Editor’s note: The US military is the largest emitter of greenhouse gas pollution in the world. It is through the allocation of over half the federal government budget that this is made possible. So when companies say that the destruction of the environment must be done to save the planet, this fact is never mentioned. We are in fact in an existential situation and yet ending the war machine is never on the table. The evil empire will do what it has always done, which is to extract the wealth of the land to the determinant of those that live there. And this will not end until it collapses. If we are to have anything left before this happens we must fight to save it.
By Katie Fite/Counterpunch
Critical Minerals Propaganda
In early summer, Vale BLM (Bureau of Land Management) held a Resource Advisory Council meeting in McDermitt, ground zero for the critical minerals rush on public lands. Lithium driller Jindalee HiTech got to talk about the company’s horrifying new exploration drilling proposal for 267 more drill holes, wastewater sumps, and 30 miles of new “temporary” roads. The project would tear rip apart irreplaceable Sage-grouse Focal habitat, as a prelude to open pit strip mining for lower grade lithium. The BLM geologist showed a video, How Critical Minerals are Vital to the Climate Fight, that had appeared on ABC news.
One narrator, Reed Blakemore, was from the Atlantic Council think tank known for never seeing a War or US-backed coup it wouldn’t propagandize and cheerlead for. The other narrator works for an organization called SAFE. Their mission appears to be strident propaganda shaping policies, perceptions and practices and support for wresting control of critical minerals and energy, no matter how unsafe it makes the world or how much environmental damage is caused. The two harangue viewers about the need to get “shovels in the ground”. It includes a clip of Biden bragging about the Defense Production Act.
SAFE’s Website boasts about working with retired 4 star generals. A scroll through their Twitter account shows them pushing for streamlining environmental analysis–like the type of NEPA and tribal consultation short-cuts which contributed to the Thacker Pass (Peehee mu’huh) controversy that rages on. SAFE screeches about mineral laundering by China, adores high voltage transmission lines, and my favorite: “SAFE believes the Biden admin must take an aggressive approach that raises strong walls around foreign entities of concern while lowering drawbridges for our allies, like South Korea”. And hurl pots of burning oil down on the enemies of Fortress America from the castle keep?
This energy transition and critical minerals crusade on public lands is very much about retaining a corporate iron grip on energy, and increasingly seems to be about feeding the Military Industrial Complex. Watching the video, it belatedly dawned on me that critical minerals and green energy Neocons are driving much of the agenda. It’s certainly neocolonialist, but with the added twist of the Neocon global control freaks, and no dissent is allowed. We’ll grab what we want, anywhere, no matter if we break it all apart, no restraints tolerated, and we and our friends will make a fortune. The McDermitt caldera encapsulates the clash between supposed clean energy and the dirty reality for public land, water, communities, biodiversity, and a sane path to sustainability and energy change.
The EV “revolution” is being carried out with the same mindset, hubris, lies, greed, propaganda and war mongering that plunged us ever deeper into the fossil fuels mess and Forever Wars. The public is being propagandized by the Atlantic Council, SAFE, and others to blindly accept the sacrifice of any place, anywhere – under claims of saving us from climate change (as we continue to guzzle energy without limits). It’s also about domination and empire. Just like with oil, they won’t be content with a “domestic supply”, and instead seek to control all of it. Leadership of big green groups often appears captured by these critical minerals and energy Neocons – witness those dead serious Sierra Club outreach e-mails with a tangle of high voltage transmission lines portraying NEPA short-cuts as a good thing.
War Contractor Bechtel Selected to Build the Thacker Pass Mine, Mine Costs Double
Environews provides a whirlwind summary of some 2023 Thacker Pass events. Lithium Americas contracted with Bechtel Mining and Metals for engineering, procurement and execution of the mine. Bechtel is an industrial contractor and war profiteer who reaped massive government contracts during our Forever Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’ve already signed a reconstruction agreement with Ukraine, a tad prematurely. They go way back, having built Hoover Dam and infrastructure for the Manhattan atomic bomb project at Hanford and elsewhere. Hanford plutonium was used in the nuclear bomb the US dropped on the people of Nagasaki Japan. To this day, Bechtel is involved in Forever Clean Up at nuclear facilities, including the most toxic place in America, and helping work on new nukes, keeping the gravy train going. The International Committee for Investigative Journalists summarized:
“Bechtel has been heavily involved in both commercial and military nuclear activities. These have included some of the most notable nuclear mishaps in U.S. history, from California’s San Onofre reactor installed backwards, to the botched clean up of Three Mile Island … Bechtel is finding ways to profit from the radioactive mess its projects have created.”
Regarding Bechtel’s endless Hanford work and profiteering Joshua Frank describes “they have a really bad track record and are well known for reaping the spoils of U.S. military ventures all over the globe. In October they had a test facility up and running that was going to do a run of vitrification for low-level radioactive waste. They basically had a ribbon cutting for this big machine and it ran for a week, then overheated, and they had to shut it down”.
Tribes consider this land to be a Traditional Cultural Property. Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and Summit Lake Tribe submitted a Traditional Cultural Property Eligibility Statement, (Peehee mu’huh: A Living Monument to Numu History and Culture District. September 12, 1865 Thacker Pass Massacre Site) to the BLM. It seeks official Interior Department recognition. Now it’s reported that BLM is sitting on the document, and never transmitted it to the National Park Service who oversees National Historic Register sites. Meanwhile, site integrity is being obliterated. Time after time – in local, national and international media – elders and tribal members have said that lithium mining desecration and destruction at Thacker Pass is like digging up Arlington Cemetery.
A recent deluge of news articles, many appeared planted, hyped a geological study that largely rehashes long known geological information. This helps fuel speculation and increase political pressure on agencies to rubberstamp projects. Following weeks of media gushing about the overblown study, the Nevada Current exposes what’s going on:
“The study was funded by Lithium Americas, and includes research from Lithium Americas employee and shareholder, Thomas Benson”. He was the lead author, but most media stories skipped right over that inconvenient fact.
“John Hadder, the director of the Great Basin Resource Watch … said while the study may be helpful in pitching mining in the area, his organization has heard claims of “largest lithium deposit” from places around the world.
“I am concerned that this report will be used to advance more lithium mining in the region, and pressure the frontline peoples to accept mine plans,” said Hadder. “Regardless of how much lithium may be extractable, the sloppy permitting process that led to the Thacker Pass mine must not be duplicated. Indigenous ancestral lands that have cultural values must be protected, and Indigenous communities should have the right to say no”.
The publicity also bumped up Lithium Americas stock that had sagged a bit. And it seems there was another purpose, too. Lithium Americas is angling for a $1 billion DOE (Department of Energy) loan handout, the largest amount ever. The same outlets that hyped the geological paper are all agog, casting this as “an historic 1 billion”. Reuters now reports “Lithium Americas had raised its budget for the first phase of the Thacker Pass project to $2.27 billion, from $1.06 billion, reflecting changes to its production plans”. The loan is claimed to be 50 to 75% of the mine cost. Is this price explosion due to estimates of production linked to the hyped study, or is there a huge mine cost over-run right out of the starting gate? Lithium Americas did choose a contractor with long experience profiting off the US’s trillion-dollar foreign misadventures and nuclear mess. If the lithium mine gets this obscene DOE handout, will dollars evaporate, like four Hanford whistleblowers exposed:
“It is stunning that, for a decade, Bechtel and AECOM chose to line their corporate pockets by diverting important taxpayer funds from this critically essential effort,” Assistant US Attorney Joseph Harrington said in a news release …The case started after four whistleblowers came forward in 2016, telling federal prosecutors about alleged time-card fraud in which the companies billed the U. S. Department of Energy for work that was never completed. The companies hired hundreds of electricians, millwrights, pipefitters … to build the plant … and then over-charged for the workers even when those workers had no duties to perform …”.
