Left or Right? – The mining headache in Latin America

Posted on February 22nd, 2012 by danielgarcia.
Categories: Uncategorized.

It’s very easy to say what sounds good and what you think people want to hear. When talking politics many of us identify ourselves as a “leftist” or as “tending right”. The eternal democratic and republican approach to politics does not only exist in the United States but stretches to the entire world and it creates not only electoral conflict but also moral and ethical dilemmas in society.

South America is a fascinating example of a rising power and a group of nations that was at one point in time home to one of the worlds strongest and most successful civilizations, the Incas. South America then was overpowered by stronger European nations and became relegated to thirld world status for over two hundred years of development. Today, South America once again has awaken and is realizing the immense amount of potential for success, development, capacity, resources, and the newly found energy in many politicians and leaders.

This is where the left and right debate turns from white and black… to grey.

Mining is the most profitable industry in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. Mining is also the one industry that has seen incredible divisions of social classes and inequitable distribution of wealth. Employees of mining corporations are normally well paid and create a strong middle class but what is the price we are paying for this? Social revolts sometimes seem extreme and are hard to understand. Just why do people not want mining? Would mining not bring in more jobs and only positive impact to the region?

The latest debate in this mining headache is water.

A Peruvian February demonstration was named the “March of Water” which more clearly translates to “Water Protest.” Radicals in Peru, possibly paid by Chilean authorities have created a buzz in poorer towns that mining will take away their water privileges and subsequently destroying their only source of income: farming.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact most modern mining companies want to create a reliable source of water, energy, and personnel. Experience in Southern Peru shows us that a well funded mining company invests heavily in the infrastructure of the city in which it operates. They reinforce water systems, electrical systems, and create a sub division of labor that trains personnel to fill necessary spots in the company, usually well paying jobs. Heavy machinery operators and hard laborers earn decent living wages that include overtime and access to healthcare that is unavailable to the regular Peruvian population. The benefits of mining far outweigh the negatives and hampering mining to observe small procedural problems is not the liberal, democratic, and capitalistic answer.

Mining is currently our lifeblood. In Saudi Arabia its oil, in Peru its copper, gold, zinc, and molybdenum. If we kill that bloodline, then opponents better come up with a new alternative and the funds and companies willing to invest in their ideas.