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
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,
''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 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 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
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 email@example.com
or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.