Thursday, March 24, 2011

New-Klondike; a Green Five Star Resort

A Canadian Company, Greystar Resources Ltd, wishes to exploit some important gold reserves in the region of Angostura in the northeast of Colombia and to that effect has already invested some important resources. The initial project considered an open pit mine, but that proposal was withdrawn because of environmental considerations and now an underground mine is being considered.

Not that I know too much of these issues but over the last weeks I have received emails from environmentalist that wish to make sure the project is correctly executed.

One of them informed about an alternative project that included “supporting artisanal mining and local agriculture; payment for ecosystem services (from private businesses and public water users); and carefully developing ecotourism.”

When I heard the words “artisanal mining” it made my hair stand on end, as I remembered that when a couple of years ago I went to Tanzania I heard of a million of small artisanal miners doing their thing in that country and deforesting about 300.000 hectares per year. Of course to see the disasters of artisanal mining you do not have to travel that far… to our El Callao suffices (Venezuela)

Without doubt the larger mining organizations count, at least on paper, with more resources and organization to give us some more comfort about the environment being considered… of course always based on the spirit of trust but verify… and of course always with trustworthy and capable verifiers.

But the previous has not to block the opportunities entirely for the artisanal miners. Nonetheless thatr requires new ways or forms to capacitate and supervise the small independent miners. In this respect let me throw out some crazy ideas and that might very well have been raised before:

Though there are standards, type ISO, for large scale mining, it would be important to design some standards for artisan mining. But since it does not suffice with good standards if these are not complied with, perhaps we could start thinking in terms of an artisanal mining franchise, to which the independent miner should affiliate with and that should supervise the mining activities; and which could be held responsible by the world about that these activities were carried out in the best possible way considering the environment… and, why not, also considering their social impact.

One of the problems with mining, especially in the case of valuable mineral like diamonds and gold, is that the largest part of its value is frequently realized, and spent, far away from the area of extraction, which would make it important to find means of how to increase the possibilities of the local economies to capture a larger share of its formal and not illegal value. Ecotourism? Not a bad option but it does not on its own seem to carry sufficient punch so as to turn into a self-sustainable mining supervision tool.

Diamond cutting and minting might be somewhat extreme, not necessarily, but what could perhaps help the most is requiring from all concessions that five percent of all gold and diamond should be extracted directly by rich tourists from developed countries and who want to practice a sustainable artisan mining tourism… and that way see to that close to our mines “New-Klondike” 5 star Resorts are built.

Who knows, perhaps then our Colombian and Venezuela artisan mining even find it more profitable to serve refreshments to the tourists… while these sweat it out.