It is ironic that the US, with European and Japanese support, is filing a case with the World Trade Organisation challenging the anti-competitive export limitations which give China, the main producer of rare earth resources, a major manufacturing advantage, and meanwhile is questioning the way the metals are extracted. They want them to use in items such as smart phones and other luxury electronic goods, which seems at some variance from these western countries stated environmental priorities, and while I wonder which priority is more important I think I know the answer.
China's biggest rare earth mining company talked today about how benign its extraction systems were. It seems they drill large holes in the top and the sides of mountains and sluice through a potent chemical mixture which helps dislodge the metals they seek. While promising the mixture was harmless to the environment, they admitted it was not safe for humans - and many species of wildlife too, I suspect.
As I listened, I imagined how it would be for me if a surgeon drilled me with holes, filled me with toxins, shook me about and took what they deemed valuable in order to make expensive toys. It was not a comfortable idea, and I was not comfortable either as I thought of the smart phone charging up in my office. Mentally I can justify its usefulness and I know technology has transformed our world in many ways for the good, but I wish there were kinder ways of getting there. A mountain in China lives and feels: it speaks too, and perhaps one day, like shamans and others who are awake and aware, we will all hear, and respond from the heart.]]>