Greener BeeGreen GadgetsBlood cell phones and Teslas

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Or worse, it is filled by tens of thousands of poor “artisanal” miners, who dig holes and mine shafts with hand tools—under few or no health, safety or environmental standards or precautions, and often without permits—to eke out a few dollars a day, to feed and clothe their families. The dangerous, back-breaking work often becomes a family enterprise—with wives and children laboring alongside fathers, and all of them getting covered in heavy metal dust, even bringing it home to infect babies and young children.

The result is high levels of cobalt, lead and uranium in their blood, urine and organs—and multiple blood and respiratory diseases, as well as birth defects. The risk of serious accidents and death in the mines is acute and constant. Frankel and others rightly bemoan the situation. However, the all too real alternatives are prostitution for mothers and daughters, thievery for fathers and sons, or starvation and death for all.

Near and mid-term solutions are elusive in countries as destitute and dysfunctional as the DRC. They are made even more distant by the same “social responsibility” and “environmental” activists who gain fame and fortune by battling Western mining companies.

When Doe Run launched extensive projects to modernize and clean up a decades-long heritage of horrendous state-run lead and silver mines and smelters in Peru, those activists finally spoke up—to denounce the company for not eliminating the problems overnight. In the same vein, Chinese-run mining operations are an improvement over artisanal mines, but China’s health, environmental and human rights record in Baotou, Beijing, Guangdong and elsewhere presents little reason for optimism.

Moreover, the 100,000 or so artisanal miners in Congo mean the companies don’t have to pay wages or worry about health-safety-pollution compliance. That brings cheaper cobalt, which benefits mining, processing, battery, computer and car companies—and the labyrinthine acquisition process makes it all but impossible to trace the origins of a particular pound of chromium.

Artisanal and even modern corporate underground mines are inherently dangerous and deadly. However, global greens detest open pit mining, despite its far lower risks. Forced relocations of families and communities are always wrenching, as Frankel observes—whether for cobalt mines or for TVA projects, China’s Three Gorges Dam, Ugandan climate programs, or anti-logging campaigns that closed down many communities’ economic foundations.

The questions now are: Where and how to begin cleaning up the mess, with what money in this destitute and often war-torn region, and how to replace or improve DongFang, or attract Western companies that can weather callous, hypocritical vilification campaigns by the $15-billion-a year Big Green cabal?

These are the same eco-imperialist pressure groups that oppose drilling, fracking, and fossil fuels, even if they would lift families out of abject poverty; pipelines and train lines to carry oil, because they demand a hydrocarbon-free future; DDT and pesticides to prevent malaria; and Golden Rice and other GMO crops to reduce malnutrition, starvation, poverty, blindness and death. They support only minimal economic development in Third World countries, and only what can be supported by wind and solar power.

Above all, they ensure unsustainable, unconscionable poverty, disease and death in poor nations.

All of this should begin to open people’s eyes, redefine what is “green” energy and technology, and engender robust debate over what really is ethical, Earth-friendly, socially responsible, environmental justice and eco-racism. Whether that will actually happen remains to be seen.

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