Thursday, March 15, 2012

Mining, Medicine, and Writing

I am back to blogging after a several month absence while getting started on a new novel.. The plot is well started now, but I have to do a lot of research before I can flesh out the characters and background.
The setting is Papua New Guinea, same as my last story (The Samana Incident) , but the theme has changed from drug dealing and gun running to mining gold.
The late twentieth century witnessed several ecologic mining disasters in PNG. Chief among them, tailings impoundment dikes at the Ok Tedi mine broke, covering agricultural areas down-river with mud over a several hundred sq km area. The Panguna Mine on Bougainville Island dumped raw copper mine waste into rivers, prompting a full-scale armed revolt. Both mines are inoperative now, but foreign corporations want to re-open both.
PNG will be one of the chief mining nations of the twenty-first century. PNG suddenly finds itself with massive amounts of oil and natural gas reserves, and about twenty major gold/copper mines now active or in development, plus lesser amounts of silver, nickel, cobalt, molybdenum, and rhenium. With gold reserves exceeding one hundred million oz. (worth $1,600.00 per oz.) and copper and silver in demand at record prices, the foreign mining companies are not going to go away, Nor is Exxon-Mobil, and its 500 km gas pipeline and oil wells.
So why are the people of PNG discontent? They should be getting rich soon. There are several problems. Their government is not getting advantageous contracts with the foreigners. Much of what they are getting is reportedly siphoned off in graft. The Dept. of Mines is beginning to realize the need for more comprehensive mining laws, but I suspect they haven't enough mining inspectors to enforce safety for the miners or preservation of pristine coast lands and fisheries.
Why am I writing a novel if all this is true? Because most people read fiction more than dull facts, especially in a country whose college-educated people are a small minority.
I am pitting a couple of news reporters against a foreign mining corporation. For starters, five miners are found dead one night .Police Inspector Jason Kerro will also play a role, as he did in The Samana Incident. More developments follow.