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  1. #1

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    Mining and photography

    All of the metals we use come from mining at some point. Obviously (is it obvious?) photographers use a very small portion of all the metals mined today, but nevertheless it all comes from mining. We've all read about mining disasters that have become environmental nightmares. There are examples all over the US of A and probably the world. Whats done is done, and we cant change the past. But can a precious metal photographer oppose NEW mining of precious metals, either in specific instances or as a general rule, without being a hypocrite?

    Is there a way in the future that we (photographers and the metal-photographic industry) can ensure that the metals used in our art-craft come from recycled or other environmentally responsible sources? Or do we have to accept that new and potentially disastrous mines will need to be developed to keep us in supply? Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems that it should be possible to base our relatively small useage on something(s) other than NEW extraction of metals. Is there already enough silver and platinum on the earth's surface to keep us happy for many years to come, without having to dig for more?

    Serious, thoughtful and hopefully informed replies only please. I'd like to keep this out of the soapbox, if there still is one.


    Wayne

  2. #2
    JBrunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
    All of the metals we use come from mining at some point. Obviously (is it obvious?) photographers use a very small portion of all the metals mined today, but nevertheless it all comes from mining. We've all read about mining disasters that have become environmental nightmares. There are examples all over the US of A and probably the world. Whats done is done, and we cant change the past. But can a precious metal photographer oppose NEW mining of precious metals, either in specific instances or as a general rule, without being a hypocrite?

    Is there a way in the future that we (photographers and the metal-photographic industry) can ensure that the metals used in our art-craft come from recycled or other environmentally responsible sources? Or do we have to accept that new and potentially disastrous mines will need to be developed to keep us in supply? Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems that it should be possible to base our relatively small useage on something(s) other than NEW extraction of metals. Is there already enough silver and platinum on the earth's surface to keep us happy for many years to come, without having to dig for more?

    Serious, thoughtful and hopefully informed replies only please. I'd like to keep this out of the soapbox, if there still is one.


    Wayne
    I don't think being a consumer of something in any way disqualifies one from being an advocate of responsibility regarding the procurement of the materials for that product, but rather quite the opposite.

    Regarding metals mining, its pretty hard to start a new mining operation these days. Finding undiscovered ore loads is only the beggining of the problem for a mining enterprise. The greatest problems today are the legacy mines, with their left over tailings.

    The largest problems after that is probably coal mining- not because of the mining practices, but because the product of coal mining is burned, and results in pollution.

    When I look out over dead horse point here in Utah, and am denied the limitless view of my youth because of the unfiltered pollution of massive coal burning in China, and it shows that we as a species, and stewards of our nest, have a long way to go.

    Now before anybody gets a twitter and heads us to the SB, the previous paragraph is simply a statement of fact, that has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. Its not anti Chinese to observe that the newly visible pollution in the southwestern US has been proven as originating from coal burning in China.

    Hopefully the US and other countries can work with China and other countries with unrestricted coal burning to modernize the polluting plants, but I won't hold my breath.

    The southern Utah air quality problem isn't alone, and the idiocy is certainly not restriced in any way to asia. I bring it up because it is something observable in my neck of the woods. Insert your observation where appropriate.

    Twenty miles from me is a certain copper mine. Over the last hundred years or so, a mountain has been turned into a correspondingly deep hole in the ground. To look in the mine is to stand at the abyss of J's post. The operation is on such a scale that it is literally mind boggling. But I use wire everyday- miles of copper wire underlay my every activity. The mine doesn't do quite as well as years past, not because the ore isn't as rich but because the operation is properly required to meet certain enviromental safety standards. It has become cheaper to wreck some region in say- South America.

    Almost every modern thing you use contains copper in some form. Do we stipulate that our cars, houses, appliances, TV's, stereos, cameras, and electronic devices, etc etc. contain only copper from the "enviromentally responsible" mines like this one in Utah?

    Nope. I couldn't if I wanted to.

    The monkey does what serves the monkey. Can't let go of that cookie to get the hand out of the jar. And so it goes.
    Last edited by JBrunner; 03-08-2007 at 01:37 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  3. #3
    copake_ham's Avatar
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    As you note, the tiny demand that photographers create in the overall metals market is barely perceptible (if at all). So I, for one, am not bothered by whether that small amount of metal I consume as a photographer originates from new or recycled sources. Simply put, our cumulative demand is too small to matter either way.

  4. #4
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    deleted by poster.
    Last edited by jimgalli; 03-08-2007 at 07:53 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep..to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot, 1949

    http://tonopahpictures.0catch.com

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by copake_ham View Post
    As you note, the tiny demand that photographers create in the overall metals market is barely perceptible (if at all). So I, for one, am not bothered by whether that small amount of metal I consume as a photographer originates from new or recycled sources. Simply put, our cumulative demand is too small to matter either way.
    So if some conglomerate wanted to open a new sulfide mine, would you support it, since it doesnt matter to you where your metals come from?

    I'm not trying to tell you what to think, but I couldnt support it. And yet I cant deny that thats where my silver may be coming from. It doesnt matter to me thats its a small amount. If my demand is contributing to the development of new mines, even in a small way, I'm partly responsible for that. I'm not going to deny that. I'd love to, but I cant deny it without being "in denial".

