Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mind the roof top

If current geological estimations are any indication, there are 80 million tonnes of copper, 2,000 tonnes of gold and 30 million tonnes of lead and zinc ex tractable from the Tibetan plateau. The cumulative value of recoverable metals is worth US$ 420 billion. To imagine that the Chinese would have ripped apart the rooftop to the world in search of the embedded fortune is far from true because, as things stand, the region is cold, its air is perilously thin, its people are unwelcoming and it is poor in infrastructure. 

But all this is to going to change as China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, ending in 2015, calls for massive investment in copper, gold, silver, chromium and molybdenum mining in the region. With an aim to achieve 30 per cent self-sufficiency in copper production by the end of the plan period, a state-driven agglomeration of the entire Chinese copper industry will be sufficiently capitalized to finance major expansions in Tibet, which is fast becoming China’s new copper production base. The Tibetan plateau - almost one-sixtieth of the entire global landscape – will be the object for intensive and potentially devastating mining and extraction projects in the years ahead. The signs are ominous!

Without doubt, Gabriel Lafitte has profound knowledge about the landscape, its people and their cultural resistance to the winds of change aimed at destroying the inner strengths of the Tibetans, cultivated in solitude in the mountains. Given the ecological fragility of the region, mining activities in the watersheds of major rivers, most of which are transboundary, will have serious impact on hundreds of millions of people downstream in South and South East Asia. China’s track record on environmental concerns evokes little confidence, though. 

Spoiling Tibet is a timely warning to the world on China’s hunger for mineral wealth of Tibet, and the unscrupulous manner in which this wealth will get extracted. In the Chinese growth agenda the political economy of mining plays a major role, one that will silence the feeble voices of resistance by increasing the non-Tibetan population in the region through mass tourism. But given its global implications, should the world permit unilateral desecration of the roof top!...Link

Spoiling Tibet 
by Gabriel Lafitte 
Zed Books, UK 
Extent: 204, Price: $29.95

This book review has also appeared on Anthen EnviroExperts Reviews, moderated by Prof. Larry Susskind of MIT.

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