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Stories from the Guardian of the Santa Ritas: John Wakefield

Our storytelling series featuring the Guardians of the Santa Ritas continues with a feature of John Wakefield, a geologist turned activist.


Reflections on mining from a former exploration geologist

Imagine the sense of pride experienced by a young geologist—a member of an exploration team in the Kalahari desert of Botswana. Our collective endeavors led to the discovery of a substantial nickel-copper deposit. This held immense promise for fostering economic development in an underdeveloped African nation.

Fast-forward six decades, and my dismay is palpable. The residents of the Selebi-Phikwe mine area now endure chronic chest pains, persistent coughing, headaches, and serious respiratory issues. These afflictions stem from toxic fumes, mineral particles, and silica dust generated during mining operations.

As an exploration geologist with three decades of experience, I draw a sobering conclusion: mining, while essential for progress, is inherently invasive. It consumes vast quantities of precious water, pollutes both air and water supplies, and adversely affects wildlife and tourism.

My encounters with major mining corporations reveal disconcerting truths: promises are often compromised in the relentless pursuit of profits. Corners are cut, regulations skirted, and fines paid rather than compliance upheld. And when copper prices plummet, and the mine’s economic viability wanes, the fiscally responsible solution is to declare bankruptcy, retreat to Canada and leave behind a daunting cleanup task.

As stewards of our planet we must tread carefully to ensure that prosperity does not come at the cost of irreversible harm.

-John Wakefield

Read more from John regarding the Copper World Project.

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