    Even the best and cleanest of mines is highly destructive. I live near an area that is a mining moonscape for miles and miles and miles. I'm not comfortable with helping create new areas like that, it goes against everything I value.

    So the options as I see them

    1) ignore my discomfort, pretend I'm not partly responsible even though I clearly am
    2) quit photography
    3) try to find better ways of doing things that help ensure I'm not contributing to new problems/disasters

    Now #1 and 2 dont have much appeal to me, so I'm hoping #3 might have some potential. I dont know what I can do as an individual outside of coating all my own film and paper with recycled metals. That sounds like a lot of work though. It would be nice, IMO, if we could somehow get the photographic industry to take an interest in doing this on a commercial scale.
    I would be willing to pay more for products that I knew were made from recycled metals. Would anyone else?


    I'm just thinking out loud and seeing where this might lead...

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by copake_ham View Post
    As you note, the tiny demand that photographers create in the overall metals market is barely perceptible (if at all).
    According to these supply & demand figures from the Silver Institute (a trade org), photography is a shrinking but still quite perceptible segment of the silver market. At least in 2005. I would assume though that these figures include all photographic products, whether for medical, technical, etc. usage.

    http://www.silverinstitute.org/supply/index.php#demand

  7. #7
    copake_ham's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
    So if some conglomerate wanted to open a new sulfide mine, would you support it, since it doesnt matter to you where your metals come from?

    I'm not trying to tell you what to think, but I couldnt support it. And yet I cant deny that thats where my silver may be coming from. It doesnt matter to me thats its a small amount. If my demand is contributing to the development of new mines, even in a small way, I'm partly responsible for that. I'm not going to deny that. I'd love to, but I cant deny it without being "in denial".

    Even the best and cleanest of mines is highly destructive. I live near an area that is a mining moonscape for miles and miles and miles. I'm not comfortable with helping create new areas like that, it goes against everything I value.

    So the options as I see them

    1) ignore my discomfort, pretend I'm not partly responsible even though I clearly am
    2) quit photography
    3) try to find better ways of doing things that help ensure I'm not contributing to new problems/disasters

    Now #1 and 2 dont have much appeal to me, so I'm hoping #3 might have some potential. I dont know what I can do as an individual outside of coating all my own film and paper with recycled metals. That sounds like a lot of work though. It would be nice, IMO, if we could somehow get the photographic industry to take an interest in doing this on a commercial scale.
    I would be willing to pay more for products that I knew were made from recycled metals. Would anyone else?


    I'm just thinking out loud and seeing where this might lead...

    My goodness, how you rush to hyperbole!

    Simply put, I am a film photographer. I am already beleagured and beset by the rush to digital and the declining usage of film. So I really have no desire to don a hairshirt over the amount of metals the film market uses in relation to the total demand for various metals.

    If you are indeed burdened and feel guilt over all of then you should consider migrating to digis. Then you can consider the disposal problems to the environment of such gear upon its inevitable obselesence.

    As a matter of fact, I am very environmentally aware but old enough to have moved beyond absolutes. And keep in mind that even Al Gore had to use film to make "An Inconvenient Truth".

    And now I will end further posting to this thread. Ciao.

  8. #8
    JBrunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
    E1) ignore my discomfort, pretend I'm not partly responsible even though I clearly am
    2) quit photography
    3) try to find better ways of doing things that help ensure I'm not contributing to new problems/disasters
    At this point #3 is a no brainer.

    Quiting photography over silver mining? Well, it seems like your kind of picking a minor thing that will make little difference. Driving a more economical car, purchasing things that have less packaging, recycling, etc all make actual positive measurable impacts on a local level. In regard to Georges statement above, D**** is hardly a green pursuit, when one considers the amount of metals and other nasties encased in those slick plastic cases that are bound for the landfill in a few years.
    Silver will be mined regardless of photography. As will any other metal. The proper course is to turn your fixer in to have the silver reclaimed. If you do that, your net impact is pretty near zero.

  9. #9

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    Those are some interesting stats Moopheus. I'm a bit surprised by photography using 10 million pounds of silver. Thats a lot higher than I would have guessed. Its also interesting that scrap silver exceeds the demand for photographic silver.

    In theory at least, it could supply 100% of our needs, especially as demand declines further.

    J, the reason I brought it up is because there ARE new mines being explored in my area every day. Some of these would be truly new, if approved, while others would be using sulfide mining to work over previously mined areas.

    Wayne

  10. #10
    JBrunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
    Those are some interesting stats Moopheus. I'm a bit surprised by photography using 10 million pounds of silver. Thats a lot higher than I would have guessed. Its also interesting that scrap silver exceeds the demand for photographic silver.

    In theory at least, it could supply 100% of our needs, especially as demand declines further.

    J, the reason I brought it up is because there ARE new mines being explored in my area every day. Some of these would be truly new, if approved, while others would be using sulfide mining to work over previously mined areas.

    Wayne
    Rather than giving up photography which is basically symbolic, and largly meaningless to the mining industry, it may be far more satisfying to get involved in in the organizations in your area that are concerned and tasked with regulating and overseeing the mining industry. Add your voice to the desire that it be done right, if done at all. Just my 2 cents.

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