This AP story has all the challenges of the “good industry” versus “bad industry” philosophical conundrum. We know that electric cars are good, at least if they are run off all carbon-free sources. Unfortunately, they require (as almost everything does) mining minerals to build them.
CBD says “not where they occur on federal land in Nevada, due to an endangered buckwheat.”
The company acknowledges Tiehm’s buckwheat hasn’t been documented anywhere else on earth, but denies the mine would lead to its extinction.
Company officials say they’ve been researching the plant since 2016, going to great lengths to ensure its protection and examining how it’s fared during previous mining operations at Rhyolite Ridge, near the small town of Tonopah, over the past 80 years.
They recently spent $60,000 for a yearlong study at the University of Nevada, Reno. Scientists there are growing hundreds of seedlings in a greenhouse to determine whether it’s feasible to transplant them into the wild to bolster the limited population, an estimated 43,000 plants covering a total of 21 acres (8.5 hectares).
“We have always been aware of the buckwheat. It didn’t come as a surprise,” Ioneer President Bernard Rowe told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Australia.
All site activity has been undertaken with the “protection of the buckwheat first and foremost in mind,” Rowe said. He added the company’s mitigation strategy “will ensure protection and, in fact, the expansion of the buckwheat population.”
“We’re seeing evidence of that at the greenhouse at UNR,” Rowe said. “We’ve got a reasonably high degree of confidence we can successfully propagate these plants and protect them.”
But what I thought was most interesting about this article, given our discussions about abstraction, are quotes from the scientists involved (caveat, they may have been misquoted, but I’m taking this at face value).
Leger, who also serves as director of UNR’s Museum of Natural History, said those who dismiss the flowers as weeds unworthy of all the fuss don’t understand the value of biodiversity.
“Weed is a human construct. A weed is a plant that grows anywhere a human doesn’t want it,” she said, adding biodiversity is “magic” and a safeguard against future loss.
Biodiversity is actually a human construct, as is the idea of species, especially when we get to telling closely related species apart.
I’m a little concerned with a scientist saying that that biodiversity is “magic”, though. Anyway, it’s interesting what it means to potentially lose “a species” of buckwheat that grows on 21 acres as opposed to losing “biodiversity”. Is it more compelling, or magic, or less compelling or magic?
Meanwhile, Donnelly of CBD (not a scientist) says:
He acknowledged a difference between transplanting plants and growing them from seeds, but said it’s “beside the point, really.”
“A species is more than a set of genetic material. A species is inextricable from its habitat,” Donnelly said. “To allow a species’ habitat to be wiped out and put it someplace else, is functionally allowing it to go extinct.”
I always thought ESA was about “sets of genetic material” but maybe CBD intends to raise the bar.