic Sacrifice. I cannot imagine receiving a
higher honor. Thank you for your time, ladies and gentlemen.”
Anonymous sources within the White House have indicated that the
administration’s move to open America’s water supply to Chinese business
interests was driven primarily by the fact that China holds over $250
billion of the federal government’s debt. However, Press Secretary Tony
Snow blithely dismissed such assertions as “nonsense.”
* * *
* * * *
Is the above fiction exaggerated satire?
Is such a scenario far removed from reality
in developing countries?
Consider how corporate abuse of humanity and
the environment plays out in reality as Capitalists prey on vulnerable
Despite their powerful political influence
and deeply incestuous relationships with the federal government, it is
unlikely that multinational corporations could perpetrate such crimes
against humanity on such a large scale on American soil, yet. The
Jinshan fiction is obviously loaded with hyperbole. While Jinshan may be a
gross exaggeration, it reflects common behavior by multinational
corporations and their neocolonial enablers. Human life and the
environment are virtually irrelevant to them in their relentless quest to
fatten their bottom line. Vulnerable developing nations (which are often
rich in natural resources) provide easy targets for corporate and
The United States and its Neocolonial partners guaranteed the economic and
political subjugation of developing nations when they forged the Bretton
Woods Agreements at the end of World War II. Utilizing organizations like
the World Bank and “free trade” agreements like GATT and NAFTA, the
Neocolonialists have created a subtle yet powerful economic form of
Providing loans to deeply impoverished developing nations, the World Bank
requires that recipients make “structural adjustments”, including
privatizing, cuts in social spending, elimination of labor protection
laws, and the elimination of trade protections for their people.
Multinational corporations are then free to rape, pillage and plunder
virtually at will.
All that glitters....
Consider the unfulfilled ambitions of Barrick Gold Corporation in South
America. Since 1996, the Canadian multinational mining company has been
pursuing a project called Pascua Lama in Chile and Argentina. Greedily
eyeing 17 million ounces of gold and 635 million ounces of silver, Barrick
has tenaciously struggled to overcome vigorous objections and protests
from indigenous farmers, NGOs and environmentalists.
To reach and extract the gold and silver, Barrick plans on “relocating”
three glaciers located high in the Andes between Argentina and Chile.
70,000 small farmers (Huascoaltinos) in the Huasco Valley rely on the
glaciers for irrigation water. Pascua Lama would seriously diminish and
contaminate their water supply, leaving the crops they cultivated
Environmentalists and ecologists have expressed grave concerns about the
additional adverse environmental impact of destroying or seriously
disrupting the three glaciers, Toro I, Toro II, and Esperanza. Andean
glaciers are significant contributors to the Earth’s freshwater and are
already shrinking due to global warming.
Marcel Claude, economist and vice-president of Oceana, an environmental
NGO, pointed out: ''Gold mining dumps 79 tons of waste for every 28 grams
of gold, and produces 96 percent of the world's arsenic emissions.''
And: “Pascua Lama will probably not pay much in taxes (in Chile) and
its impact in terms of jobs is insignificant Therefore, we can say with
conviction that (Pascua Lama) will contribute absolutely nothing to
One for you...one thousand for me
Over the proposed 20 year life of the mine, Barrick has offered to
compensate Chile with a “whopping” $60 million. The purpose of this
relatively paltry sum would be to increase the quality and quantity of
water which Pascua Lama would diminish. While offering $60 million to
Chile in compensation, Barrick intends to fund its mining operation with
$1.5 billion. And based on 6/2/06 market values, Barrick stands to extract
over $17 billion worth of gold and silver. The economic injustice is
Let's see that bill of sale...
Even Barrick’s acquisition of their mining stake is highly questionable.
The Diaguita people of the Huasco Valley filed suit against Barrick in
2001 because it had purchased the gold and silver rich territory from only
one member of the entire indigenous community. Legal precedent appears to
favor the poor Chilean farmers. Barrick’s “purchase” could be invalidated
because it failed to get unanimous Huascoaltino approval on the sale of
their ancestral lands.
Munk holds the aces...
Despite Chile’s recent election of moderate socialist Michelle Bachelet to
the presidency and strong popular opposition to Pascua Lama, it is highly
unlikely that the Huascoaltinos will prevail.
Political heavyweights like former US President George Bush Sr.,
Washington power broker Vernon Jordan, and former PM of Canada Brian
Mulroney serve as corporate board members or “advisors” to Barrick. Their
considerable influence in the political arena gives Barrick a distinct and
obvious advantage. Besides, with potent Neocolonial economic policies
backing their efforts, multinationals seldom lose when large stakes are on
Barrick chairman and founder Peter Munk, who once appeared on Mother
Jones’ list of America’s “10 Little Piggies”, will not rest until his
stockholders’ pockets are burgeoning with Chilean gold and silver.
Consider this excerpt from an article appearing on the Lawyers’
Environmental Action Team Website,
Robbing the Poor to Give to the Rich:
In August 1996 the Tanzanian government
authorities in collaboration with a Canadian-owned company called Kahama
Mining Corporation Ltd., (KMCL) forcibly removed hundreds of thousands of
artisanal miners, peasant farmers, small traders and their families from
an area called Bulyanhulu in Shinyanga Region, central-western Tanzania.
The removals were the culmination of a two-year struggle pitting the
miners and the company over the control of gold deposits at Bulyanhulu.
Within days of the operation to remove the miners, serious allegations
emerged that over 50 artisanal miners were killed after they were buried
alive in mineshafts when the authorities and company officials decided to
backfill the shafts. KMCL was then a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sutton
Resources, based in Vancouver, Canada.
In March 1999, Barrick Gold Corporation,
another Canadian mining giant acquired the Bulyanhulu deposits through its
acquisition of Sutton Resources and its Tanzanian subsidiary….
….The investment stands as a monument to the
plunder of the natural resources of poor countries such as Tanzania by the
multinational corporations of the rich industrial countries of the North;
and the impoverishment and further marginalization of the mostly rural
communities in mineral rich areas of Tanzania and elsewhere. It is a
living testimony of the proposition that where multinational corporate
interests are at stake, notions of rule of law, good governance and a
respect for human rights take on a secondary importance to be swept aside
whenever expedient. It provides the proof to the charge that the World
Bank Group almost always acts against the interests of the vast majority
of the poor and the marginalized groups of society.
Given the exploitative and oppressive nature
of the neocolonial system and the ruthless determination of
multinationals like Barrick, it is highly unlikely that 70,000 poor
indigenous farmers in Chile will get to keep the “privileges” of their
human rights, their health, and their means of survival. Not with $17
billion dollars on the line.
High stakes for humanity...
So why root for the Huascoaltinos and their
glaciers? Why mourn and rage if the tyranny of Capitalism crushes them?
Human beings with a sense of moral
indignation and a social conscience don’t need to ask.
For those who consider the pursuit of social justice to be frivolous
idealism, a more pragmatic answer lies in the imagined scenario involving
Jinshan Mining poisoning America's water supply. Abetted by the corporate
elites and de facto aristocracy of the United States, multinational
corporate power is increasing at an alarming rate. Immunity from the
ravages of amoral and relentless pursuit of profit is a luxury few human
beings will continue to enjoy. Regardless of their geographic location.
Today it is the Huascoaltinos. Tomorrow it could be your family and you.
is a 39-year-old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and
an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for
reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of
Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at:
or comments on his blog,
Thomas Paine’s Corner.
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