by Kim Kelly



I recently had an over-a-cuppa conversation with someone in the city that went something like this:

‘So what does your husband do?’

‘He works in mineral exploration, making maps, mostly,’ I said.

‘Oh – is that like mining?’ She lowered her voice and glanced sideways at me, suspiciously.

‘It’s information the mining industry uses,’ I began to explain, ‘to find out what’s in the groun-‘

‘Oh!’ she squeaked with horror, her worst suspicions realised. ‘There’s too much mining going on in the world as it is.’

I’ve had this kind of conversation a few times before and, this time, suppressing a heavy sigh at intractable condemnation, I left it there and changed the subject.

But most often, what I’d like to say is this:

Mining is more than Gina and Clive and ripping coal and iron ore out of pristine wilderness; it’s more than gas and oil and the money-grubbing disgrace that is fracking. Mining is just as much gold, copper, tin, gravel, sand, sandstone, clay, opals and diamonds. Even that mystical crystal you have by your bedside is got from mining. Some dude dug it up for you.

Now, close your eyes for a moment and imagine a world without any mining at all. Really imagine it. You would have no laptop, no tablet or phone. No electricity, with no wire to conduct it anywhere. No surgical impliments, no braces for teeth, no pins to fix broken bones; no needles to sew pretty frocks with. No cars. No trains. No roads. No sparkly jewellery. No fine Meissen porcelain teacups, no ceramics at all. No kettle. No pots and pans. No tinned baked beans. No glasses – drinking receptacles or seeing spectacles. No paint. No pencils or pens. No chalk. No bricks. No concrete. No garden pavers or swimming pools. Or diving towers. No wells or bores for inland water. No ships or planes. No Sydney Harbour Bridge. No radio. No x-rays. No weird vases to buy in op shops. That favourite ornament your grandmother gave you, of the little dog with the wonky face and chipped ear – it doesn’t exist.

No dude to dig up stuff to make your world. No darling husband of mine coming home to tell me with odd but endearing enthusiasm that he’s been working on an interesting cross section of a quartzite deposit. No husband of mine at all, actually, as he’s presently still on kidney dialysis as we await our date for transplant, and there’d be no dialysis machine to be had without mining. No nails for his coffin, either.

I hate dirty coal-powered yuckness and smogness as much as all sensible people do. I’m ashamed of our government’s repeal of our carbon legislation; angry about it. I love recycling, repurposing and renewables – our future depends on getting ourselves clever, and quickly, with these. I also have a bit of a whackball theory that the Earth itself in all its vast rockness is a bit more alive than we ever give it credit for. But I can’t imagine a world without mining. It would be a dark, cold world – not even an ochre painting on the cave wall. Not a nice cup of tea to be had anywhere. Not a world I would want to live in, really. Unless I was a bird. Or a tree. Or maybe a pebble…