The Department of Justice Press release on the Hanford deception is here. The time-card fraud involved DOE funds. Now DOE appears on the verge of lavishing a billion-dollar loan on Lithium Americas who uses this same contractor.
GM Thacker Pass Lithium in Ultium Batteries, GM and War Machines
GM is now implicated as a major player in Caldera lithium mania. In January 2023, GM announced it would invest $650 million in Lithium Americas and use Thacker Pass lithium for its Ultium batteries:
“Lithium carbonate from Thacker Pass will be used in GM’s proprietary Ultium battery cells. … GM is launching a broad portfolio of trucks, SUVs, luxury vehicles and light commercial vehicles using the Ultium Platform, including the GMC HUMMER EV Pickup and SUV, GMC Sierra EV, Cadillac LYRIQ, Cadillac CELESTIQ, Chevrolet Silverado EV, Chevrolet Blazer EV, Chevrolet Equinox EV, BrightDrop Zevo 400 and BrightDrop Zevo 600”.
But these aren’t the only GM vehicles using Ultium batteries. Clean Technica headlined, “The US military is buying Ultium Battery Packs from GM Defense”. Get ready for the Green Wars, folks, including the Green Wars for Green Minerals. Are wild and sacred places of the McDermitt Caldera going to be destroyed not only for bloated GM pick-ups, street Hummers and virtue signaling about the climate crisis, but also for War machines too — gutting the West for critical minerals so we can waste untold amounts of energy and minerals on more Forever Wars?
GM Defense proclaims it’s driving the future of military mobility, with a five-passenger All-Electric Military Concept Vehicle, and working on energy storage for the tactical warfighter. Ultium batteries are also used in armored diplomatic vehicles that look like a sure hit with narco kingpins. Other monstrosities like this tactical truck, don’t yet appear to have EV batteries, but GM does promise they’re fuel efficient. How long until US troops de-stabilizing South American countries to gain control of their lithium, or maneuvering to grab foreign oil, are cruising around in EVs? At the end of a Reno KTVN Channel 2 video full of land destruction images and lithium company spin, the reporter says “lithium is a hot commodity”. The lithium company’s spokesman replies “it’s essential for national security”. Note that lithium is also used in designs of some nuclear reactors and in the nuclear weapons industry.
GM Greenwashing, Thacker Pass Lithium, Social Injustice
A Mighty Earth report, GM Wants ‘Everybody In’ on Greenwashing, tells how GM’s human rights policy conflicts with its investment in Thacker Pass, how they’re building hulks while smaller cars sold may largely be from China, a continuing dirty supply chain, a poor score in indigenous rights protection, and how often GM makes commitments but doesn’t follow through. In the report, the People of Red Mountain Atsa Koodakuh wyh Nuwu explain that “the entire landscape of the McDermitt caldera is sacred to Nevada, California and Oregon tribal nations”
The brutal 1865 US cavalry massacre of a Paiute camp at Thacker Pass was part of the memory-holed Snake War of Extermination. The massacre was not revealed by BLM in the mine EIS. During litigation, Tribes presented resounding evidence – US surveyor records, contemporaneous newspaper stories, and survivor Ox Sam’s own account from Big Bill Haywood’s Autobiography. The Biden-Haaland BLM brushed it all aside, to the anger and dismay of Tribes and many other people. The stalled Traditional Cultural Property document contains the records. Perhaps doling out a $1 billion loan for the destruction of an officially recognized massacre site might be a bridge too far, even for Jennifer Granholm’s DOE.
In spring 2023, the Ox Sam women’s protest camp was set up at Thacker Pass by a gaping water pipeline trench the company had ripped past sacred Sentinel Rock. The camp was raided after a protest action. Now Ox Sam descendants and white activists associated with the camp are being sued in a vile SLAPP suit: After getting hammered with lawsuits aimed at halting development of a lithium mine at Northern Nevada’s Thacker Pass, a Canadian-based mining company has turned the tables and is suing the mine’s protesters … the protesters and an attorney representing them counter that the lawsuit is similar to a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), aimed at intimidating and silencing their free speech”.
How’s that for upholding ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles, and the other social responsibility jargon Lithium Americas and the mob of Caldera miners use to lull investors?
Aurora Schemes of Yellowcake and Green Uranium
Aurora Energy Metals is trying to resurrect a uranium project long thought dead. Promotion videos show Greg Cochran, an Australian “uranium veteran” leading the Aurora charge. Before alighting in the Caldera, Cochran had been with Australian uranium miner Deep Yellow. Here’s Friends of the Earth Melbourne on Deep Yellow, “The Mulga Rock uranium project east of Kalgoorlie is now under the leadership of a team with a track record of over-promising, under-performing and literally blowing up cultural sites”. And this from the Conservation Council of WA (West Australia),“We’ve gone from the inexperienced and cash-poor Vimy Resources to Deep Yellow who are led by a team with a track record that highlights why uranium mining does not have a social license”.
Aurora drilled a few exploration holes in fall 2022 extended a bit of drilling into a winter exclusion period. Now they seek to expand drilling under a NEPA-less, no public comment Notice, which is how the Jindalee sagebrush killing drilling to date has been done.
Aurora’s mining scheme, where some lower grade lithium overlays uranium deposits, is explained in a Proactive Investors video. Cochran envisions the mine of the future with a conveyor belt or pipeline jetting lithium or uranium slurry or crushed rock from Oregon across the state line down onto private land in Nevada, where a processing plant and waste heaps would be located. The video interviewer asks: “Tell me more about this property you bought in Nevada”. Cochran replies:
“Yeah, we kept that under wraps for quite a while because we wanted to make sure that nobody else kind of gazumped us. … We had this strategy of identifying suitable locations within Nevada for the processing plant … because… we know that they understand mining a lot better than Oregon … Nothing is a free pass, but it would allow us, we believe, to permit quicker. Private land to boot is even more attractive. … We discovered that one of the landowners was looking to sell. So, right place, right time. I’m already … envisioning … the mine of the future. Where you develop this mine. You’ve got a crusher, you run a very fancy overland conveyor – or pipeline for that matter – across to Nevada which as the crow flies it’s only 8 or 9 k’s – so there’s no tracking, no footprint … negligible CO2 emissions …’.
He says the Aurora project would be ticking all the boxes in terms of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) approval – right after detailing a plan to evade Oregon regulations on uranium pollution by moving the hot rocks across the state line. Apparently, radioactive material infiltrating air, groundwater, plants, wildlife, and contaminating the community, doesn’t count when you’re ticking ESG boxes. The same plan is repeated in a Mining Network video here, with Cochran talking about Nevada land enabling Aurora to “permit a quarry in Oregon”, which he describes as fairly straightforward, while siting the processing plant and waste heaps in Nevada. In a Thacker Pass state permitting meeting, Nevada Department of Environmental Quality staff admitted they couldn’t recall not permitting a mine.
