A mining and exploration retrospect for March 29 to April 5, 2013
by Greg Klein
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Tibetan tragedy draws attention to the world’s deadliest mines
By Wednesday 66 bodies had been recovered from the Good Friday landslide that buried a tent camp for miners in Tibet. Seventeen more people were missing and presumed dead. Weather was to blame, according to a Tibetan government official cited by the New York Times. But the Economist quoted a Chinese government official who called it a “natural geological disaster.”
China has reportedly barred foreign media from the site, ordered its own media to limit their coverage to that of the state-run Xinhua news agency and censored social media. Apart from the carnage, the landslide poses a disaster for Chinese-Tibetan relations, as well as the image of Chinese mining and resource imperialism. The camp housed workers for the Gyama copper-polymetallic mine (a.k.a. the Jiama mine), which belongs to a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Gold International Resources TSX:CGG. The Vancouver-headquartered company’s “controlling shareholder is the China National Gold Group Corp, a state-owned enterprise and China’s largest gold producer,” reported the National Post.
Only two of the 83 dead are Tibetans. The rest came from distant parts of China. “Managers at big state-owned firms are usually Han Chinese, who in turn tend to regard their own ethnic kin as easier to control and communicate with than Tibetans,” stated the Economist. The magazine quoted a 2012 China Daily story saying that 35% of the mine’s workers were non-Han, which the state-run paper called “the highest percentage among mining companies in China.”
As Bloomberg reported, “China’s history of mining incidents includes the world’s worst safety record at its coal mines, which saw 1,973 people killed in accidents in 2011 and 2,433 the year before that, according to the State Administration of Work Safety.”
Several hours after the Tibetan landslide, a coal mine blast in northeastern China left at least 28 dead and 13 injured. A second explosion on Monday killed at least seven rescuers, said CCTV.com. “The mine is a state-owned colliery,” Xinhua added.
On March 14 NBC reported that a coal mine accident in southern China killed at least 21 people.
A Tuesday news release from China Gold International Resources stated its Tibetan mine, about 10 kilometres from “the geological disaster site,” was not damaged. Production continues.
Will private equity lead investors back to mining?
“The only people who want to lend to this industry right now—and a lot of executives call them the mafia of the mining industry—are the royalty trusts, and they really extract a lot.” In an Equedia interview posted on Wednesday, Kenneth Hoffman of Bloomberg Industries Global Metals and Mining Research said private equity could be the miners’ salvation. And the miners are clamouring for it.
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