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GSott8 opens!

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 02, 2009 03:00 PM

Ahead of the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the alternative G8 summit is taking place in Sardinia. Nnimmo Bassey Chair of Friends of the Earth International is there.

It is the 1st of July and we were on our way to the Southern tip of Italy. Getting to Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy, was a fascinating experience. From the aircraft seat, the runway below was clearly in sight but the pilot went a circuitous path before finally touching them smoothly. As we came in, you could see the entire breadth of the Sardinia Island, its rugged mountains and some of its population centres. On this flight were four of us heading for the GSott8: Luca of CRBM, Zakir Kibria of Praxa  Bangla, Bangladesh, Nicholas Hildyard of the Corner House and yours truly.

The welcome party was warm and soon we were on our way to Iglesias…town name and not a bunch of churches, if you get what I mean. The ride ended in a restaurant at the city centre where we did not only dine and wine but began to talk about the events of the next days. By midnight a bunch of us were on our way to Casa di Nonna, a Bed & Breakfast at Villamassargia…,which I thought was a massage home! But it was not…


2nd July broke with a bright sunlight hitting my tightly shut eyes from long before 6 AM. A quick breakfast and we were on our way to a trip to the mines at Monteponi….  Soon helmeted, we entered the belly of the earth though tunnels dug by men from 1882 and from which zinc, copper and lead were mined until 8 years ago. The mines and related infrastructure now serves as the Faculty of Mineralogy of the University of Cagliari where studies are focussed on the mining and other engineering studies.


The mine is as interesting as it is instructive.  Most of its equipment and spare parts were manufactured on the location and once installed were expected to stay in the belly of the earth “for ever.” The mine starts from 150m above sea level and goes down 200m below sea level and required a massive water pumping works to keep the water out of the tunnels and allow the extraction of the vital minerals.

Why was the mine closed? This is the point that is so instructive: the entire operations were so expensive that it did not make economic sense to invest so much resource on it. In other words, it was cheaper to import the zinc, lead and copper that this mine offered than to keep tunneling here. On account of this, and although there is still copper, zinc and lead underground, the mines are shut dues to economic exigencies. On result of this is that the huge labour force that was once employed in the mines were suddenly thrown into the labour market and the towns that grew around the mines are now a shadow of the ebullient selves they must have been in the hey days of hard helmets, picks and hammers.


Lesson learned: just because you have a resource does not mean that you must extract it. Thinking about crude oil: if the true cost of oil were paid, everyone would have left the resource in the soil! But because the crude is extracted from communities of the voiceless, the environmental costs, human rights abuses and the works are conveniently ignored and the world remains stuck on model of civilization that has dragged humanity into a blind corner.

Leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole and the tar sand in the land! The day ended with an opening event at the centre of Carbonia, a carbon town or a city built to service coal mines that have also been shut. Leaders of the municipal authorities who also welcomed all to the G8 Underground attended the opening event. This was followed by denunciations of the G8 and a condemnation of the subversion of the democratic systems of Honduras.

3rd July and the G8 Underground is set to focus on oil, gas and mining. We just concluded two interview panels...the first featured Ivonne Yanez of Accion Ecologica, Ecuador  while the second had me on the hot seat and I was interviewed by Nick of the Corner House ... More to come…


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Phil Lee

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands


I am the website coordinator for the Friends of the Earth International secretariat.