Aurora’s Nevada land is around 4 miles west of town, right by the state line south of where the Disaster Peak county road starts. In an Australian publication, Aurora, described as a “shining light”, says that because there’s some hydropower at the site “we have the potential to deliver green uranium”, in a “uranium friendly mining jurisdiction”. Welcome to Nevada – the Uranium Waste Heap State. No Rocks Too Hot to Handle. You can already envision more billboards sprouting up on Highway 95.
A past effort to wrest uranium from Caldera earth fizzled when Fukushima grayed up the miner’s blue sky on uranium. Back then, Oregon mining activist Larry Tuttle warned in Read the Dirt about yellowcake production, water use, the toxic waste stream, tailings ponds and Oregon’s very own Lucky Lass superfund site experience near Lakeview:
“Sulfuric acid in the tailings also dissolves and leaches heavy metals – mercury, molybdenum, arsenic, lead, manganese, and cadmium – as well as uranium. (The Aurora site has already been extensively mined for mercury, which pose additional health perils; sulfuric acid easily bonds with and transports mercury to waterways.) Residual uranium elements in the tailings decay and release radon; heavy metals also continue to interact within tailings and other wastes.
For communities as diverse as Moab, Utah, and Jeffrey City, Wyoming (often called yellowcake towns), the effects of uranium mining on public services and resources; ground and surface water; and, air quality are serious and dramatic”.
The Moab Times just reported on resistance to uranium mining and processing at the La Sal Complex near Moab and the Pinyon Plain mine near the Grand Canyon, in “Ute Mountain Utes march against White Mesa as Energy Fuels prepares to reopen uranium mines”:
“Some White Mesa residents have long been concerned that the mill, which lies four miles north of the community, is contaminating nearby groundwater, air and wildlife with radon that allegedly blows and seeps off the mill’s tailings impoundments”.
While uranium miners attempt to tamp down dangers, Ute tribal members monitoring past mining effects have measured whopping levels of uranium in spring water, there’s a sulfur odor in the air with re-processing taking place, and animals are disappearing from the mesa. For the record, uranium was recently shifted from the critical minerals list, and is now a fuel mineral with friends in Congress. Caldera uranium is found in uraninite and coffinite ore. No, someone didn’t have a morbid sense of humor, it’s said to be named after a geologist.
Trying to track the serial land destroyers and speculators who’ve descended on the Caldera is quite confusing. It’s unclear who now controls FMS claims. On-line sources show conflicting information. An Aurora prospectus said they control Oregon FMS “CALD” claims. A company named Chariot now appears involved with Oregon and Nevada FMS claims – all located in terrible places for wildlife. Lithium Americas holds a north-south block of claims in extremely sensitive wildlife habitat up in the Montana Mountains. They repeatedly told the public during the Thacker Pass EIS process that the project was sited to avoid those Sage-grouse conflicts, and that they wouldn’t mine up there because wildlife values were so high.
Puzzlingly, a 2016 SEC Report map shows Lithium Americas then controlling much of the current Jindalee claims block in “Miller” [Malheur] county. Why would they let go of Oregon claims while gearing up for Thacker? FMS Nevada claims lie in critical sagebrush by the east face of the Montanas. LiVE, another company, also has some Nevada claims. This month, there were mining press articles and a video about Jindalee drilling again this November. I contacted Vale BLM, and BLM says No. If you’re out in the Caldera, keep your eyes on what’s going on.
Jim Jeffress, a retired NDOW biologist (so he can speak his mind) describes how ideal for Sage-grouse Caldera lands are. He says what happens in the Montana Mountains with key sage grouse habitat “will define the resolve of the state of Nevada and BLM in the recovery of Sage-grouse in Nevada”. He extols the high bird abundance, the ideal habitat configuration, calls the Montanas exceptionally important, the gold standard for Sage-grouse, and a critical bridge between populations, writing:
“My primary concern is focused on ANY mine site or extraction areas on top of the Montana Mountains in the area commonly referred to as Lone Willow, now or in the future. That concern extends into Jordan Meadows in the east that serves as wintering grounds for the Montana Mountains sage-grouse population and those in southern Oregon”.
The Caldera is a unique inter-connected ecosystem, spanning Nevada and Oregon, with irreplaceable habitat for Sage-grouse and other wildlife. It must be protected from a mad, rapacious minerals rush.
Photo Bhie-Cie Zahn-Nahtzu in prayer at Peehee Mu’huh from Protect Thacker Pass website
Environmental Advocates and Groups To Protest Latest Proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion Near Shuttered Indian Point Nuclear Plant
On Tuesday, activists will rally outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant in Buchanan in protest of the latest proposed Algonquin Pipeline Expansion in the area. The protest will occur blocks from where, in 2016, three activists were arrested for blocking the last Algonquin Pipeline expansion of an added 42-inch high-pressure pipeline. In addition, two older 32-inch and 23-inch pipelines run underneath the plant. Decommissioning at Indian Point houses over 2,000 tons of irradiated fuel rods in addition to other radioactive waste.
Protestors will call on Governor Hochul to stop pipeline owner Enbridge’s latest “Project Maple” proposal. Project Maple was noticed by Enbridge HERE.
WHAT: Rally calling on Governor Hochul to stop Enbridge’s “Project Maple” fracked gas pipeline expansion
WHEN: Tuesday, November 14 at 4:30pm ET
WHERE: Outside the shuttered Indian Point nuclear plant on the corner of Bleakley Ave & Broadway in Buchanan, NY
WHO: Activists representing Food & Water Watch, United for Clean Energy, Safe Energy Rights Group, and more
SIGN-UP HERE: https://www.mobilize.us/fww/event/592008/
“Project Maple” would significantly expand the amount of gas transmitted through the Algonquin Pipeline which runs from the Hudson Valley through Connecticut to Massachusetts. Enbridge anticipates its proposal to come on line as soon as November 2029.
The proposal to expand fracked gas in the region comes despite New York’s Climate Leadership & Community Protection Act which mandates greenhouse gas emissions reductions of at least 85 percent by 2050 and the state’s nation leading ban on fossil fuels in new buildings, which will go into effect in 2026.
Editor’s note: As we see in this article, published on 10/24/2023 by Investigate Europe you can find on their website www.investigate-europe.eu, the European Union abandons it’s own environmental standards when it comes to pursuing geopolitical interests in remote places.
In July of 2023 the European Parliament voted for the EU restoration law so that a part of the 80 percent of natural habitats already damaged can be rewilded. But the implementation of this law can only make an impact if Europe decreases it’s use of metals and minerals from mining, outside and inside of it’s borders.
With importing “critical” metals from Russia the EU supports a war that displaces millions of people and harms wild habitats. These double standards, imposing sanctions on Moscow yet at the same time profiting off of the rich “resources” Russia provides, shows how modern societies work: governments and industries must firstly attend upon their high energy demand, ethical and environmental standards are at the bottom of the list.
Could it be the reason for this is not in spite of a defence against the attacker but because of it: The land of the enemy should be used to the benefit of the one who is in the “right” until it is drained of it’s “resources”. Like an outlawed person bereaved of rights and dignity. This dangerous attitude unfolds in front of our eyes: a competition where the living planet can only loose.
By Pascal Hansens, Sigrid Melchior, Maxense Peigné, Harald Schumann / Investigate Europe
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the 27 EU countries have adopted 11 sanction packages, targeting raw materials including oil, coal, steel and timber. But minerals that the EU considers as “critical” raw materials – 34 in total – still flow freely from Russia to Europe in vast quantities, providing crucial funds to state enterprises and oligarch-owned businesses.
