Reality. There are several reality TV shows that I’ve watched. Call them guilty pleasures.
There is a show where rednecks hunt for and harvest ginseng. Most of their harvests are illegally made on land that isn’t theirs. Then there is the one where rednecks are making moonshine. They constantly have to stay one step ahead of the law.
And then there are the ones about mining. Just like with the previous two examples, most of what the reality TV miners do is illegal. They tear holes in the ground, destroy rivers and just generally ruin the environment. I have a client who says that if he did that, he would be in jail.
It’s meant to be entertainment. But it gives mining a bad name to anyone outside of our industry. Most people wouldn’t know that most modern mining is done pretty responsibly. Depending where the mine is, and the specifics of the property, there are likely to be various engineering, social, environmental and economic studies that have to be carried out. There are permits that have to be obtained. In some cases, this can take years. You don’t just take a backhoe to the river and start digging.
In the not-so-distant past, mining was done pretty irresponsibly, even here in the US. That has given the industry a blackeye. Sometimes the mining was done to gain materials that were badly needed for a war effort. Maybe that’s a poor excuse. A lot was done simply as a way to make a living, and in some cases for greed.
It doesn’t work that way anymore. An orebody is discovered and then it is explored. Funding is often needed, and investors have to have compelling reasons to provide capital. Samples of the orebody are obtained using drill rigs. Sometimes miles and miles of drill core is needed just so the complexity of the orebody can be understood well enough for an estimate of the contained ore to be made. And then there are metallurgical tests. Just because you have identified a body of ore, doesn’t mean it can be extracted profitably. There are a lot of things to plan. Roadways need to be designed. The mill needs to be designed. Land usage needs to be resolved. Where will the waste rock go? Where will the tailings facility go? Will housing be needed? What about medical facilities? A cafeteria? What will the mining rate be and for how many years will you mine? So many questions, and so many plans to make.
I have a client who is trying to develop a mine on a previously mined property. The previous operation was from decades ago and was one of the places that was operated due to the strategic need for certain metals. The site was left with considerable disturbance. The new owner plans to repair a stream that used to be a fish habitat. Mining can do good. That sounds like bad grammar, but I don’t think it is.
Anyway, next time you’re watching some rough bunch of guys on TV, as they tear up the environment, please know that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be done.