Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry
December 2009

Vol. 14, No. 51 Week of December 20, 2009

Mining News: We’ve stepped through the looking glass

Climate change debate accelerates society’s departure from using deductive reasoning, logic; mushrooming litigation fuels trend

J. P. Tangen

For Mining News

As I age up, the world does appear to be, as Alice would say, curiouser and curiouser. I have long been bemused by the obvious observation that logic and reason have little to do with how humanity conducts itself. In Philosophy 101 we all learned that before the Age of Enlightenment, deductive logic was woefully out of fashion and that inductive logic was the only tool for solving problems. In other words, if you don’t know – guess and attribute your answer to higher authority.

Many of us thought that with the evolution into the 20th Century, deductive logic was going to hold sway. It almost happened. We got to the moon, we all outfitted ourselves with personal computers and cell phones, and we achieved broad social equality for large classes of repressed people.

But the tide is ebbing. The climate change conversation is symptomatic of our fall from grace. It is not an isolated symptom, but elemental of a larger whole. I believe everyone acknowledges that climates change all the time. I suspect that most people if asked would concede that various varieties of soft and fuzzy critters, not to mention plants and insects, adapt or relocate in the face of climate variations. But assuming that everything that is said is true, so what? Like the other flora and fauna, most people are quite capable of re-arranging their lives to meet varying conditions, especially with regard to fundamentals.

For most of my professional career, I have had to deal with scientists and engineers. Those who live by the dictum that “if you understood the facts as I understand the facts, you would come to the same conclusion that I have come to” tolerate but cannot quite understand the multitudes whose minds are already made up and who are not willing to be confused by the facts.

This dichotomy manifests itself in every sector. Journalists, duty bound to expose the truth, limit it to their own truths. Jurists invariably find themselves deciding matters by deciding on the answer and bolstering the conclusion with selective facts. Statesmen openly choose their preferred result over their sworn duty.

With an economic world plummeting toward implosion, our leaders seem committed to exacerbate disaster by bulking up the load. It is not difficult to understand why people would want to worry over poverty or starvation or polluted air or water or a climate too hot or perhaps too cold for comfort. What is curiouser about it all is that virtually no one seems to address these problems with lineal analysis. Pitifully, Al Gore and the folks at Hadley so politicized science and deductive reason that these concepts may never recover.

With a liberal majority in the Congress and a liberal leader in the White House, it is no surprise that the “Barbarians” are now also at the courthouse door. The Alaska Miners Association, within the past several weeks, had found itself a reluctant participant in three, now pending, lawsuits that threaten our domestic mining industry.

The first such case involves the constitutionality (Alaska Constitution) of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources’ practice of issuing Miscellaneous Land Use Permits and Temporary Water Use Permits for mineral exploration without a public hearing. AMA could not conceivably stand aside while the future availability of these necessary permits is challenged.

The second case – in the federal district court in Washington D. C. – is an attempt to resurrect two opinions issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior Solicitor, and penned by John Leshy during the Babbitt interregnum. One opinion deals with surface use of public land in support of ongoing exploration activities and the other with the availability of a sufficient number of mill sites to afford miners adequate surface space to beneficiate (process) mined materials.

The third case, pending before the Tenth Circuit (Court of Appeals), deals with an ongoing challenge to the Clinton Era Roadless Rule declared in 2001 to be in violation of the National Environmental Policy but still being litigated nearly a decade later.

In each of these cases, the saboteurs are spreading their time and energy athwart the path of domestic resource development to achieve uncertain and hardly desirable objectives. Stifling contemporary mining serves no positive public purpose. America needs better mines, not fewer mines. As has been restated incessantly, mining, like oil and gas recovery, like farming and even like fishing, expands the economic pie ensuring that for the burgeoning global population there is enough to go around. Most of the logically impaired don’t conclude by demanding a cooler world or fewer material appliances. Instead, they fly to Copenhagen in the same fuel-guzzling aircraft the rest of us travel in, only to pontificate about an unachievable world vision to be magically obtained without pain or cost.

It is no surprise that litigation is blooming like mushrooms on a soggy lot. More will inevitably follow as result-oriented jurists make new law. Perhaps, one day reason will once again take root. But for now, it appears that we are in for a long slide down a dark rabbit hole.

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