Isoman copper mine (hypothetical case study)/There are certain obstacles...

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...I am part of the informed public, maybe publisher of a magazine. I cannot decide at all but have an influence on the public opinion and, as we know, in a little while there are (hopefully democratic) elections. I think we should not make the same mistake again so many countries made in the past: Hoping for fast money and short term development (what do you think will happen when the copper mines are empty? Everybody who pleads for the copper mines has to answer this question (!!!)) going the easy but wrong way. Of course I know we need development...


Jule, ... still one thing maybe you can answer: Whats the point of leaving resources underground?

I try to answer your question (What if the copper mine is empty?): The extraction of resources, if properly conducted (with an economic agenda in mind) will increase the wealth of the population and bolster the economic developement. ... companies can also be obliged to recultivate the land once mining is done...


@ Henning and everybody else,

“What’s the point of leaving resources underground?“

The point is about intergenerational justice. Why do “you“ have the right to make decisions for future generations? How can you weight up the needs of a global company right now against future needs of the local population you don’t even know about? If you build these mines maybe (but probably not) the ecosystem could be restored one day- but if you uses the raw material it is gone forever. It will not regrow. What is the concept of sustainability all about? Don’t use more of a resource right now as it grows in the same time. Future generations should find the same prerequisites we found right now.

...Why should we use these raw materials for development (I don‘t think there would be any development- but that was the goal) if the people could have a better and more sustainable development without building the copper-mines? Why???


"Intergenerational justice" is a powerful word. If you say that the current generation (us) has no right to mine that place, then which next generation has? Can you pick a date? When is it appropriate?

I know what you are saying is based on a very noble idea but if mankind was fixed only on the idea of leaving the planet virtually untouched ("Don’t use more of a resource right now as it grows in the same time.") then people would have never left the stone age. Actually when I think about it, mankind would be extinct by now, because iron and bronze mining would have been forbidden (no swords and spears) and wild animals killed everybody back then ;)

... what do you mean with actors being equally powerful? Are you talking about industrialists vs. working class? If you were referring to that then I seriously doubt that the distribution of power is worse today than it was back then.

Also when I was proposing to build the mine I mentioned an "economic agenda" which referred to a model in which the local population participates from the profit made. What you are doing is presupposition. You assume that the involvement of a global corporation in a developing country involves negative consequences for the local population. However, the involvement itself is not the problem but the internal politics of these states are...

Looking forward to your reply! Henning


-„"Intergenerational justice" is a powerful word. If you say that the current generation (us) has no right to mine that place, then which next generation has? Can you pick a date? When is it appropriate?““-

No of course I cannot pick a date - it is more an ethical question about non-regrowing resources. As well I cannot tell you which generation has the right to use these resources- but from my point of view there should be a development to an economy using renewable resources. I know this argument is very common, but I really belief in this: We have the responsibility for the next generations finding the same natural/ resource preconditions we found…

And of course I do not think since „back in the stone age“ people should leave the nature untouched- of course not. But right now in Europe we need twice the space and resources we have for our lifestyle. There’s a reason why the idea of sustainability came up in the last 20 years.

...I think in the last fundamental point we just have different opinions: I don’t say that the involvement of a global company always has negative consequences for the other side (not always ;-)- but when there is such a huge difference in power between these two parties (there are enough examples when the yearly profit of the company is higher than the GDP of the country) you cannot say that it is just the failure of the internal politics - without any responsibility for the situation of the involved company. In fact a global company is more interested in their own profit then in the development of a foreign country - and then there is the question with the unequal power of the participants again....

But probably we agree that we have different opinions in fundamental points...


...Maybe you are right that there is a difference in our opinions in fundamental points that cannot be resolved within this discussion. But there is no harm in that ;)

By the way I'm going to let you into a little secret of mine: Once oil becomes really scarce on Earth I'm planning to open up a fuel station here:

As John F. Kennedy once said, we are not going to the Moon because it is easy, but because it is hard.

