Big Mining Machines

The Long Now foundation took a field trip recently. The pictures are cool, as is the irony that they went to a trade show held once every four years. Miners have a time scale closer to the Long Now’s.

What does it mean that mining is a slowly changing industry? The economics of extractive industries push them that direction (capital investment is only warranted by a positive outlook in the commodity price). But workplace safety, which is a special case of universal human rights, demands that industries take advantage of the best available technology as fast as possible. This is an interesting story of the tension between capitalism and social welfare. If a mining regulator pushes an industry too much it will give up and move elsewhere. And apparently the mining industry is especially prone to regulatory capture an euphemism for corruption I especially like (like as in hate; in newspeak up is down, enslaved is free and corruption is regulatory capture).

I especially liked the observation by the Long Now guys that robotic technologies were notably absent from the mining technology convention. Something’s not working right here, either the regulation or the financial incentives for acting humanely towards your workers, or more likely both (as they are densely interrelated).

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