While some of its western allies have targeted Russia’s mining sector – the UK recently banned Russian copper, aluminium and nickel – the EU has continued its imports. Airbus and other European companies are still buying titanium, nickel, and other commodities from firms close to the Kremlin more than a year after the invasion, Investigate Europe can reveal.
Between March 2022 and July this year, Europe imported €13.7 billion worth of critical raw materials from Russia, data from Eurostat and the EU’s Joint Research Centre shows. More than €3.7 billion arrived between January and July 2023, including €1.2 billion of nickel. The European Policy Centre estimates that up to 90 per cent of some types of nickel used in Europe comes from Russian suppliers.
“Why are critical raw materials not banned? Because they are critical, right. Let’s be honest,” the EU’s special envoy for sanctions, David O’Sullivan, pithily said at a September conference.
The Union is desperate for critical raw materials to achieve its aim of climate neutrality by 2050. These commodities are crucial for electronics, solar panels and electric cars, but also for traditional industries like aerospace and defence. Yet they are all too often in scarce supply, unevenly available across the globe, and in high demand.
“The war in Ukraine has clearly shown the willingness of Russia to weaponise the supply of key resources. As Europeans, we cannot tolerate that,” says Henrike Hahn, a German Green MEP working on the new Critical Raw Materials Act.
Europe’s imports not only fund Russia’s war economy, but also benefit Kremlin-backed oligarchs and state companies. Although the EU has targeted some shareholders, Russia’s mining businesses have faced no restrictions. The loophole is even more glaring that the US and the UK sanctioned several firms directly, further isolating the EU in its double standards.
Analysis of Russian customs data shows that Vsmpo-Avisma, the world’s largest titanium producer, sold at least $308 million of titanium into the EU via its German and UK branches between February 2022 and July 2023. It is part-owned by Russia’s national defence conglomerate, Rostec. The two companies share the same chairman: Sergei Chemezov, a close Putin ally. The pair were KGB officers in East Germany in the 1980s.
Both Chemezov and Rostec are under EU sanctions and helped supply tanks and weapons to the Russian army. Brussels has not sanctioned Vsmpo-Avisma directly, but the US did ban exports to the firm on 27 September, saying it was “directly involved in producing and manufacturing titanium and metal products for the Russian military and security services.”
Among Vsmpo-Avisma’s largest European customers is Airbus, the aerospace giant partly owned by the French, German and Spanish states. Between the start of the war and March 2023, Airbus imported at least $22.8 million worth of titanium from Russia; a fourfold increase in value and tonnes compared to the previous 13 months.
From 14 March 2023, Vsmpo-Avisma stopped identifying buyers in customs filings but nothing indicates a significant change in trends. Titanium imports to France only slightly decreased between then and July 2023, and Airbus still listed the company as a supplier in July.
“We have no comment on the details and evolution of our titanium sourcing volumes,” an Airbus spokesperson said. “Generally speaking, Airbus is currently ramping up commercial aircraft production and this is having a mechanical impact on its overall procurement volumes.” Even though it will take time, the group is reducing its dependency on Russia, the spokesperson said, adding that a ban on Russian titanium for civil aviation would “encourage the Russian industry to focus on defence needs.”
Unlike Vsmpo-Avisma, other Russian companies have avoided naming their buyers in customs filings altogether. Yet the data still gives a scale of their fruitful relationship with the west. Nornickel, the world leader in palladium and high-grade nickel, exported $7.6 billion worth of nickel and copper into the EU via Finnish and Swiss subsidiaries between the start of the war and July 2023. It also sent over $3 billion of palladium, platinum and rhodium into Zurich airport. In 2022, almost 50 per cent of Nornickel’s sales went to Europe. Brussels has not sanctioned the group nor its chairman and largest shareholder, Vladimir Potanin, an oligarch and former deputy prime minister under US and UK sanctions.
Aluminium giant Rusal also uses tax havens to funnel minerals to Europe, where it owns the EU’s largest alumina refinery in Ireland and a smelter in Sweden. Its Jersey and Swiss-based trading houses brought at least $2.6 billion of aluminium into the bloc in the 16 months following the invasion of Ukraine. In August 2023, Rusal said Europe still accounted for a third of its revenues. Rusal’s main shareholder is oligarch Oleg Deripaska, sanctioned by the EU and its western partners.
Anti-corruption NGO Transparency International says it does not make sense that the sector has avoided sanctions given the known links.
“They are part of the system and fueling Putin’s war,” says senior policy officer Roland Papp. “So it’s perfectly logical to ban those critical raw materials from Russia, as we did for other sectors and goods.”
Since the start of the war, other European buyers of Russian metals have included Germany’s GGP Metal Powder ($66 million of copper), French arms-maker Safran ($25 million of titanium) and Greece’s Elval Halcor ($13 million of aluminium). Dutch logistics firm C. Steinweg also handled at least $100 million of various critical metals on behalf of its customers.
Safran confirmed they are still buying titanium from Vsmpo-Avismo but are working to reduce their Russia purchases. GGP Metal Powder said “there is no real alternative to our supplier from Russia“. C. Steinweg said they follow all rules and sanctions. Elval Halcor, Vsmpo-Avisma, Rusal and Nornickel did not reply to requests for comment.
At the start of the war, Europe was relying on Russian producers for 30 per cent of its nickel, 35 per cent of its alumina and 15 per cent of its aluminium, according to an internal memo by trade body Eurometaux seen by IE. Russia accounted for 41 per cent of the world’s palladium production, and up to 25 per cent of its vanadium output.
“Russia occupies a large part of Eurasia – it possesses a big part of the strategic reserves of critical raw materials, on par with China,” says Oleg Savytskyi from Razom We Stand, a Ukrainian NGO. Moreover, “the low density of the population, authoritarian control and practical absence of environmental and human rights protections made investments in the mining of Russia’s resources terribly attractive,” he adds.
The EU’s crippling dependency should have been curbed earlier, argues Transparency International’s Papp. “We’ve had enough time to react. The annexation of Crimea dates back to 2014, the invasion of Georgia even dates back to 2008 15 years ago! And what have we done? We’ve increased our dependence on Russia. It was an absolute and serious mistake.”
A Polish diplomat said Poland has pressed the EU to “decouple completely” from Russia in several areas, “but for the sake of unity and efficiency in adopting new sanctions packages we have agreed to postpone particular measures until further discussion.”
As EU sanctions require unanimity among all member states, divergent national economic interests can often water down packages. When the ninth set of sanctions banned fresh investments in Russia’s mining sector in December 2022, it included an exemption to invest in some mining activities for some critical raw materials. As a result, European companies can still pour cash into Russian mines to extract nickel, titanium and other key metals.
The European Commission won’t publicly comment on whether or not it has proposed a ban on critical raw materials. One reason could be that “sanctions are carefully designed to hit their targets while preserving EU interests,“ an EU source told IE.
Weaning the EU off Russia’s critical and strategic materials will be difficult. Replacing suppliers and forging new international partnerships is an arduous process. Finding a raw material, such as titanium or copper, with a similar quality and price of those from Russia is also a challenge.
Imposing tariffs or severing ties too quickly could lead to a global price surge which would harm European buyers while benefiting Moscow. A ban could also prompt India, Iran, and China to intensify purchases, further depleting critical raw material resources for EU industries.
