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The Missing Ethics of Mining

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 27.1 (Spring 2013)

February 14, 2013

CREDIT: franco (CC)

In the middle of the 1980s the pastoralists of Essakane, Burkina Faso, were dying. Drought gripped the drylands of West Africa, crippling peoples' seminomadic livelihoods of millet farming and goat herding. When rain finally returned after three years, the earth had hardened like concrete and water skimmed across the floodplain, barely penetrating the surface. Without arable land the people faced famine—until they discovered gold. Instead of a disaster area, Essakane transformed into a commercial oasis: a mining town of 10,000 miners and traders where gold is processed and exchanged for food, cloth, spices, and animals.

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