And, of course, I suppose we would earn the eternal good will of the Kennecott Minerals Corporation, a subsidiary of the multinational Rio Tinto Group, based in London and Melbourne.
Does that decision surprise me? Not much. After all, we live in the age of instant gratification. Two months ago, your state legislature sold $900 million dollars in tobacco settlement money the state was to get over the next few years for $400 million now. They did this to avoid having to make hard decisions about the state’s fiscal affairs.
So, why not drill a sulfide mine? When I was in elementary school, I was taught that one of the most disgraceful episodes in Michigan history was when lumber barons and the copper interests had been allowed to rape and ruin the Upper Peninsula.
That, we were told, would never be allowed to happen in the modern era. This is what we thought, anyway, back in 1963.
Yeah, well, I never counted on them trying to do Vietnam a second time either, but you never can tell. Now I am not exactly a back-to-nature kind of guy. I wear suits and sleep indoors with the air-conditioning on.
However, I think it is nice that nature is still there, and I prefer my trout swimming in water, not sulfuric acid. And I know that if we do anything to permanently damage Lake Superior, where the water levels are already dangerously low, we will be toast. Here’s something that baffles me about this whole business. What does the state of Michigan get out of it? Yes, I know a few blokes will get jobs for a few years. Naturally, we don’t even know if local people will be hired or not. But what do we the people get?
Frankly, I think that Kennecott should be required to share a portion of its profits with the state treasury. They will be exploiting and taking away our precious resources. So we should benefit.
Next, I think they should set up a fund and otherwise guarantee to reimburse the state for any and all accidents or damage done in the course of building this mine.
Rio Tinto can afford that. They had an operating profit of $9 billion last year, which is considerably more than our poor state’s entire general fund, If they honestly believe this mine is safe, they should put their money where their press releases are.
You know, we’ve been pretty lucky so far in terms of environmental mishaps. But I think we ought to err on the side of prudence. Otherwise, well, Kurt Vonnegut once said he had the perfect epitaph ready for the human race:
It seemed like a good idea at the time.