Tymofiy Mylovanov, president of the Kyiv School of Economics, says a ban would be difficult to implement given global demand challenges and Europe’s reliance on Russia. “Overall, with these specific materials, the monetary value of what Russia would lose from the EU import ban, might be smaller than the effect on the EU production,” says Ukraine’s former trade and economic development minister.
UN trading data shows that while EU imports of Russian copper, nickel and aluminium imports have declined in the past two years, nickel and aluminium revenues remained stable. Russia’s nickel sales to the EU were worth $1 billion in the first half of 2021 and were $1.1 billion two years later.
The Union is now trying to reduce its dependency. In March, the European Commission presented its Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA), a new legislation aimed at reducing EU dependency on third countries for critical raw materials.
“War in Europe is a risk which was not present in the last decades and Russia was known as a reliable supplier,” says German MEP Hildegard Bentele, shadow rapporteur on the CRMA at the European Parliament. “The EU should take immediate action to support European companies to decrease and replace their CRM deliveries from Russia as soon as possible.”
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is expected to propose a 12th package of sanctions in the coming weeks, which will be then discussed by member states. Brussels hopes the package will renew pressure on the Russian economy and sap its fighting strength on the battlefields of Ukraine. Restrictions on critical raw materials does not seem to be on the table.
Editor at IE: Chris Matthews
Featured image: Leonid Andronov via Canva.com
Editor’s Note: With the increase in offshore wind energy surveys, the number of stranded North Atlantic Right Whales on East Coast beaches has also increased. Right Whales were declared as a critically endangered species by the US National Oceanographic and Administrative Administration (NOAA) in 2020. Survey and construction for offshore wind requires sonar to inform about the condition of the seabed where the wind turbines are supposed to be embedded. Right whales depend of whale calls to maintain contact with each other, gather to feed and to find mates. The oceanic noise pollution caused by the sonar disrupts all of this.
Save Right Whales Coalition is comprised of environmental and community organizations, scientists, and conservationists working to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale and other marine life from the industrialization of their ocean habitat through large-scale offshore wind energy development across the eastern seaboard. The following piece is a compilation of a press release and an open letter to the public. Both of these were taken from the Save Right Whales website.
Whale Conservation Group Calls on NOAA to Halt All Offshore Wind Sonar Surveys After Discovering Mitigations are Ineffective
Contact: Lisa Linowes
Report finds marine mammals are being exposed to much louder noise levels than NOAA has stated which could be the cause for whale deaths
September 11, 2023 – An investigation into recent whale deaths in the Atlantic has found that the noise produced by offshore wind sonar activities is much louder than NOAA Fisheries’ National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has reported. Consequently, the setback distances adopted by NMFS to protect ocean life from the noise are too short and place whales and other marine mammals at a high risk of encountering harmful levels.
The Save Right Whales Coalition (SRWC), a group of long-time environmental activists dedicated to protecting the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale from the industrialization of its ocean habitat, issued this letter to NOAA Administrator Richard Spinrad exposing the problem. According to the letter, “inadequate mitigations during a sonar survey could result in marine mammals experiencing sound levels that may injure or kill.” Since the only mitigation for sonar noise is distance, the shortened distances enforced by NMFS have “rendered any expected mitigations useless.”
SRWC’s finding is supported by a sound study conducted by Rand Acoustics, LLC, a leading acoustics firm in Maine. Earlier this year, Rand captured actual high decibel noise levels at a wind survey site approximately 43 nautical miles east of Barnegat Light, NJ. Rand found that the frequency and sound power levels he recorded did not match the equipment NMFS and the project sponsor said would be used. Rand’s data show the noise emitted from the sonar was much louder. This finding prompted a comprehensive review of the incidental harassment authorizations (IHAs) issued by NMFS which revealed a regular pattern of NMFS applying mitigations based on quieter sonar devices than those actually in use.
“In our review, we found that NMFS simply accepted the sonar sound levels provided by the wind developers without independently validating these levels,” said Lisa Linowes, a co-founder of SRWC. She warned that all mitigations relating to sonar noise in the IHAs are predicated on the loudness of the sonar devices. Underestimating the actual noise level of sonar used by survey boats would lead to the specification of shorter ‘safe’ distances from marine mammals than were necessary for their protection. The setback distances also play a key role in calculating the number of marine mammal ‘takes’ NMFS authorized for the sonar activity. “Had NMFS applied the correct sonar sound levels when issuing the IHAs, the number of takes would have been materially greater,” Linowes said.
This finding suggests that there has been a complete breakdown in the system designed to protect marine wildlife and protect the North Atlantic right whale from extinction. SRWC has requested emergency action by NMFS and BOEM to address this matter beginning with the immediate revocation of IHAs now active.
The SRWC letter sent to NOAA can be found at this link.
The investigations of SRWC and Rand Acoustics, LLC are featured in the powerful new documentary released by Michael Shellenberger’s PUBLIC titled Thrown to the Wind. The film can be viewed at this link.
Whistleblower Speaks Out: Offshore Wind Will Drive Whales to Extinction
Dear Fellow Concerned Members of the Public,
The critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale, one of the most imperiled mammals in the world, seemed until just a few years ago to be on a path to recovery. It was our nation’s energy policy in the 18th century to kill the right whales for their oil, but the species was recovering after the 1982 ban on whaling took effect.
Today, the whale is in more danger than ever. An “unusual mortality event” beginning in 2017 has reduced the population by 30 percent. The North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium’s October 2022 count estimates that only 340 individuals survive, with fewer than 70 breeding females and an overall decline in body size. Major sources of stress today include fishing gear entanglements, vehicle collisions, and climate change.
But one source of danger to the right whale is rarely discussed: the industrialization of their habitat by offshore wind companies, enabled by two government agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries (NOAA Fisheries) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The head of New England Aquarium’s whale impact monitoring program has openly stated that the first offshore wind projects will serve as a “test bed” to study their impacts on the whale.
A recently-surfaced letter from a whistleblower indicates that BOEM and NOAA were aware in May 2022 that offshore wind construction and operation posed a direct danger to the North Atlantic right whale.
The author, NOAA’s own Chief of Endangered Species, Dr. Sean Hayes, bravely sounded the alarm, noting that not only the construction but also the operation of wind turbines could result in extinction.
Yet these agencies have failed to put in place any meaningful measures to protect this critically endangered species from extinction.
By NOAA Fisheries’ own admission, “The potential biological removal (PBR) level for the species, defined as the maximum number of animals that can be removed annually while allowing the stock to reach or maintain its optimal sustainable population level, is less than 1.” In plain language, this means the death of a single whale could make the difference between extinction and recovery.
Recent data collection finds the whales are increasingly relying on the southern Massachusetts wind lease area as a last refuge for foraging and raising their young. Because the federally-designated critical right whale habitat is out of date, these very same areas have been approved by the federal government for industrialization by offshore wind companies.
For a long time it was unclear what effects the plants’ construction and operation might have on whales. Several groups including our coalition raised the alarm and called for a moratorium until more studies could be conducted.
In response to these concerns, NOAA Fisheries and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in October this year released a draft joint strategy to “to protect and promote the recovery of North Atlantic right whales while responsibly developing offshore wind energy.” But this strategy is misleading – the authors frame their plan to meet their obligations under the Endangered Species Act as a mere “vision,” and there is little evidence that the proposed mitigation measures are effective, practicable or backed up by sufficient funds.
Our coalition’s public comments can be found here.