Cheers ;) Henning

...Good idea to open up that fuel station on Titan, Henning, only by the time you've invented the technology to get there hydro carbons may no longer be in very high demand, although perhaps they'll have some sort of retro chic value back on Earth if there's anyone left to enjoy them

Looking forward to your answer! Andrew

...I would like to address question from Andrew from two perspectives. the first one is policy. In the terms of policy perspective, for example local government in the under developed countries doesn't have the capability to scan and check natural environment limits of mining in the area. It is up to the policy from this mining company. they certainly have the standard procedure in exploration and before stating to mine.

from the welfare perspective, the share of the welfare through mining industries is not fair. management level in the mining company is the one who enjoyed all the luxury while locals are only some helpers in the projects even if the locals themselves have appropriate educational background. with this in mind all the climate change and enviromental issues are way too far from their priority since the welfare doesn't exist.


...Jule, do you think it's possible to commit about mining just a part of raw material supplies? The harm would be smaller and also the price would get higher, so the financial income for the country might grow?


...I agree with you, that we do not have the right to tell foreign countries what to do with their resources. If they have the possibilities to build a cooper mine, they have the right to take their resources. But in the case of less developed counties, the mine company often comes from industrialized countries and makes money out of the resources of less developed countries.

In this case the company has cheep labor and not the hard and strict rules of action concerning environment etc. I also agree with you that the industrialized countries should act as role models for other countries, because they have the technical possibility to do so, but in reality they often use loophole to have a higher outcome.


...I also agree, it is absolutly correct, that the coutries can do with their resources what they want to do. So they could also let other companies built cooper mines on their land. But on the other hand we do not have the right to use other countries for our profit, just like Markena said.

I also think of the "small" people who live in these less developed countries. Just like farmers who don't have much money selling their small piece of land for some cooper mine. I think these people don't have the oppourtunity to think of the next generations. They just think of their family now. And because of this premises it is easy to take advantages of this situation. In my mind the people and probably also the government doesn't have an other chance than trying to make money somehow.

But I think first of all the big companies just take profit out of it and secondly a cooper mine is absolutly not sustainable. The big companies should invest in alternative methods for energy etc..


...Several excellent points were raised in the discussion: is the view from inside (affected people) substantially different from the view from outside (copper mine, and also local government under some circumstances)? Is „development“ a self-fulfilling word, does it reason any benefits under all possible conditions? (on a personal level – could you develop through intervention of somebody who “knows best” what´s good for you?) What about local institutional and civic environment to cope with the challenge (discuss, decide, organize, use benefits)? For the decision, these political structures are absolutely most important – each of them sharing either responsibility (how is the responsibility of the foreign company formulated?) and profit (and what about the profit of the company?)

Nothing bad about cheap labor etc., but are the opportunities for further local development created (e.g. education to develop own technical capacities)? Are they included in the financial considerations? If so, is the mine really profitable? World prices and global competition is another crucial point – how are they generated? How do local trade conditions differ from global economic environment?

I certainly do not know the answer to all of these questions... Jana

...Hi Lina, I was thinking about the last thing you said - the sustainibility of the copper mine and the harm it could do.

What if the mining company had to commit in the contract that they do something good for the nature in exchange for the harm the mine would certainly do? If I develop your idea about energy - e.g. they built solar power station on the island? (It depends on the specific needs of the island, I mean if the electricity is they crucial need. Maybe it would be better to invest money in schools. We don't know the exact local conditions.)

I know it might sound as populismus and just using these "good deeds" to make the intentions of building the mine come true, but on many occassions even this is not done...


...I want to share with you my thoughts about the building of the copper mine, even most aspects have already been mentioned. In general investments, like in this case for the building of a copper mine, have some advantages and on the other hand also risks and disadvantages. Mostly the separation or the valuation of these advantages and disadvantages as pros and cons relates with the perspective, that means from which view the building of the copper mine is considered.

Shortly the first advantages for the population of that area can be the demand for new labour, therefore new workspace is going to be created for the population. But actually we do not know anything about the local situation and if any workspace is needed. Another possible advantage for the country, the government or the population, can be seen in possible financial interest or stakes, we do not know about either. Disadvantages and risk are environmental risks for that area, for instance the pollution, other environmental risks mining can cause or maybe also the risk of accidents caused by copper mining. Besides the advantage of new workspace, we do not know anything about the working conditions, if some working labour is going to be employed from the investing company’s homeland or if the local labour is going to be exploited as cheap workers. And I doubt that there is going to be an agreement, something like a regulation between the local government and the investing company, to prevent exploitation. Because just as the limited, impermanent and fast financial profits the investors are looking for, I can imagine that the government or any other institution that will be in power and is going to decide about it, will use this investment for the own benefit as well, and maybe will not think about future generations or the social safety of the population.

