The Chilean Mining Story Isn't the Real Disaster
I saw a Facebook update from a friend joking about how her husband was confused about why there were kids trapped in a mine in Chile. She corrected him that this story is about the people who remove things from the ground, not minors.
I chuckled, slightly, as I thought about how little I knew about the situation. I had heard about it, in passing. I knew the rescue was going on but those sorts of "if it bleeds, it leads" news stories never really resonated with me. I mean, I'm a human so I'm glad that those miners didn't die a horrible death.
The only thought I had, which was more of a question, was what were they mining? It took me a fair amount of time to figure out that it was copper and gold.
Then it made me wonder what Chile does with these materials. As of 2006, Copper was almost 60% of Chilean exports by dollar amount. So it's understandable why this event got a lot of attention from the Chileans.
Why are we so interested in it? According to the US Census Bureau - Foreign Trade Statistics and CIA World Factbook, in 2007, 40% of items imported from Chile into the US were copper.
What do we use copper for? All kinds of things. Computers. The wires running our internet and telephone services. Auto parts. Musical instruments. Plumbing. Ammunition. Mostly, things we use a lot of but don't import from China.
The funny thing is we mine copper in the US. Almost 2/3 of what we use we mine here. I guess where I'm going with all of this is why don't we mine all of it here? Nearly 10% of our workforce is unemployed. It seems strange that wall-to-wall news coverage isn't zeroed in on lost jobs in the US.
I would probably be wrong in assuming that mining in the US would be safer than in lesser developed countries. There have been an awful lot of US mine accidents of late as well. So that may not be the best example.
The miners are an abstract to me. I don't know them or their friends or family. I know lots of people who are out of work. That is a tragedy to me. That should be the thing that everyone is talking about.