In order for the development of the projects to go forward, an Incidental Harassment Authorization (IHA) must be issued by NOAA when a federally listed marine mammal may be harmed. The issuance of an IHA requires that it is possible to fully mitigate the effects of any harassment, and from Hayes’ letter it is clear that this is not the case.
Hayes’ letter stresses that the presence of wind turbines would disrupt the dense populations of zooplankton that right whales rely on for food. Hayes describes the wind lease area as “the only known winter foraging area for right whales” and warns against the impacts not only from construction but also from the expected 30-year operation of offshore wind turbines on foraging grounds, which could “vary from hundreds of meters for local individual turbine impacts…to large-scale dipoles of surface elevation changes stretching hundreds of kilometers.”
Most damningly, he states, “impacts from installed and operating turbines cannot be mitigated for the 30-year lifespan of the project, unless they are decommissioned.”
A lawyer from the Conservation Law Foundation, an organization that is “strongly supportive of offshore wind,” acknowledged that the area slated for wind development was poorly surveyed for right whales prior to the permitting agencies selling 1,400 square miles of our federal waters to foreign wind energy companies.
NOAA and BOEM’s draft mitigation plan fails to address Hayes’ concerns. Additionally, it is interesting that the letter was not made available to the public until November when a local newspaper, the New Bedford Light, accessed it through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Hayes has risked his career and reputation by writing a letter of this seriousness. The international offshore wind industry is estimated to be worth $31.2 billion. Major conservation organizations, including the New England Aquarium and the Environmental League of Massachusetts, receive funding and sponsorships from offshore wind companies. Not to mention the weight of the Biden-Harris’s administration’s pro-offshore wind policy, backed by numerous large government agencies.
But evidence continues to mount. On November 24th, scientists published stronger evidence indicating that offshore wind operations “can have a substantial impact on the structuring of coastal marine ecosystems,” with effects far beyond the area of the turbines themselves.
With fewer than 350 North Atlantic right whales alive today, we must heed the science and call on the government to fulfill its obligations. The first large-scale offshore wind projects cannot serve as test beds to determine the impacts of turbines on a critically endangered species. And while climate change is an imperative, it is indefensible for any industrial project to push a species to extinction.
It was our own whaling industry that pushed the right whale to the brink. Today, our energy industry seems to be repeating its mistakes.
With this in mind, we are no longer calling for a moratorium. We are calling for the project to be canceled outright.
It is unacceptable for the government to allow large-scale industrial experiments in critical habitat for a species on the brink of extinction. The construction of industrial wind projects in any North Atlantic right whale habitat is, at this point, a clear violation of the Endangered Species Act.
The Save Right Whales Coalition
Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash
Editor’s note: The following event is not being organized by DGR. We stand in solidarity with it and encourage our readers to get involved if possible.
Webinar on Pornography
Our conversation will be led by Hugh Esco, a member of the Green Alliance for Sex Based Rights, an officer of the Georgia Green Party. Hugh has for years researched the pornography industry and its impact on the often trafficked ‘performers’, on consumers and their families and as a contributor to rape culture which poses a growing threat to the mental health of adolescent girls and young women; of the boys and men who want to be a part of their lives. He will be sharing a presentation first developed five years ago, which examines the pornography industry, efforts by the church, state, the courts, feminists and others to regulate it; and which has recently been updated to share new material about the current state of feminist resistance to the monopoly currently controlling the industry. After his presentation, we will open the floor for questions and discussion among the participants.
Saturday, November 4th at 2:00 pm, Eastern time zone, please translate to your timezone for your calendar.
You need to register for the event. You can do it here. You have to open in Firefox to register. The tickets are available at different rates, from $0 to $100.
A Note of Gratitude
As most of our viewers are already aware, DGR conducted an event on Ecology of Spirit on October 21. We would like to thank all who attended and showed us your support. Your kind words encourage us. We would also like to thank those who donated to us through our fundraiser and our auction. Your support will go a long way in building grassroots movements.
For those who missed, you can view the recording here:
Featured Image by Alex Motoc on Unsplash
Editor’s Note: The following is a summary of the proposed copper mining site Copperwood. Like any other mining, the proposed mine will have dire impacts on the ecology, health and human rights of the area, in this case, the Porcupine mountains and Lake Superior. The following text is compiled from the website Protect the Porkies.
Protect The Porkies is a grassroots campaign dedicated to resisting the development of a metallic sulfide mine in extreme proximity to Lake Superior, Porcupine Mountains State Park, and the North Country Trail. There has never been a metallic sulfide mine which did not contaminate water; Copperwood would be the closest such mine to Lake Superior in history; Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake on the planet, representing 10% of the world’s surface freshwater.
It’s not hard to piece these facts together to see why the proposed mine is an atrocious and criminal idea. In a world which is getting hotter and drier, in which many cities must import water from hundreds of miles away, protecting freshwater is THE battle of our time.
All of the images on this piece were taken from Protect the Porkies.
Metallic sulfite mine would poison Lake Superior
Canadian company Highland Copper Inc. wants to drill under the Presque Isle River to seize minerals from directly beneath Porcupine Mountains State Park, the largest tract of mixed old growth forest remaining in the Midwest.
Unlike the White Pine North Mine (closed 1997 due to environmental concerns) which consisted of ore graded at 20% purity, Copperwood’s ore grade is estimated at only 1.5%, meaning that nearly 99% of mined material will be stored as 50+ million tons of heavy-metal laden waste rock on topography that slopes towards Lake Superior. Toxins of concern include mercury, arsenic, selenium, and lead. The data show that more than a third of tailings dams are at high risk of causing catastrophic damage to nearby communities if they crumble, and there are already multiple instances of serious failures.
Canadian company Highland Copper is a junior exploration company with zero experience opening and operating a mine, which already has a track record of violating permits and degrading wetlands. But they aren’t letting that slow them down: even though they lack key permits related to stream alterations and engineering of their tailings disposal facility, they have already begun their “summer site prep” of clearcutting and wetlands destruction.
Freshwater seas need protection
In addition to destroying 50+ acres of wetlands and forever altering the course of 5 streams, the project would be permitted to dump half a million gallons of wastewater per day into Namebinag Creek, which empties into Lake Superior. Namebinag Creek is also home to populations of Redside Dace, classified in Michigan as an Endangered Species requiring legal protection.
97% of Earth’s water is salt water and thus not potable. Of the remaining 3%, the majority is frozen in the ice caps and thus not accessible. Of what remains, Lake Superior represents a full 10% of the world’s surface freshwater.
There has never been a metallic sulfide mine which did not contaminate local water. The Chopperwood Mine would erect a tailings disposal facility holding 50+ million tons of heavy-metal laden waste-rock on topography sloping towards Lake Superior.
Even if the tailings dam holds, acid mine drainage is a certainty: sulfides will combine with water and air to create sulfuric acid — a.k.a. battery acid — which then steeps over waste-rock and river sediment to leach heavy metals into the environment.
The last old-growth forest
98% of this planet’s old growth forest have been cut. The 35,000 acres in Porcupine Mountains State Park represent the largest tract of mixed old growth remaining in the Midwest.
Let’s be clear: Porcupine Mountains State Park is not just any park. In 2022, the Porkies were ranked by users of Yelp.com as the “most beautiful State Park in America.” But company maps suggest Highland Copper seeks to drill beneath the Presque Isle River and extract minerals from directly under old-growth forest on Park property.
