Michael Swartz / August 17, 2022

The Greenies Are Destroying the Planet

Poor people in Myanmar are bearing some of the brunt of Chinese mining for American green energy.

There’s an intriguing quote we wanted to share from a recent Associated Press exposé on mining for rare earth in Asia. We’ve talked at length about the Chinese stranglehold on the market for certain minerals, but it’s worth noting that we once did that here. As the lengthy story by Dake Kang, Victoria Milko, and Lori Hinnant notes: “The United States offshored its rare earths mining to China in the 1980s because of environmental and cost issues. China’s leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, declared rare earths China’s answer to ‘oil in the Middle East.’ Tens of thousands of Chinese in the countryside discovered that they could make more in a month of mining than years of farming.”

That may have seemed like the end of the story, but over the last decade the Chinese have become wise to the ecological damage this mining — oftentimes done by small “mom and pop” operations — was creating in their country. So they did what any communist regime would do: paint a pretty picture of being conscious of the environment by cracking down on the small-time operators mining in their country while getting the nearby military dictatorship of Myanmar (generally known as Burma) to take the hit.

China’s loss is now Myanmar’s loss, too. Strip-mining in unlicensed private mines in the northern reaches of the nation is fouling its waterways and destroying the habitat of native plants and animals. But one longtime mine worker, who gave his last name as Guo, is a Chinese national who relocated to Myanmar after losing his mining job in China. Guo is quoted in the AP piece: “I’m only responsible for digging the mountain up and selling it. The rest is none of my business. … They talk about future generations, I’m talking about survival today. We just see if we can make money. It’s that simple.”

That money, however, is coming from the Chinese companies that still market the heavy metals and rare earths found in these Myanmar mines. In turn, they’re allegedly selling to global companies like Apple, Samsung, and GM, just to name a few mentioned in the piece. An environmental nonprofit called Global Witness claimed it could tie rare earths from Myanmar to the supply chains of 78 companies in total.

By now, Americans whose level of interest generally ends at the border may be shrugging their shoulders and asking, “What does that have to do with us?”

Micaela Burrow of The Daily Caller reminds us, “The global drive to replace fossil fuels with climate-friendly energy alternatives has powered demand for rare earth minerals used in electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines, with major U.S. companies importing rare earths from Asia.” Yes, those electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines being forced upon us as parts of the Inflation Reduction Act and other Green New Deal initiatives being put in place by the Biden administration. Remember being told we could avoid $5 a gallon gas by buying an electric car? Those cars need a lot of rare earths that may well be coming from the mines of Myanmar.

There’s no shortage of irony here, is there? We were told for years that our electrical generation and transportation were destroying the planet because we depended on coal, oil, and natural gas with a dash of nuclear tossed in. All of those, they said, were creating damage that was all but irreversible unless we totally threw in our lot with clean, green energy. Instead, it only appears we have managed to trash another out-of-the-way part of the planet that doesn’t have the environmental regulations — or wealthy white people — we do.

Say what you will about how we Americans have been in the past — and admittedly, we have done some shameful things to our environment — but we’ve also worked out ways to clean up our act and, in the meantime, found out that God’s creation is pretty resilient. Hopefully, it will eventually be the same for the Burmese, who can’t drink their water or fish in their rivers now because they’re just more poor, brown people being exploited for the leftist ivory tower cause.

It may be more expensive, but companies are beginning to realize the true cost of these materials isn’t just the price put on them by their Chinese middlemen. GM officials, for example, told the AP they were planning on sourcing their rare earth materials domestically, and that’s a start since we are far better at securing them responsibly. Even better, however, would be a shift away from the artificially created market we have made for these materials by ending the silly and counter-productive mandates for renewable energy and electric cars.


Images: Arezarni, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, and YinMinTun, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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