Relating the contract between the investing company and the government concerning some kind of service in return, Josef has mentioned, is actually a good idea I think, because investments in combination with serving investments are fundamental for the development of a country. I think it is a good idea to support the area with for instance schools or maybe an operative water supply, simply just that what is needed. But even in this case of a service in return I would be concerned that the investing company would try to buy their way out of this clause.


"Isoman Province is the most pristine and beautiful place in this country. In 10 years it may not be that beautiful [...]." Although there are many different aspects leading to a solution concerning the question "Should we build a copper mine?", I think this sentence should also be mentioned. If this place is so beautiful I wouldn't like the idea of destroying the landscape and nature around. Although it's more a subjective than a rational argument, I think it's also very important. The world hasn't that many beautiful places anymore because we build our cities and industries and roads everywhere. If we won't stop the world will someday be a whole building place without any forests, lakes and hayfields anymore. Another point against building the mine is the environment. All the energy that's needed to uncover the copper, all the emission as a consequence of it. And what about the waste which will be produced? There's also the argument that maybe the landowner (we don't know if the land where the copper mine will be built belongs to a farmer or anyone) couldn't use this lot in a different way. Maybe his house is built on it and he has to move. We don't anything about this but we have to reflect on this case.

But to mention some arguments for building the mine, I think the new workplaces which are provided are the most important fact. New workplaces implicate prosperity and satisfaction within the population. Also the improved infrastructure (the four-lane highway as it's mentioned in the text) is a pro because also the residents benefit from it. I mean it's always an advantage to reach a destination fast. And not to forget the resource coming out of the mining could bring wealth. If a country has good resources it becomes important for other countries which need those resources. So the copper mine could not only bring prosperity but also importance and acceptation.

I can't say if I would build the copper mine or not. On the one hand I think we should leave some "beautiful places" in the world. That's important not only for the human being but also for the animals, because it's their natural habitat. On the other hand it could bring new workplaces, prosperity and importance. I think it depends on where we set our priorities.

But that's only my point of view. Now I have some questions to all of you, just to participate also in this debate and to understand your point of views smile.

To Jule: Why do you think the government has the last decision? I think the government can't do anything if all the habitants are against it. This could lead to a revolt (just to exaggerate a bit as Jonas would say...tongueout).

To Henning: I absolutely agree with you when you (analogous) say: "If we don't have the right to use those resources now, which generation has?" Now I want to ask about your personal opinion. What do you think, do we have the right to use them now although we have everything we need and more, or do you think we shoud leave resources for future generations in times of need? If we take all resouces now, would there anything be left in, let's say, 100 years??


Hi everybody, it is nice to see all your different views, but something is being unfolded in your discussions: some of you try to find "the best solution" for everybody concerned. This is our aim in the end, so it´s OK, but what is the process that will lead us towards this aim? You try to find some very rational and "objective" arguments and in some cases you are shy to express some particular, opposing views. But I like for example Henning who speaks for the company (although then he says: who is "we"?), Corina, who says something about beuaty (needed for admiring the place you live), Jonas, when he represents the government to a certain extent, Lina, who is speaking about small people´s interests etc. (sorry for not mentioning the others as well smile). If there are some good reasons for an action (or no-action - building the mine), it´s fine - BUT!

There are always some "minor" (not so powerful) views and certainly would be some loosers in the process of changes - which may in general lead to positive (or negative) ends. And - there is no reason not to hear all of the voices! E.g. MY FAMILY will be most affected (this is our land on which the mine is built), and even if WE accept the idea of the common good (progress of the country) we should discuss it with ALL OTHERS involved (there is no "abstract" necessity or argument that is above all of us - except probably the moral one). Some of these interests are not expressed at all (nature, species, small kids and their future) and if there they have no representative they may be omitted.

