Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Good evening from the suburban boondocks south of Manila!
It’s playing Latin music in my multimedia at home right now. As I play the danceable tunes by Buena Vista Social Club, my eyes are focused on the news “Some Chile miners showing mental crack” in the world news of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug. 29, 2010).
Let me then dedicate this piece to the task of mining as a way to honor the miners of the world. Honoring them means that eventually the human miners will retire from the job, with robots taking over those rather hazardous tasks related to mineral extraction.
To quote the report’s inception, “Five of the miners trapped underground in Chile for months to come are struggling psychologically, officials said on Friday, as engineers prepared to start drilling an escape shaft.”
The news coming from Copiaco, Chile further heralded, “While the rest of the 33 trapped miners were happy to take part in a video to show families they were bearing up despite what has so far been a three-week ordeal, the smaller group refused and were exhibiting signs of depression.” [AFP Report]
Well, what else can we expect from toiling workers trapped deep down underground, with hardly much hope for coming back to the planet’s surface till after months of hard rescue operations to come. Even a person who doesn’t suffer from manic-depressive disorder can crack up and manifest depression.
If we go back to the times of the Roman republic, and maybe backtrack 2,000 years earlier than Rome, we can review their mining practices then. Mind you, contrast our mining extraction today with those of ancient times, and you just might have the shock of your life to find out that there isn’t much contrast really.
The technology of extracting minerals down underground remains to be dependent on human or anthropocentric labor for thousands of years now. Not even the impressive engineering works to dig the minerals from rocks down under can impress me much at all, they remain the same technology: human-driven extraction.
While the miners of antiquity were slaves of the imperial deus ex machina, today’s miners are cogs of the business empires’ deus ex machina. Marginal or small-scale miners, like the ones we have in the boondocks of northern and southern tips of the Philippines, are all the more risk-prone to the appalling extraction conditions and technology as they can be buried anytime by mining-related calamities without healthcare or ‘life plan’ to compensate them.
A cursory examination of the Chilean miners’ condition allows this analyst to facilely forecast that at least 1/3 of them (around 2 persons) will be in advanced form of depression and nervous breakdown as soon as the rescue operators reach them. Sad!
That’s how human labor is treated by corporate capital since the birth of the money economy anyway: mere objects worth throwing away if they die during production operations. Miners are among the most classic cases of how capital treats human labor as cheap dirty eater stuff.
If indeed corporate capital—and its cultural deodorant ‘corporate social responsibility—has the sanguine love for human miners, it should strive pronto to innovate on robotics that can do the work for the miners. Retire all the miners of today pronto, compensate them for social security and healthcare, and then gradually employ the robot miners.
Only token labor—comprising of technicians and engineers—are needed to operate robotics-driven mining. Robots won’t suffer from depression in case of mishaps, they won’t require healthcare and social security but rather maintenance expenditures appropriate and sufficient for their upkeep.
Retired miners can then afford to exhibit more productive engagements such as to serve as eco-tourist guides for students and visitors who may wish to examine former open-pit mines that have been re-greened with lush vegetation. They can likewise do some tour guide tasks for mine visits that would be as less risk-prone as their previous jobs.
Meantime, let me share my own lines of solidarity to all those suffering miners in Chile and the rest of the planet. May they find light at the end of the tunnel of oligarchic pseudo-slavery down shafts and pits, and tell their narratives to the planet as part of our human history heritage.
[Philippines, 10 September 2010]
[See: IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com,
BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com, ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com,