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Wanbelistap

 


Runoff from the OK Tedi Mine. Source: CMCA Mine ReviewRunoff from the OK Tedi Mine. Source: CMCA Mine Review

Wanbelistap means "we are together on this journey"; "while I may not be there with you physically, health I am there in spirit, medical and will be there when it is done” - CMCA (Community Mine Continuation Agreement) Review for the OK Tedi Copper Mine, Papua New Guinea.

When it comes to waste, we are all in this thing together. Any time you make a purchase, you are connecting to a world far outside of where you live, where you go to school, or even where you vacation. Your purchase connects you to the stores where you shop, the truckers that move goods, the people who make them, the resources that they are made of, and of course, the oil and coal that powers the whole system.

The OK Tedi Mine, located in the Star Mountains of Papua New Guinea, is an example of one of those connections. All resource extraction operations have impacts on the environments and communities in which they are located. Impacts can be both positive and negative. The OK Tedi mining operation discharges tailings (discarded mining debris) into the Fly and OK Tedi rivers, affecting 50,000 downstream inhabitants. So what is the true cost of the copper that is essential to most of our electronics? Surely the price that is paid by communities around the OK Tedi mine, and operations like it, must be weighed.  The OK Tedi mine is a great contributor to the regional economy and the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of New Guinea. Tax dollars from this business likely supports government, schools, and infrastructure. Do those benefits outweigh the costs of environmental degradation and access to clean water?

Bay area residents are well aquainted with a symbol of the port of Oakland, the larger than life cranes that (apparently) inspired a certain science fiction filmmaker (or did they?). In what ways do these steel creatures symbolize a connection between the bay area, what we buy, and the broader world that we inhabit?

Port of Oakland Cargo CranesPort of Oakland Cargo Cranes