Net zero costs are not just about lowering emissions of carbon dioxide to net zero by 2050. There is a human cost to caring for the environment. They have already relocated the entire population of a town due to copper mining. They force women to lock the door on their homes and move on.
Chile provides 30% of the world’s copper, through five major copper mines. BHP owns the largest mine. There are up to 29 projects in the pipeline, with eleven already under construction.
Net Zero Costs Include Rewriting The Constitution
The age of mineral exploration is unsurpassed. Chile is becoming the new
Saudi Arabia and copper is the new ‘oil’. The demand is exploding as smart
devices continue to increase in number.
The demand for copper increases as gadgets become more electrified. Electric cars require three times the amount of copper, compared to petrol-fuelled cars. Everything from smart phones to computers requires copper.
The Chilean government is rewriting its constitution, imposing more controls on large-scale mining. However, three mega mines will need to begin operation every year to meet the skyrocketing demand for copper.
Chuquicamata Mining Town
The mining town of Chuquicamata was once home to 24,000 people. A mile-high
pile of barren mining rubble threatened the town, which stood on land the mine required. The mine ran out of dumping space for its waste material.
The Chilean government now owns the mine. Copper is called ‘the bread of Chile’. It provides a steady source of revenue for government-sponsored social programs.
Largest Man-Made Hole
The mine, known as the ‘tip of the spear’, was first opened in 1885.
Chuquicamata is the largest man-made hole in the world, at a depth of 850 metres. Standing near the top of the mine, you can’t see the bottom.
The mine is in the centre of one of the world’s driest deserts, altitude 2,850 metres. That is 9,350 feet above sea level.
Net Zero Costs Displaces Thousands
Net Zero Costs include the displacement of thousands of people. The mining
company, Codelco, spent millions on new technology, but environmental laws
forced the company to move the town’s population away from the hazardous
emissions of arsenic and sulphur dioxide. The refinery spews out acrid gases
and smoke twenty-four seven, every day of the year.
Mrs. Zamorano closed the door of her house for the last time. “My family has been here for four generations,” Mrs. Zamorano wept, “My father worked in the sun-scorched mine for 48 years.” Mrs Zamorano and her husband insist they lived a very sheltered existence, close to the mine. “There wasn’t much to do.
We didn’t have a theatre or a pub, but we liked it there.”
Town And Mine Separated
Codelco separated the company from the town because of rising Net Zero costs. Four-years of bitter negotiations with unions, then Codelco moved the first 847 families, a 15-minute drive to Calama. It is a town infamous for its prostitution and crime rate. The mining families were loath to mingle with the
population of Calama.
Miners no longer have free housing and schooling for their children. They are among the highest paid in Chile, but the miners now pay for their own electricity, water and garbage collection.
Net Zero Cost Creates Ghost Town
The town Chuquicamata, is a ghost town of modern buildings and empty streets. An unnerving silence hangs over the town. Slowly it is buried beneath the Atacama desert, and waste from the mine.
Brown desert dust has swallowed the hospital. Modern banks, shops, schools,
children’s playgrounds all disappear.
Net Zero Costs Soar
With the endless demand for lithium and copper, Net Zero costs soar. Decreasing carbon emissions will lower the impact environmentally, but there is a cost. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Women born and bred in the toxic air of Chuquicamata had to move. Enjoying the fresh air of Calama was a painful experience. It would have proved too deadly to remain living in the mine. It seems the voice of women is lost in the ever increasing demand for gadgets. The next time you pick up your phone give a small thought to the women who have lost their way of life for our convenience as we rush on in the modern world.
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