Wake up, Environmentalists

BBC Reports on how Gold Mining is killing the Peru jungle.

While WR3A and BAN argue about the arcane nuances of Basel Convention Annex VIII and Annex IX (what is allowed and is not allowed for export - computers and TVs are allowed as a commodity explicitly under Annex IX when intended for reuse and repair, period, no matter what Jim says about the implications of some mobile phone partnership), people are destroying the earth.

They are taking mercury from lamps we recycle in western countries (at an annual expense of billions of dollars) and using the "recycled" mercury (hg) to mine for gold in the Amazon and Peru.

Some quotes from the article;

For every gram of gold extracted, up to three times more mercury is needed. The toxic metal is used to bind with the gold particles, forming an amalgam which makes them easier to extract.

It is cheap and efficient; so cheap that much of the mercury is left in the rivers and lagoons, poisoning the flora and fauna and in turn passing into the food chain.

I have been working on mining issues since the 1970s. I have been working on international development issues since the 1980s. We export TVs and computers, some needing minor repair, to Lima Peru. It creates jobs in Peru and not much waste. We are negotiating a new protocal (like the ones we have with Las Chicas Bravas in Mexico and with the monitor factories in Asia) which will pay the Peru TV repairpeople to properly recycle any parts removed or replaced. In our experience, paying for this and training in it creates a long term market for people in their own countries where statistics show MOST of the ewaste is home-generated scrap anyway, not imports.

"BAN says" (this is a big nyah-nyah or no-no, Jim Puckett insists that it is libelous for me to "say what BAN says", but I can't get a clear statement to the contrary of this) that the used electronics repair trade (which they call "e-waste", the same as illegal dumping and burning) is unethical because we need to either send "tested working" TVs or to identify and remove parts which might be upgraded (which would even stop tested working, since they replace power supplies for 220 current).

The BBC article talks about people being desperate there for jobs, and how the government is afraid to close the mining because people need the money. WR3A is about how proper repair and recycling in the export market both cleans up the mess and creates sustainable jobs - as an alternative source of rare earth metals. An alternative to mining.

I am getting pretty mad that BAN tells me to "stop pointing people to Annex IX", as if laws are made by him because he flew to an international conference with a bunch of commies and academics (ok now I'm name calling, seems to be the way to get attention). These apparently well-meaning folks decide they are experts in cell phones because they own them, they discuss cell phone repair, and then - with no ratification or vote from any elected official - apparently decided they didn't like the "repair and refurbishment" clause which was specifically written into the Basel Convention. They now say that the language about "repair and refurbishment" of computers and TVs, the clause SPECIFICALLY authored and footnoted, should not apply now. Because I am reading the actual text of the actual Basel Convention. And that, they decided, was no longer applicable, including the clause which specfically says that Parties can consider electronics and CRTs a commodity when for repair and refurbishment.

If the Basel Convention can be completely re-written as a living document without the involvement of democracies, maybe it's a good thing the USA doesn't ratify it. The fact is that I know lawyers who have been attending the same conventions as long as Jim Puckett has.

If the Basel Convention DOES say what BAN says, then it is a bad law. Fortunately, it does not say that. Read it. It does NOT condemn us all to mine material from rain forests (because recycling is imperfect) or to deny poor people access to the internet because working computers get upgraded and repairable computers get repaired. Blah blah blah, go around and around. It doesn't say that. Robert Tonetti of EPA went to the conventions, John Bullock went. The Convention doesn't need Ayatollahs to tell us what it says because we are illiterate.

Our WR3A factories are about improvement and jobs and recycling, and we improve the practices and do so in compliance with international law. Meanwhile, like "climate change emails", all of this is distracting from the biggest environmental horror on the planet - rain forest mining (coral reef mining may follow suit).

Close to 200 sq kms (77 sq miles) of jungle have been lost in the evocatively named Madre de Dios (Mother of God) region.

"To know what we are losing, this area of Peru - the western Amazon - is the world's enclave of biological diversity," says biologist Ernesto Raez, who heads the Environmental Sustainability Centre in Lima's Cayetano Heredia University.

"Counted in terms of richness of species, this is the place where world records have been obtained for butterflies, birds, amphibians; you name it."

If BAN Stewards are in fact shipping tested working material which is not being upgraded, and items for repaired with the bad part removed, then let them come forward with examples.

How about a law making it illegal to destroy or shred a TV or computer that could be fixed, and another law banning export? That is where USA mercury policy is headed, when exports of mercury are finally banned in 2013.

Aristotle was a student of Plato, who was a student of Socrates. Aristotle became one of the biggest critics of Socrates theory of "form". Today we consider them all, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, to be the cornerstone thinkers behind Western thought and logic.

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