The mine would subject the area to heavy metal dust spewed up from hundreds of meters underground, to catch and carry on the wind for miles in all directions; twice-daily subterranean blasts which are known to disrupt the reproductive cycles of aquatic life; noise pollution and light pollution which will further impact the mating rituals and calls of wildlife. And it’s unlikely that acid mine drainage will turn around upon reaching the Park entrance, only a 15 second drive from the mine entrance road.
Clearcutting enables wildfires
Already Highland Copper has clearcut hundreds of acres of so-called “secondary” forest in preparation for the Chopperwood Mine. But there’s nothing secondary about the importance of such woods— in addition to existing for their own sake and providing homes for countless organisms, forest which is allowed to mature becomes a barrier against wildfires. As trees grow old, they develop thick fire-resistant bark and shed their lower limbs, thus creating a diverse canopy which is difficult to burn. In the dense shade below, mosses, lichens, and liverworts move in, and the ground grows into a moist sponge.
By replacing moist, shady conditions with hot dry desert with increased airflow, right in the middle of the woods, Highland Copper has greatly increased this area’s risk of wildfire. Not convinced? Consider that the Peshtigo Fire, the deadliest fire in American history, started specifically in a logging town.
At a time when wildfires are ravaging so many parts of the world, we should be doing everything we can to help our secondary forests mature, not replace them with a desert.
No more dark night skies
On the bluffs overlooking Lake Superior, the Presque Isle Campground at Porcupine Mountains State Park is one of the most popular in the Midwest. As a rustic campground, there is no electricity and no sewage dump. In just a short walk, visitors may reach three stunning waterfalls on the Presque Isle River or go fishing or swimming at the lakeshore.
Unfortunately, the Chopperwood Mine — in addition to subjecting the area to subterranean blasts, air pollution, and noise pollution — would be lit up like a casino all night long, effectively eliminating a clear view of the starry sky not just for the Presque Isle Area, but for miles around, potentially as far as Black River Harbor, another area of outstanding beauty.
In the 21st century, is there anything scarcer than a good view of the stars?
Home of wolf packs and fish
The 1500 acres encompassed by the mine site fall smack in the middle of a wolf pack’s territory, specifically the pack which travels between Black River Harbor and Presque Isle. It is one of only three wolf packs in the region.
A healthy, happy wolf pack is far scarcer than copper, and more valuable too. It is well known that large deer populations may over-browse riverbanks and bluffs around lakes. By keeping the deer population in check, wolves effectively prevent erosion— quite the opposite of Highland Copper, which is actively annihilating wetlands and rerouting streams.
The Anishinaabe Indians — also known as the Ojibwe — have fished the Presque Isle River and Lake Superior for hundreds of years and always been well-nourished. Unfortunately, fish are bio-accumulators of heavy metals, just like the kind which would be spewed from Chopperwood’s exhaust vents and leached from river sediment via acid mine drainage.
Redside Dace — an endangered species
In the 2009 biological monitoring report, populations of Redside Dace were found in both Namebinag and Unnamed Creek — two streams passing through the mine site which are planned to be rerouted. The Redside Dace is an Endangered Species in Michigan, and the Fishbeck, Carr, and Thompson report clearly states:
“Populations of Redside Dace within the Copperwood site should be protected from human-related impacts.”
Reishi provides medicine
Among the inhabitants of the ecosystem directly adjacent to the mine site is the Northern Reishi Mushroom (ganoderma tsugae). Prized for thousands of years in Chinese and Japanese medicine as “the Mushroom of Immortality,” the Reishi grows exclusively on Eastern Hemlock trees. Given that the Porkies hold the largest remaining tract of old growth Eastern Hemlocks — which have been all but eradicated in the East by the woolly adelgid — it is thus host to the largest and purest population of medicinal Reishi mushrooms in the country.
Unfortunately, like fish, mushrooms are bio-accumulators of heavy metals. One day, will mushroom foragers stop picking the Reishi for fear that a medicine has become a poison?
The last wild coastline
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was industrial sprawl. First you build a network of roads, then you build a mine, then you build parking lots for your 100 or so employees, then those employees want to live nearby so they buy up land and build houses, before you know it there’s a sewage system, an electrical grid, and a proposal to connect the Presque Isle Scenic Area to Black River Harbor via highway, right along some of the last wild coastline remaining, and though such a thing was once inconceivable, it now strikes us as perfectly reasonable, because the mine and its infrastructure have already paved the way.
You may think this scenario sounds like fear-mongering, but just look around you and the proof is everywhere: roads already press against the North Shore in Minnesota and Canada and along all the other Great Lakes. None of it happened overnight: such development unfolds not at the pace of a Hollywood action film, but at an ooze over the course of years, decades, lifetimes. Ecologists refer to this as the Shifting Baseline Syndrome. If we don’t draw a line in the sand now, soon there will be nothing left to draw a line in front of.
A temple in hell
As we moderns come to spend our time increasingly immersed in artificial environments — staring at screens and slogging through traffic — pilgrimages into the peace of Nature fulfill a crucial role: walking along the Presque Isle River, breathing deep the conifer-filtered air while listening to the hush of waterfalls— such experiences are sacred to many. Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, atheists and animists too — all are welcome in the Universal Church of Nature.
By threatening this thriving outdoor recreation area with rock grinding, heavy metal exhaust, light pollution, industrial traffic, and acid mine drainage, Highland Copper might as well be burning a temple.
The operation would likely lead to audible rock grinding and subterranean blasts using toxic ammonium nitrate which would be felt for miles around, both on the North Country Trail and in the Presque Isle Scenic Area of the State Park, and possibly even at Black River Harbor. As with the development of Eagle Mine in Marquette County, we can expect non-stop industrial traffic on County Road 519, heavy metal-laden dust from exhaust vents which travels far from its source on the wind. Given that the Copperwood is a metallic sulfide mine, there remain concerns regarding acid mine drainage — irreversible contamination of wetlands and waterways.
Nawadaha, Manido, and Manabezho— these are the three waterfalls of the Presque Isle Scenic Area, which still bear the names of Anishinaabemanitous.
Long before Michigan, long before the arrival of Europeans, the Anishinaabe fished and foraged these lands. There was a nomadic settlement at the mouth of the Presque Isle River. Later, at that same beach, the Anishinaabe met to trade with French trappers. To this day, park-goers find arrowheads and other artifacts on the shore.
What tribute do we pay to this fine history by allowing a foreign company to contaminate these waters, spew heavy metal dust on the wind, and potentially even drill beneath the River, beneath the old growth, even beneath Lake Superior?
Though the situation may seem dire, there is still time to build opposition:
Highland Copper will not decide whether or not to greenlight construction until 2024, and they are still lacking $250 million required to initiate their project. But in the meantime, they are already clearcutting forest, rerouting streams, and destroying wetlands, so there is no time to lose.
If we as a society do not draw a line in front of protecting freshwater seas and old growth forest, then it means we won’t draw a line anywhere, and that is a very scary place to be as a species. So please, join the campaign today by taking action:
Sign the petition and pass it on to others; in 2024, we plan to bring the petition off the Internet and into the real world by hand-delivering it to the Governor’s office.
Reach out to Michigan’s politicians; even if you are not a resident, tell them that the outdoor recreation industry in Michigan is over 10 times the size of mining, and no state which entertains such an atrocious project will receive a single dollar of your tourist money.
And remember, Protect The Porkies is not an organization— we are a movement, and everyone is invited to be a part. We won’t win by following their playbook, but by using our creativity to come up with our own.
