Of Water, Human Beings and Other "Worthless" Commodities
by Jason Miller    Thomas Paine's Corner
Entered into the database on Friday, June 09th, 2006 @ 18:04:29 MST


Untitled Document

Glory Be Unto Greed!

How Capitalism Unleashes the Beast of Soulless Avarice

Jinshan 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 seek.

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 continued:

“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 Project:

“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 nations:

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 Neocolonial exploitation.

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 oppression.

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, NGO’s 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 virtually worthless.

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,''


“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 Chile’s development.”

One for 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 almost incomprehensible.

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 the table.

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.

Jason Miller 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, at