An advertisement in this fine newspaper has been promoting an upcoming introduction to mining course.
This two day course is for anyone who would like to gain a better understanding of mineral exploration and mining.
The advertisement has the same slogan as the Yukon Mine Training Organization, the group that is hosting the course.
The slogan is “real jobs, real futures.”
While having nothing against anyone gaining a better understanding of mining and exploration this columnist takes great offence against the notion that only mining can provide proper jobs and a positive future.
This mindset is indicative of the attitude of various government institutions, educational facilities, business organizations and certain politicians that only mining can provide economic advancement, individual job security and a path to a glorious and golden future.
It is all ideological nonsense.
Incidentally, it spans the left, centre and right of the political spectrum.
Radical trade unionists are just as enamoured of mining jobs as the most conservative free-market capitalist.
The concept of mining as real work implies that other occupations are not as important or perhaps even artificial.
Those who work in health care, education, agriculture, tourism and all other occupations that are not mining are somehow engaged in less important activities.
This is the height of arrogance.
There are those who perceive all work in having some nobility to it, no matter what the occupation.
In today’s modern society there are all sorts of career opportunities and paths available and just because ripping the land apart for metal is one such path does not make it the most important.
It is highly debatable that mining is providing the Yukon with an environmentally and fiscally sustainable future.
There isn’t enough room to list the entire burden mining imposes upon the Yukon but let us skim the surface.
Hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on cleaning up abandoned sites such as Faro, Clinton Creek and Mt. Nansen.
Tens of millions of dollars are spent on infrastructure projects to support the mining industry.
This includes the outrageously expensive Mayo B hydro project, $140 million to provide only five megawatts, or the proposed upgrade of the North Canol highway, rumoured to be in the range of $70 million spent over five years.
Given the level of subsidy the mines get it is debatable whether they would ever exist without public fiscal support.
This says a lot about the type of jobs mining provides.
It means they are just as fiscally dependant upon the taxpayer as any doctor, teacher or bureaucrat.
To add insult to injury mining in the Yukon does not provide much in the way of royalties to enrich government coffers.
The Yukon royalty regime on placer mining is one of the biggest jokes going.
The royalty is two and a half per cent of the price of gold, but the price of gold has been fixed at $15 (in United States dollars) an ounce.
That is not a typographical error.
The price for calculating the two and a half per cent royalty on placer gold is fifteen dollars an ounce.
At the time of writing this column the real price of gold was over $1,000 an ounce.
A placer miner might be doing a real job, but they are paying the ultimate fantasy of a royalty rate.
That being said, the concept of introducing individuals to the mining industry through a two-day course is a good idea.
It will hopefully show that there are a multitude of professions within the field.
Mining requires heavy equipment operators, welders, cooks, first aid attendants, human resource administrators and environmental monitoring technicians.
These are all good jobs, even perhaps real jobs.
But to imply that because they are mining jobs makes them somehow better than those who choose to work as equipment operators, welders, cooks etc. in fields other than mining is wrong.
The Introduction to Mineral Exploration and Mining course is free but pre-registration is required.
More information about it is posted on the website www.yukonminetraining.com.
Who knows, perhaps this humble columnist will register and be in attendance.
He will be the one sticking up posters in the washroom with a slightly different mine oriented slogan.
“Don’t flush. Be like the mining industry and let someone else clean up the mess.”
Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.