MAC: Mines and Communities


Published by MAC on 2001-05-01

* Footnote: The simplistic "payoff", between mining and industrial activity which inevitably increases global carbon dioxide loads - and using plantations as carbon absorbers, has recently been challenged by several authorities. The World Watch Institute in Washington DC points out that, though newly-planted or "young" forests appear to be more effective "sinks" than old-growth trees, the total amount of stored carbon in older, natural, forests is usually greater because of the larger trees and richer soils [World Watch Institute quoted in Financial Times special supplement on "World Energy and Energy Efficiency" April 15 1999]. The US journal Science last October suggested that, despite the fact that US trees alone may currently be sucking up almost all the world's carbon dioxide, these comprise comparatively young plantations (secondary growth), which - when mature - may become net emitters of CO2. As the world gets warmer, so the ability of trees to absorb carbon may suffer dramatically. Research by Edinburgh's NERC Institute of Terrestrial Ecology suggests that, after 2050, global vegetation and soil could be releasing around two billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere - more than two thirds that predicted to be emitted by the world's coal industry over the next 15 years [Financial Times special supplement, April 15 1999].

[Note: My thanks to JATAM (and in particular Dedi and Ramli) for their assistance in bringing me to Sangatta and to local Kutai people for taking me around the minesite. Thanks also to PLASMA for its unfailing hospitality, to Down to Earth (Liz and Carolyn) for providing invaluable background information and to my colleagues in Minewatch Asia-Pacific for their continued support.]

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