Why we need copper — and why it's harder and harder to get

Tim Heffernan has done some fantastic guest blogging here at BoingBoing. Now, at Pacific Standard, he's got a story about copper — a natural resource that will affect the future of everything. Just as we're needing more and more of it, this metal is getting harder to reach.

Guatemalan Government declares State of Siege after Mining Protests: video report

For PBS NewsHour, I spoke with Miles O'Brien from inside the "State of Siege" zone, where the government has declared a state of military occupation in response to protests over a US/Canadian-owned mine. Today, debate continues between Congress, the Constitutional Court, and the administration of President Otto Perez Molina, over whether the State of Siege will be ratified and continue for the entire month declared, or if it will be ended over charges that it is unconstitutional and an act of repression against civil protests.

And as the genocide trial entered its final phase, the Public Prosecutor reminded the court in his closing arguments that the 17 months Rios Montt was in power were, at the time, classified as a "State of Siege."


Setting up for the PBS NewsHour cross-talk with Miles at the Army/police checkpoint in Casillas, the first stop in the state of siege zone, as you enter from Guatemala City. Photo and video: Esteban Castaño of Skylight Pictures.

Guatemala: state of siege declared as Army, police crack down after protests against Canadian-owned mine

Photo: Troops entering the region around a disputed mining site, shortly after the declaration of a State of Siege by the government of Guatemala. Photo: guatemala.gob.gt.

Photo: Carlos Andrino. "Caserío los Lopez. Santa Lucia Xalapan. Jalapa." May 2, 2013, Guatemala.

[Posted from Guatemala City]

Residents of four towns east of Guatemala's capital woke up to news that their communities had been placed under a 30-day State of Siege by the administration of President Otto Perez Molina, following anti-mining protests that turned violent. One policeman was killed, six civilians were wounded by rubber bullets, and a number of police cars were burned and overturned on roadways. Here is the government's official public announcement. Public gatherings in the area are banned for 30 days.

According to Guatemalan Defense Minister Col. Ulises Giron Anzueto Noah (shown at right, photo today by Carlos Andrino), 3,500 total personnel participated in operations to bring the "estado de sitio" (state of siege) into effect. Some soldiers entered the areas in armored personnel vehicles and tanks. Hundreds of police officers were involved, as were private security officers for the Canadian-owned Escobal mine at the center of the controversy.

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Report: Salaries of mining union leaders in South Africa paid by mining companies

Just one year after the "Marikana massacre," an investigative report in South Africa's Daily Maverick reveals "a furtive conflict of interest, with mining houses footing the bill for top National Union of Mineworkers office bearers’ salaries...unionists are being paid high salaries by the very people from whom they are supposed to protect their members. The 'arrangement' is just about to end, in spite of union leaders' unhappiness and an unpredictable labour and political backlash."

Inside a mile-deep open-pit copper mine after a catastrophic landslide

For the past few months I’ve been reporting a big story on the copper industry for Pacific Standard. It takes a broad look at how the global economic boom of the past decade, led by China and India, is pushing copper mining into new regions and new enormities of investment and excavation.

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Asteroid mining to commence in 2015

It is definitely now the future.

A new venture is joining the effort to extract mineral resources on asteroids. The announcement of plans by Deep Space Industries to exploit the rare metals present in the space rocks turns asteroid mining into a two-horse race. The other venture, Planetary Resources, went public with its proposals last year.

Russian City Always On the Watch Against Being Sucked Into the Earth

That's the headline in the New York Times. Really, what more do I need to say?

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit": A 13-pound gold nugget

"My Favorite Museum Exhibit" is a series of posts aimed at giving BoingBoing readers a chance to show off their favorite exhibits and specimens, preferably from museums that might go overlooked in the tourism pantheon. I'll be featuring posts in this series all week. Want to see them all? Check out the archive post. I'll update the full list there every morning.

It's a little funny to think of something that weighs 13.8 pounds being described as a "nugget", but the Fricot Nugget is, in fact, exactly that. "Nugget" in this case, refers to a naturally occurring piece of gold—a precious metal found in its natural habitat. The Fricot Nugget, at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, is the largest remaining intact mass of crystalline gold from 19th century California. That's a lot of qualifiers, but it's still a big deal. Larger nuggets than this have been found. Heck, larger nuggets than this have been found in California. But most of them ended up melted down. Given the fact that the Fricot Nugget was found in 1865, during the Gold Rush, it's kind of a wonder, in and of itself, that the thing survived intact.

Reader Edie Howe took this photo, and sent me several other photos of the nugget, as well. In one, you can read part of the museum signage that goes with the nugget. Turns out, a big part of why the Fricot Nugget is still with us today is that it was misplaced for several decades, forgotten about in a safe-deposit box.

Image: Credit Edie Howe. Used with permission.

Potash mining on the Colorado River

EcoFlight is a group that photographs ecological threats in western states from the vantage point of small airplanes. The idea is to give people a clear picture of the contrast between wilderness and the industrial sites that threaten the ecological health of that wilderness. It's an interesting idea, and certainly results in some amazing photos, such as this shot of evaporation ponds at a potash mining facility near Moab, Utah.

Potash is, essentially, a generic name for several different potassium-laden salts. It's most commonly used as an ingredient in fertilizer, as potassium (along with nitrogen and phosphorous) is one of the three key nutrients plants need to grow. The main environmental threat: How mining potash in the quantities required by the modern agricultural industry could threaten water quality and supplies, and soil quality. It's worth checking out the rest of the photos in the set, which give you a better perspective on where the evaporation ponds sit in context with the local landscape and the Colorado River.

This Potash mine is located 20 miles west of Moab. The mine began underground excavation in 1964 and was converted in 1970 to a solar evaporation system. This mine produces between 700 and 1,000 tons of potash per day.

Water is used from the nearby Colorado River in the production of Potash by a company called Intrepid Potash®. Water is pumped through injection wells into the underground mine which dissolves layers of potash more than 3,000 feet below the surface. The resulting "brine" is then brought to the surface and piped to 400 acres of shallow evaporation ponds. A blue dye is added to the ponds to assist in the evaporation process. These ponds are lined with vinyl to keep the brine from spilling back into the Colorado River. A major by-product of this process is salt. The salt is used for water softening, animal feed and oil drilling fluids as well as many other applications.

Via Martin LaMonica