James Cameron’s Space Mining Mission Needs an EIA*

Film director James Cameron questioned oil sands/tar sands environmental impact; in his quest for space, shouldn’t we expect a comprehensive plan prior. Could his extraterrestrial mining and water use upset the delicate balance of outer space?

Film director James Cameron’s hit space fantasy film “Avatar” was based on the geographic moonscapes</a> of the Alberta oil sands mega-projects. Now Cameron wants to make outer space mining fantasy into reality.

Planetary Resources, a company backed by Cameron and others, intend to mine near-space asteroids for precious metals.

We in Alberta where the oil sands are located are wondering if he has filed a complete EIA – Environmental Impact Assessment. These are public documents submitted to provincial and federal authorities. These documents detail the intended work and environmental impacts in diverse areas.

For earth bound oil sands mining, it takes about 5 years to complete an EIA. Without approval, no work goes ahead. At arms length international engineering firms like Worley-Parsons, Golder and Stantec engage dozens of specialists in fish and fish habitat, air quality,groundwater, hydrology, water quality, human health, socioeconomics,vegetation,soils and terrain, wildlife and, historical impact assessment.

On earth alone, oil sands mining EIAs involve more than 15 different civil engineers leading separate disciplinary teams. Most would be PhDs and have more than 10 years of experience working in oil sands.

So, if Cameron will be mining in outer space, who will be in charge of the review? Who can approve extra-terrestrial mining, when we know so little of outer space? Do we have an Outer Space Environmental Authority?

A couple of years ago, James Cameron toured Alberta’s oil sands, in answer to a First Nations request documented in an oil sands bashing, eco-propaganda film. The Alberta government and oil sands officials then gave him a tour of operations and an in-depth discussion about technical details, including reclamation.

Cameron subsequently made comments to the press about how bad it would be to grow up unable to ‘swim in the river’ (the Athabasca) leading people to believe this was due to pollution from ‘tar sands’ operations.

Cameron failed to mention that the oil sands occur naturally within the river, noted as far back as the 1800’s.

Here’s Charles Mair’s Treaty Diary. Read Chapter 9 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12569/12569-h/12569-h.htm#chap09

Oil sands operators do not have a permit to release any process water into the river. A scientific review by Canada’s <a href=”http://www.rsc-src.ca/documents/RSCreportcompletesecured9Mb_Mar28_11.pdf&#8221; target=””>Royal Society</a> (RSC) found no evidence for the claims that oil sands activity was causing health issues. In fact, the RSC found that supposed water pollutants were well below Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines of which you can drink 1.7 liters a day for 70 years with no presumed harmful impacts.

But this all happens here on earth, a place we know well. Look at the controversy and misinformation that abounds!

For Cameron’s trek to space, he should have to file a complete Outer Space Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) plan.

How will he reclaim the space-scape of asteroids after mining; restore the natural beauty? Will he impact gravitational flow of asteroid streams – it could be catastrophic! Is it safe to burden this planet with imported mass weight? Does he have the right to take or contaminate extraterrestrial water?

What will be done with asteroid tailings or his carbon footprint?

Will Cameron be besieged by eco-activists, as the oil sands are…AsteroidEthics? Eco-Space-Justice? BluePlanetPeace? Will Greenpeace activists hang from his spaceship at blast-off?

Alberta’s Environmental Impact Assessments for oil sands developments take years to prepare and run to thousand pages. Hundreds of experts and scientists explain the project from start up to reclamation to decommissioning – some 20-40 years hence.

Plus, there’s the socio-economic element – the oil sands employ some 1,800 aboriginal people. With Cameron will we finally see the first First Canaidan First Nations astronaut?

If EIA and reclamation is the earth-bound oil sands requirement, Cameron’s EIA should meet standards that are “out of this world.”


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