Have you heard? A large number of farmers in Australia on prime (durum wheat) farmland are selling their land to Chinese coal-mining companies. It seems obvious that this is completely against the environment, climate-change efforts and common sense.
Even a primary school student can testify that fossil fuels are bound to be used up, and are the worst culprits in our current climate crisis. Coal, in particular, is extremely polluting and is only a short-term solution for meeting energy needs. China, with its huge industrial production, has an insatiable appetite for energy, regardless of the source.
To allow this to happen at the cost of our precious food-growing areas is short-sighted and will ultimately prove harmful to our collective interest. Sustainably managed topsoil and arable land are a more precious commodity than gold, diamonds and, yes, coal, to humankind as a whole.
China’s appetite for energy and natural resources is affecting us in the Yukon as well. Similar to coal mining endangering farmland in Australia, uncontrolled mining development in the Yukon’s boreal forest will be equally disturbing for environment and climate change.
In Australia, this plunder is happening on private lands and is somewhat excusable because under the current law, landowners have the right to use their land as they wish. However, in the Yukon, it is the government who is promoting the use of Crown land, and purposefully trying to attract Chinese mining companies to some of the very last untouched wilderness left on Earth.
The Yukon government’s Economic Development Minister has been to China several times so far, with our tax dollars, to attract Chinese mining companies to the Yukon. With great pride he speaks of Chinese companies purchasing Yukon mines.
Are we desperately needing Chinese companies for our very survival? Who will benefit from giant Chinese mining projects in the North? What’s the urgency? Now is the time for protecting, not accelerating the rate of environmental destruction. I am confident that the majority of Yukoners will not benefit from this and don’t want it.
Even if the result of these efforts brings to the Yukon vast wealth, will that make the Yukon a better place to live? Take the northern “boom towns” such as Fort McMurray and even Inuvik. The enormous economic activity around these towns brought not only money but crime, excessive use of alcohol and drugs and a housing crisis as well as a large transient population, which degrades and does not benefit the fibre of community. The environmental destruction, especially due to tarsands projects around Fort McMurray, is beyond description Ã even the relatively conservative National Geographic exposed that catastrophe extensively.
Furthermore, we are inviting companies from a country with a proven record of blatant environmental and human rights violations. Did you know that 80 per cent of Chinese rivers are hopelessly polluted, principally from their uncontrolled industrial growth? We need not go into the grim reality of sweatshops and exploited workers, corruption and repression of dissident voices.
However, let’s make the distinction between government/big business and the average Chinese citizen. I am thinking of, with gratitude, some of the Yukon’s long-time Chinese imports: our wonderful Chinese doctors Jim and Sue-May Zheng. They have contributed much to the health and well-being of Yukoners. God bless them.
Just as there are good people in the East equally as the West, big businesses allied with the governments can be equally destructive anywhere. Some of our own Canadian multinational mining companies are as irresponsible as their Chinese counterparts. In Central America particularly, Canadian mining giants have an infamous reputation for exterminating indigenous people (“clearing the lands” of undesirable peasants with hired death squads) and irreparably destroying the land and water. The local peoples’ centuries-old, self-sustaining way of life is gone forever.
For firsthand experience of what mining can do to the land, just take a trip to the Faro mine. How many hundreds of millions of tax dollars and how many decades will that cleanup take?
The majority of Yukoners don’t want to see their backcountry turned into an open-pit mine, or their forest, water, land and wildlife defiled by the interests of industry, be it Chinese or any other nation. The overwhelming support and success of the Peel Watershed protection is a clear reflection of what the people of the Yukon stand for. The same will applies to this case. Our territorial government needs to consult us, the everyday citizens, and perhaps hold a referendum on this very important matter, which affects us and the future generations.