The Glitter Of Gold

In the summer of 1993 Tall Meg and I drove from LA to New York in her 1966 Studebaker Lark. Tall Meg was in love with a man in New York and I was returning to no one. She was in a hurry, but had never made the cross-country trip, so we detoured from the Interstate and headed into the desert. The first night I erred thinking that there were plenty of motel rooms in Monument Valley in Arizona. We arrived at dusk to discover the two motels were sold out. That evening Tall Meg and I crashed in the car parked off the road leading to Colorado. Both of us were too tired to travel any farther.

“At least the seats fold down.” The night was lit by the cosmos. Kerouac and Cassidy might have traveled down this road.

“Don’t say anything.” Tall Meg was pissed at me. It was cold in the high plains. Cars passed every few minutes. I stepped outside and stared at the billions of stars clustered in the sky. I couldn’t recollect ever having seen so many. Tall Meg joined me.

“A lot of stars.” She was still angry at me, but her eyes shined with the heaven.

In the morning we continued on our way. People were happy to see her car.

“What is it?” Most asked at the car stations. Tall Meg told them everything about her car. They waved good-bye and we entered the Rockies, stopping the night at a small hotel in Leadville, the highest city in the USA. We struggled to sleep in the high altitude. My lungs struggled to get my breath. Both of us woke at dawn. The road was downhill from Leadville. By the end of the day we would be in the plains. I stopped at a mountain stream that would become the Arkansas River and thought about swimming until Tall Meg pointing out that the crystal water which would was laden with the poisonous aftermath of gold mine owned by the Newmont Corporation.

“It’s dead.”

“And been dead for a long time.”

Tall Meg and I left the river and I have thought about that sign on the Arkansas since then.

There were few clear streams left in America and the mining entity known as Newmont has moved much of its operations overseas. Last week the Peru government yielded to demands of local residents to stop the development of a massive gold pit in the Cajamarca region some 3700 meters above sea level. Residents had set up roadblocks to prevent any attempt by Newmont to drain glacier-fed lakes to support their mining operation. Newmont had proposed another set of negotiations, dangling the prospect of jobs before the locals. Such promises have been before to the people in Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Ghana and Peru with success, for Newmont produced 5.4 million ounces of gold last year. With gold at an all-time high Newmont is the most successful gold mining operation in the world, however the locals living in the shadow of their mines have complained about deadly pollution and the failure to provide well-paid jobs to the community.

Newmont has been ignored these protests with the help of the government who are in the pocket of the mining giant. They have escaped audits for taxes and royalty payment thanks to a legion of lawyers. Managers are adept at short-changing workers overtime in foreign countries and contributed to the danger of mining by avoiding adherence to safety regulations.

All that glitters might be gold, but that gold is not for everyone.

Not in America and not in Peru.

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