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The Flow of Natural Resources and Raw Materials
There are many reasons why we should collect our own raw materials that already exist in this country, rather than importing them, whenever possible or possible. When there are reasons that prevent us from collecting these natural resources within our own country, then and only then should we look to our trading partners to supply us with such raw materials and resources. When we can mine such raw materials within our borders and transport them short distances to processing facilities, manufacturing plants, refineries, power plants, and shipping ports or railroads for export in a quick and cost-effective manner. In our country we have seen the loss of most of our mining in the last 40 years. Some were due to the federal Clean Water Act of 1972, which was supposed to prevent pollution from things like strip mining.
Many other mines, wells and factories were closed due to the cost. This was often due to the global market price for minerals or natural resources. Much of the mining was shut down due to regulations, labor costs, labor unions, OSHA rules, etc. Some examples of the cost problems in mining were overwhelming. In reviewing the recent closure of the gold mine in Butte, MT, we find that the mine was closed due to the increasing cost of energy to crush the rock to extract the gold. Energy costs went from $280,000 a month to $1.6 million a month. Surely there were other issues, though imagine taking that electricity bill and trying to manage your expenses? Unpredictable energy costs are essential for mining and other heavy industries, price increases beyond regulation are a death knell.
Now in many countries people have protested about mining, gold and silver are easy to protest because they are associated with greed as these minerals are also considered legal tender. A great mine to visit is one of the first gold mines in the country, The Reed Gold Mine in Charlotte. There were over 300 gold mines in North Carolina in the 1820’s. This of course was well before 49′ CA. The Reed Mine was active until 1912. A total of 13 gold mines have closed in the past two years in response to falling gold prices or ore depletion in Canada. Collecting the gold under the conditions required in most of North America is no longer feasible unless it can be collected with other precious metals and the remaining material can be further screened for iron ore, copper or another metal. There are many places on Earth where many metals occur in very close proximity. Mining often, like many industrial endeavors can cause air pollution. During mining, the unused excess accumulates and often causes it to wash into the ground when it rains, these other minerals being released are more concentrated than much of the normal water downstream.
This is because the minerals were buried for centuries beneath layers from earlier periods. At the old Berkeley Pit, a closed copper mine near Sunlight Goldmine in Montana, the rainwater that mixed with the metals left at the bottom of the Pit was quite toxic and contained arsenic, which is harmful in large amounts to the human. and animals. Although arsenic is a poison, it is part of the naturally occurring minerals that are common in this area. Small traces are not too bad, but when they get big they are cause for alarm.
Transportation costs are also important in mining. Most of the mines still operating today are very close to major railroad lines, and even with all the regulations and rules in place, some mining still exists in the United States. Borax in Dagget, CA. The borax mine was transported from the Harmony Borax Works mine in Death Valley, the second hottest place on Earth with temperatures up to 134 degrees. In the 1880s, the famous 20 mule team borax trains hauled their loads for a grueling 165 miles on the railroad to the Mojave. This is an example of why the transportation factor is critical to the efficiency of mining to maintain costs for factories, which use the raw material or natural resources.
If you look at the North American mines above, those that have rail service directly to the site can compete if economies of scale and market prices remain stable. There are many other factors to consider as well, for example, if your other countries do not have the same rules for environmental controls, they can often sell these raw materials to other countries, who in turn can sell the their final products, such as special alloys, steel, etc. at lower prices than your companies can produce them. Which appears to be dumping. by selling their products cheaper, it costs them to produce them. Many countries support such industries with huge tax incentives or subsidize these industries and/or companies. There are many reasons for this, sometimes it’s just to ensure that these companies are in business to sell products to countries’ government agencies for infrastructure projects. Other times it is to appease labor and provide jobs. Sometimes it is in retaliation for a perceived or real trade war by another trading partner country that supports one of its other industries. The dynamics of World Trade for; industry, peace, people’s quality of life, money flow, raw materials and natural resources. they are quite extensive, as you might have guessed.
If you look at the upper coal mines in; Gillette, WY; you can see a perfect example of how mining works when everything is right. Hundreds and hundreds of full train loads depart weekly for coal-fired power plants across the country. The economies of scale in such mines are incredible, fun and very serious, every second counts, it is now a pure science in efficiency. It’s incredible how far we’ve come in the last few centuries. The world’s deepest coal mine is over 5000 feet underground in the UK. Many in the United States are over 1200 feet deep, most of them closed and now few left. There is a mine in Alabama which is the deepest vertical shaft coal mine in North America, with operations 2,140 feet below the surface. It is difficult for coal mines in Washington State, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Alabama to compete with the incredible economies of scale of the Gillette WY surface mine. Underground coal mines can be quite dangerous. There are gases underground and coal dust and if a fire breaks out it steals all the oxygen. Recently, the rescue of the coal mines in the Palestinian Authority caught the attention of the whole world as the rescuers and the lead rescuers, worked non-stop to stay alive until all the people got out.
Mining is a risky business and safety is essential and comes at a high productivity cost. Machinery and robotics have made many mining efforts in the United States profitable and much safer. Also, the issue as we have discussed is the environmental issues. Things in the mining industry have changed significantly in the United States in the last 25 years the only question is; did they change too quickly? The reason we won the second world war was because of our industrial production, we had the raw materials and the will and we were able to do it all here, we sure want to lose such ability in the future, after all still a cruel world, the human race he is definitely not done killing our own kind yet, there will be more wars. The key issue in mining is competition between third world countries that trash the environment and our environmental regulations that apply here. Today in the United States, we have new innovations to protect the environment without slowing down the process. These new methods are expensive with the initial capitalization of a project, but usually once started are amortized over a significant period. Many colleges produce environmental engineers specializing in mining. .
By doing this, the job of mining properly is possible, but environmental laws are not the only regulations that mining operations have to deal with, there are also OSHA laws and many other rules.
In this country we have salt mines, uranium mines, zinc, lead, molybdenum, iron ores, copper, silver, gold, aluminum, etc. in old aircraft parked in the desert.
The United States can compete if we abandon the posturing and delays caused by frivolous lawsuits, bad laws, and bogus regulations that are said to help the people when in fact they serve no free man. If you read Ayn Rand’s books, you can get a sense of this. Different places in the world all have the same minerals we have here. Overall we need to change our attitude to mining, there are some brilliant entrepreneurs out there, state of the art equipment, smart industrial consultants who can and will do the job without polluting, without harming the environment and still making a significant profit. Who wins? We do it because the global prices of raw materials and resources dictate the cost and efficiency of having it here in the country before we start making something out of those resources and materials is good for America. We should allow these brilliant problem solvers in the name of profit to help us figure out how to get it right, we are currently over regulated and not listening to these new technologies and the thinking of those in the know.
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