Got ideas? Do not hesitate to reach out: ProtectThePorkies@gmail.com
On another note…
DGR conducted its annual fundraiser on Ecology of Spirit. If you have missed it, you can view it here. You can also visit our auction for paintings, books, brownies and conversations. The auction will remain open till October 31.
Editor’s Note: The following is a testimony that Will Falk gave at Truth, Reckoning and Right Relationship with the Great Lakes on October 16 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on the shore of Lake Erie, Cleveland. Here, Will relates Robert J. Lifton’s concept of claims to virtue to the destruction of the natural world. No matter how many stories we build to justify our destruction, at the end, the destruction of the natural world is never going to be ethical, and is going to destroy all life on Earth – including humans.
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The Great Lakes saved my life.
By Will Falk
On April 17, 2013, while living in Milwaukee, WI and working as a public defender, I tried to kill myself in my apartment a few blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan. After I was released from the hospital – and while I was recovering, trying to understand what led me to the decision to try to take my own life – I spent every morning that spring and summer on a big red granite boulder listening to and watching Lake Michigan.
I heard her gentle freshwater waves breaking on sand. I heard the cries of sea gulls. I heard soft summer rains fall on the lake with the joyful song of water completing the long journey from the Earth’s surface to the clouds, across oceans and continents, to fall into the welcoming arms of more freshwater. I saw great blue herons stalking bluegill fish in the shallows. I watched bugs, butterflies, and songbirds crisscrossing the breeze, their flight patterns sewing stitches of color in the air. I smiled while children, celebrating their summer freedom, swam, played, and learned what it means to be human in a classroom far older than school.
Listening and watching like this pulled me from the despair that caused me to attempt suicide. Lake Michigan gave me the medicine I needed to recover. Lake Michigan truly saved my life. And, through my memories of that beautiful time, Lake Michigan continues to save my life.
Of course, the natural world also gives us life. All life depends on clean water, healthy soil, a habitable climate, and complex relationships formed by living creatures in natural communities. The Great Lakes are some of these natural communities. Because so much life depends on the Great Lakes, the needs of the Great Lakes are primary. Social morality must emerge from a humble understanding of this reality. Law is integral to any society’s morality, so law must emerge from this understanding, too.
One breezy June day in 2013, filled with gratitude because the natural world saved, gave, and continues to give me my life, I vowed to spend the rest of my life trying to save the natural world’s life. I am a lawyer. Law is one tool we have in the fight to protect the natural world. One of the first problems anyone who tries to use law to protect the natural world encounters is that our legal system is rooted in an assumption that the natural world is mere property for humans to use, exploit, and destroy. This is one of the main reasons we’re living in a time of intensifying ecological collapse – a time when humans may, in fact, be capable of destroying Earth’s life support systems.
I do not believe it is human nature to destroy the natural world. I believe it is human nature to recognize our kinship with the natural world, to recognize that the natural processes giving us life are sacred. I believe that it is human nature to insist that all of our relatives in the natural world, all of the processes giving us life, must be protected. My beliefs are supported by the reality that our ancestors lived for hundreds of thousands of years in traditional cultures that did not push the planet to the brink of total ecological collapse. All of those traditional cultures taught that nature is sacred and that we have a responsibility to protect our other-than-human kin.
So, what happened? If it is human nature to treat the natural world as sacred, why does our legal system currently objectify the natural world?
The simple truth is that people who are willing to exploit the natural world will, in the short term, always have more power than those who respect the boundaries of nature. Human cultures that are willing to take more from the land than the land freely gives eventually exhaust their land. When this happens, these cultures are confronted with a choice: either they look for new lands to take what they need or they collapse. Either they impose boundaries on themselves or they find new boundaries to break. When these exploitative cultures conquer new peoples and lands, their exploitative ideologies replace life-centered, traditional ideologies.
The history of the colonization of this continent is a crystal clear example of how this process has played out in history. Europeans exceeded the carrying capacity of their homelands and began establishing colonies around the world to funnel resources back to Europe. This process, which is ongoing, is genocidal and ecocidal. Traditional communities are massacred for defending the land. Traditional cultures are destroyed or driven underground because their teachings question whether all of this is inevitable. And, all of this is done, ultimately, to control the land and resources.
The psychologist, Robert Jay Lifton, who devoted his career to understanding the psychological justifications that made the Holocaust possible wrote in a 2014 New York Times opinion piece, “Over the course of my work, I have come to the realization that it is very difficult to endanger or kill large numbers of people except with a claim to virtue.” Lifton explained that the Nazis didn’t characterize their actions as mass murder, they were “purifying the Aryan race” and “creating more living space for Germans.” Here, Americans have made and use similar claims to virtue to justify atrocities. As Americans pushed Native peoples onto reservations and stole their land, they weren’t engaged in genocide against Native peoples, they were manifesting their destiny.
We can extend Lifton’s idea to the natural world. It is very difficult to destroy the natural world and kill large numbers of other-than-humans except with a claim to virtue. At the heart of one of the most dominant European mythologies – Judeo-Christianity – are claims to virtues like the one found in the Bible’s Book of Genesis where people were taught that they “have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on earth.” Armed with that justification, and the technologies made possible by that justification, Europeans have come to dominate this land and her indigenous peoples.
Western legal systems, heavily influenced by Christianity, provide more of these claims to virtue. Humans are not destroying whole natural communities with mines, pipelines, crops, and clearcuts, they are simply exercising their property rights. Corporations that pump toxins into lakes and rivers are not polluting, they are complying with democratically-enacted regulations. Conversely, humans trying to pass rights of nature laws are not protecting their kin, they are depriving corporations of due process and equal protection.
I hate to reduce the Great Lakes – beings so ancient and so powerful – to an argument based in human self-interest. Regardless, know this: Human bodies are mostly water. If you’re one of the estimated 35 million people in the United States and Canada who depend on Great Lakes watersheds and you’re hydrated right now, the Great Lakes are literally part of you. If carcinogens continue to be pumped into the Great Lakes, if climate change burns more of the Great Lakes away and causes algal blooms to become worse and more frequent, if oceangoing, industrial vessels continue to drag species that push native species to the brink of extinction into the Great Lakes, you will be harmed. No claim to virtue can protect you from that. This is, unfortunately, ecological reality.
If we’re truly going to stop the destruction and return human cultures to right relationship with the natural world, we must change our legal system from one that objectifies nature to one that recognizes that the needs of the natural world are primary, that the health of the Great Lakes is more important than the health of the economy, and that in killing our relatives in the natural world, we are killing ourselves.
We must insist that our legal system becomes biophilic or biocentric as opposed to anthropocentric. Biophilia means the love of life – of all life. Law must protect sea gulls and summer rain; blue herons and bluegill; bugs, butterflies, and songbirds; rivers, forests, grasslands, the Great Lakes, and all the human children who depend on them.
Anything less is simply suicidal.
Will Falk is an attorney, writer, poet, activist, and organizer with Protect Thacker Pass. Protect Thacker Pass is an “independent, grassroots collective of people” protecting the land and all life from a proposed lithium mine in the Central Basin, Nevada. For Thacker Pass Facebook click here.
Photo by Emily Studer on Unsplash
DGR conducted its annual fundraiser on Ecology of Spirit. If you have missed it, you can view it here. You can also visit our auction for paintings, books, brownies and conversations. The auction will remain open till October 31.