Mining isn’t just good; it’s an “essential service” – by Russell Noble (Canadian Mining Journal – August 2012)

Russell Noble is the editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication.

As you have probably presumed by now, I’m “pro” mining; otherwise I wouldn’t be working here and writing about the Canadian mining industry and what it’s worth to our economy, and the rest of the world.

In fact, the owners of the magazine, and the industry itself, for that matter, wouldn’t allow someone with my exposure and inside scoop(s) on the business to be anything but supportive of a resource as valuable as mining.

Naturally, I do have moments when I question the behaviour of some of the industry’s fraternity when I hear and read about their seemingly call us disregard for the environment, but on the whole, I’m proud to be associated with the industry.

And why not? When I see what Canadian mining companies are doing insofar as discovering and ultimately producing and converting minerals into essential products, one can’t help but be enthusiastic about the industry.

Let’s face it, no other sector within the industrialized world would exist if it wasn’t for mining and, aside from agriculture (which is also becoming more and more reliant on “mined” fertilizers), it’s the most important thing we do.

Argue as some may, but mining is not only good, it’s an “essential service.” I know it’s a well-worn slogan, but it’s so true when you hear “If it’s not grown it must be mined,” and whenever I hear those words, I always try and think of something that isn’t the end result of that scenario.

And, quite honestly, other than wind, water and sunlight, I can’t think of anything we use that isn’t either grown or mined. Even the so-called ‘harmful’ things we uncover are essential when used properly.

And that leads me to the recent controversy involving Quebec’s Jeffrey Mine and the renewed production of asbestos and the sale of it to India. As many of you know, the Jeffery Mine has been making headlines for quite some time now; simply because of the product it produces. Granted, there are legitimate arguments from such noted and respected organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society that asbestos is a proven threat to people who come in direct contact with it, but as I mentioned earlier, “when used properly,” it’s a viable and useful product.

The problem is, too many people don’t know (or care) how to work with asbestos.
Research has proven that airborne asbestos fibres can be deadly and again, the Canadian Cancer Society is well armed with statistics to support this by saying that about 107,000 people die annually from disease related to occupational exposure to asbestos around the world, but I still think it all comes back to education and how to handle the product.

Molten metal is also harmful to one’s health and almost everyone knows to back away from heat so why in the world don’t people know enough to cover their skin and mouths when it comes to handlingparticles of asbestos?

Again, I believe it all comes back to ‘educating’ the end user. It’s not the mining industry’s fault and it shouldn’t be held up for public scorn because it’s producing a valuable product.

Like all potentially harmful things in life, common sense (and education) has to come into play and while I support global cancer research and control efforts, including those focusing on asbestos-related cancers, the world just has to smarten up when it comes to controlling its own destiny.

Hydrocarbons are a far greater risk to our future than asbestos or any other directly mined product will ever be, but nevertheless, “If it’s not grown it must be mined” and the mining industry is well aware of its responsibility to mine safely and to help reduce emissions while doing so.

After all, mining is an “essential service” and there’s nothing more essential than helping protect the future.