So, I suppose that (even in reality) would be most productive to have either discussion, decission-making procedure including all affected AND well developed policies, regulations to maximize benefits and reduce risks afterwards.


...some examples of the past have shown that the interests of different stakeholders are not appreciable for the accomplishment of purposes of companies. When Airbus wanted to build their new plane A 380 there was something like a riot. Several farmers didn't want to sell their apple plantations to the company. Even expropriations could not be excluded. Finally the farmers got a price above the fair market value.

This is an example how a minor group of people had to subordinate their interests to general good. I don't think this is a satisfying sollution for everyone. But sometimes it's necessary when there is no way to meet the requirements of all aggrieved parties. That is the reason we have governments (isn't it???). To say if the mine should be buildt or not is an ambivalent question. I'm not sure if it's necessary to mine these resources. The nature capital not governed by human should be able to survive.

I like the attitude of Jonas, that the mine should be buildt but only under certain circumstances. But I also agree with Jule, that the government has the final decision nut in an oblique way. Because the government can lay the foundations for companies to settle in a specific country. That can happen e.g. by tax or subsidy policy. But the most important point is there have to be opportunities to regulate the companies obligations and to make them discharge their duties.


...Well my opinion is that in 150 years there are few people who will have any use for oil or other resources of today because once things become scarce people will look for substitutes and ways to create synthetic processes that replace the original compound.

Also further production will increase efficiency. A complete exit from it does no one any good.

What do you think? Are there good reasons for leaving some things as they are?


Should it mine or not? I think it should but with condition of course. The main one is before the exploration. The local area has be sure the it will managed professionally. This will make all the negative side-impact from the mining. This negative one could be in the field of environment and also economic.

I agree with Henning we have to look up to Norway and Australia. In Indonesia some mining industries even only using basic mining tools to gain maximum profit. This is what we don’t want.


...My point of view is very close to the opinion Jonas has stated, also I agree with Henning's additions.

I think it's a great idea from Jonas that the state should be co-owner - that would give all guarnantees more straightness. But that's quite a bit ideologistically thought, as Henning pointed out by mentioning that the project was borne and developped by a private company. The company would not agree to a contract built like this, I suspect. And also, who says the state whishes only the best for its people and ecosystem?

This imaginary project of the Isoman copper mine shows the complexity and complicacy of making the right decision - and for whom? The best would be to develop the project interdisciplinary, because this method is able to point out a lot (or best case - every) different parts of attended persons and circumstances, animals, ecosystems, etc. ...

The problem is that the company has the strongest power in the decision process - and if the company's highest (or even only) goal is defined by profit maximization, the fear of ecological and social problems is very eligible.

See, the development of companies' responsible consciousness is the point. The benefit of sustainable projects is also a source of profit - well developped it might enrich the company's profit sustainably itself. Maybe that could produce a longer way to the goal PROFIT, but maybe this profit could be produced for longer time, in more directions, for more persons and with more care about the producing relevance.


...„Just to exaggerate a bit: Only because "we" have the luxury to think about the ecosystem, we do not have the right to keep away the emerging countries from economic growth.“ (Jonas)

I never said I want to keep emerging countries from economic growth- in contrary: I think there must be an intragenerational justice. But I do not think that every country must make the same mistakes we made in the past: Economic development at the expense of nature. There are ways of sustainable management and sustainable economics - for me that is one part sustainability is about: no dissent of economic development and maintenance of nature. But of course I agree that in the same time „we“ recommend „them“ to go a more sustainable way of development we have change our lifestyle, way of economics business and so on to be(come) credible…

Besides that, I like your idea as a compromise - but I doubt that it would work in reality - probably the international company is still much more powerful than the government.

But still - it would be a nice compromise - if it works.


..."I think there must be an intragenerational justice. But I do not think that every country must make the same mistakes we made in the past: Economic development at the expense of nature. There are ways of sustainable management and sustainable economics - for me that is one part sustainability is about: no dissent of economic development and maintenance of nature." (Jule)

I get your point... Because of similar reasons I proposed a compromise. The lobby of the corporation (as you mentioned) and competition on the global market (as Henning mentioned) will make it hard to put a compromise - that considers the effect on nature and population - into practice, I agree.