By Hector Cerda
August 2012 edition of the Community Alliance newspaper
The Peace and Dignity Journeys runners will arrive in Fresno for the fourth time in 16 years on Aug. 14. They are on their way from Chickaloon, Alaska, to Tikal, Guatemala. Peace and Dignity Journeys began in 1992 led by international indigenous leaders from North, Central and South America to reject the “discovery” of the Americas. Most important, this began a process across the hemisphere to acknowledge indigenous people who still hold onto sacred knowledge and wisdom.
The 2012 run is dedicated to the promotion and preservation of safe, clean water for all people. Since the run began on May 1, runners involved with the Peace and Dignity Journeys have heard accounts of many communities in Alaska, Canada and the United States struggling with corporations and governmental entities to address water issues.
One example is the community of Chickaloon. Many years ago, Chief Gary Harrison and other community members wanted to revive the salmon in the Chickaloon River. This was done by constructing a building next to the river and creating a temporary hatching station for the salmon eggs to grow large enough to be released back into the river. This gave birth to a stable population of salmon that would return each year and spawn again—providing food for the local community. For hundreds of communities in the north, salmon are the lifeblood of culture, song, dance and gatherings.
However, Chickaloon and its surrounding communities have something evil lurking upon them. There is an open pit mine, known as the Wishbone Hill Coal Mine, which is being forced on the residents of Alaska—truly and completely forced. The plans of the Wishbone Hill Coal Mine are simple and do not take the residents of Alaska into account. The plan: Take heavy machinery, crack open the surface of the earth and dig a huge hole in the ground for coal. The next step is to take the coal and ship it to Japan so that they can burn it to fuel their toys, electronics, bright dazzling city lights and everything else that makes them feel happy and not worry about the poison that was left behind in Chickaloon’s water and land.
Some may think there is an environmentally friendly way to have “clean coal.” If one thinks this is true, that person must ask if she/he is losing his/her soul. There is no such thing as clean coal. Those who advocate for clean coal must have never been to Chickaloon—or any other mine for that matter.
The company that wishes to poison the earth in Alaska with the Wishbone Hill Coal Mine is Usibelli, a U.S.-based mining company. Corporate companies do not care about the health, food or water of the Chickaloon people—or anyone else’s for that matter. They go to the Alaskan residents pretending to be friendly and good neighbors, offering to enhance the local economy with jobs. It is a smokescreen.
If the Wishbone Hill Coal Mine is completed, it will poison the waters that salmon use to regenerate and the hard work of the Chickaloon community will be destroyed. The most powerful evidence of negligence that exists by companies is Usibelli’s willingness to operate and continue its work without legal permits.
Another community facing critical issues with water protection is the village of Iskut. Iskut community members are fighting a greedy corporation called Imperial Metals, which is based in Canada, and its Red Chris Mine “poison” project is proposed to take about 1.218 billion tonnes of copper, gold and silver. Imperial Metals’ financial report for 2011 boasts that it made net income of $48.7 million in 2011.
This is where this company focuses its efforts. Their action and energy is spent on calculating how much money it will make per year, by the amount of tonnes (1 tonne = 1,000 kg) of metals it can dig out of the ground, which does not include the tonnes of dirt rock and gravel it will tear out of the earth to get to it. In addition, the water it will use to wash and clean the metals is dumped into the watersheds that surround Iskut.
A company such as Imperial Metals comes in and promises riches and wealth and great things, but in reality, it is only replicating the same lies as Usibelli.
Also in the 2011 Imperial Metals annual report, J. Brian Kynoch’s President’s Message shows how much success and money the company has made during the year. His message includes the following comment:
The mill throughput was maintained near the 2010 record level of 21,629 tonnes per day…At the Red Chris property, 102 shallow reconnaissance drill holes and 14 diamond drill holes totalling 16,500 metres were completed in 2011.
These are merely smokescreen words, sugarcoated phrases in order to refrain from telling the truth. The actual translation of these words results in the fact that this corporation is tearing down mountains, clear-cutting trees, poisoning communities and literally destroying precious resources. Toward the end of the message, Kynoch writes that “these operations and developments would not have been possible without the efforts and support of our many employees, suppliers and stakeholders.”
Ultimately, stakeholders are the key persons for such evildoing in our communities. They invest and put their money toward these projects and expect a higher return each year for their money being put at stake, thus the term stakeholders. Stakeholders are who allow a corporation to function.
In regard to Iskut and other communities that do not want mining to poison their community, stakeholders are guilty of putting their money into such investments and funding the destruction and contamination of the land and water. How are these stakeholders focusing their energy? Are they focused on destroying the environment? How does the reader think the people of Iskut are focusing their energy? Should communities like Iskut have their water poisoned and their way of life destroyed so that a small group of stakeholders can get rich?
If you are a Fresno County resident, Jesse Morrow Mountain and the Cemex aggregate mine is a related story. The local Choinumni Indian tribe and the Friends of Jesse Morrow Mountain have been struggling to get Cemex and the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to make ethical decisions and refrain from implementing the Cemex mine proposal.
Should the Board of Supervisors allow such a project to contaminate the air and water in our community and replicate the same “rape and pillage” approach brought onto this continent since the arrival of Columbus? This mine is similar to the accounts that Peace and Dignity runners are seeing across the continent. It is up to the people of all the mentioned communities in this article to hold their elected officials and those corporate stakeholders accountable for how they invest their time, energy and money.
If you would like to learn more about the Peace and Dignity Journeys run or participate in the gathering in Fresno, the runners will arrive at Radio Park on Aug. 14 at 5 p.m., or visit www.peaceanddignityjouneys.com.
Hector Cerda is an organizer and resident of Fresno who is currently on the Peace and Dignity Journey en route from Alaska. Follow his blog at http://pdj2012.blogspot.com.