Tailings dams

Every once in a while I see some moron with e/acc in his username on Twitter and a link to his Medium, Substack or .io website, yapping on about how AI is about to usher in a post-scarcity age of abundance and I find myself wondering if any of these people have ever really thought about how the world around them really works, or have any real world experience with it at all.

There’s this growing discrepancy emerging, between the people who interact with physical reality, or at least have a standard of living that renders it relevant to them and a small group of people who engage only with abstract information, numbers on screens. The latter grows increasingly delusional over time, but is not really punished for their delusions, as they simply rearrange more of the industrial surplus to themselves.

It is as if you were going on a camping trip with a bunch of people and the guy in charge of the trip is a delusional man who is also in charge of distributing the rations. As the rations run scarce, he rewards himself with more and more food, coming up with increasingly delusional justifications, as everyone else starts to go hungry.

You notice this in the inflation for example. Central Banks determine interest rates based on inflation. When they increase interest rates, that’s supposed to be tough for small companies that have to borrow money. As a result, increasing interest rates should distribute wealth and energy more from various speculative ventures that may earn money in the future, towards established industries that people benefit from today.

But there’s this growing discrepancy between the numbers reported and the prices people experience. There are various reasons for it. One reason is because people simply pay the same price for worse food now. This is hidden inflation, it comes after the previous trick of making packaging smaller. Your chicken soup goes from 8.6% to 5.8% chicken. Yogurt has the fruit content reduced from 19% to 6%. They do this with everything.

Another great trick is to replace actual sugar with sweeteners, like Stevia. I can’t buy Kombucha tea anymore with actual sugar instead of Stevia. This is great for the manufacturer. You can put sugar in, or you can add an equivalent amount of Stevia extract, that’s 250-300 times sweeter. They’re both ultimately just plant extracts. But your body isn’t fooled by this, it expected calories and it will now get them elsewhere, you’ll simply eat more food.

So because inflation is essentially hidden, by simply making everything shittier, the banks get away with not raising interest rates. But it becomes very obvious when you just buy stuff that they can’t fool around with. That’s how you end up buying 7 dollar apples. People who buy actual food, instead of processed junk with 500 different ingredients, are the first to notice something’s off.

This isn’t some hypothetical concern, this is just a real problem, for most people in the developed world now. There are 450,000 people in the Netherlands, who don’t have enough to eat. People have to skip meals, because they can’t afford them. People who interact with physical reality, are noticing this stuff. The people who interact with intellectual abstractions, who watch graphs go up and down, who enter numbers into databases, who manage some server, don’t notice it. They have a term for the rest of us: “Pessimists.”

The interesting thing Marx came up with, was the alienation of labor. Society grows more complex over time and we simply cease to comprehend how it works, we cease to comprehend how our own labor is connected to our needs, or how our needs are connected to other people’s labor. People notice this, that’s why you tend to get the poor in Europe rallying around the farmers. At least with the farmers, they can directly see how their work affects them.

But the consequence this also has, is that people just don’t comprehend the vast scope of the problems we’re now dealing with. Everyone is stuck managing his own little gear in the machine, noticing the stress that it’s under, trying to bring attention to it, struggling to get any as all the other gears are suffering too.

There is just not enough manpower anymore, for all the children with psychological problems, so psychiatrists are suffering burnout problems. If your child is suicidal in the Netherlands, you’ll need to wait three months, for any sort of psychological consult.

And yet, the biggest problems we face, tend to be the most esoteric, understood by just a small number of people. Let me give you an example. Back in 2019, “gain of function research” was an obscure technological problem, the reality that scientists around the world were engaged in increasingly dangerous experiments in a race to stay relevant. I had read about this, the experiments with influenza that were being done, but had no idea of course how relevant the problem would prove to become in 2020.

Well the bird flu problem is kind of similar to this. You won’t get any attention for it until it goes terribly wrong. Until that time, you’re told that you’re fear-mongering. And with every time the bullet is dodged, it will be seen as further evidence that this is not a real problem. The same is true for monkeypox. This is still spreading around the globe, but we now have an additional second version spreading in Congo that kills about 10% of people it infects. We’re basically just witnessing the rebirth of smallpox, but the system does not have the time and energy left to stop it.

But there are problems like this emerging elsewhere too. The most esoteric of all perhaps has to be the tailings dams. This is something nobody thinks about, except for the people who are stuck managing these tailings dams. When it goes wrong, it looks like this:

So first of all, what is a tailings dam? Well, when humans mine a resource, like copper, there is a huge amount of waste rock, for the small amount of the ore we need. As we first exhausted the best ores, the amount of waste for the ores we use is continually growing, at a rate faster than our production of minerals (which is also growing fast in its own right).

But all this waste tend to be full of various toxic minerals. Often it is also full of various acids, that were used to extract the elements we want, from the elements we don’t want. You can’t just dump it back into the environment. So what do you do? Well, you build a big dam out of Earth, then you dump the waste behind that dam. Over time as you add more waste, you increase the height of the dam.

They tend to keep the dam wet, to increase its weight and thereby its structural integrity. But all this stuff is fragile. These dams have to last for at least 10,000 years. They are the largest man-made structures on the planet. The world’s largests dams are not for water, they are for mining waste. The largest ones are the Syncrude tailings dams in Canada. Sometimes birds land in there, they get stuck in the tar junk and die.

But more importantly, these things can collapse.

And there are more dams like this in Central Asia, holding back the waste from uranium mining for all your nuclear power plants that are such safe forms of energy the woke environmentalists refuse to use (lol). Those dams are now unstable too. When they collapse, it would destroy vast amounts of fertile farmland and force the evacuation of millions of people, as all the radioactive mining waste spills out over the area.

You know who is paying to look at this problem? The European Commission and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Why are Europeans poorer than Americans? Because we’re looking at the problems, while you earn your money selling us fake solutions (like electric cars).

Tailings dams tend to collapse at 100 times the rate of river dams. There’s no real pride in building these things, they’re not a prestige project for a governor or a president. They’re built by a bunch of middle-aged men working at a mining company.

I don’t say that without a reason. The guys who built and maintain these dams, are old. The people in government who have to keep track of these dams, are also old. That knowledge is being lost. Two years after 40% of these people retired, one of these dams collapsed in Brazil, killing 270 people.

Young people don’t want to spend their days inspecting a dam holding back a bunch of toxic mining waste. We want to livestream video games on Twitch! But this is the reality of what needs to happen. These dams are everywhere now, the sludge they hold back is growing every year. It’s the most boring, most abstract, least interesting thing to think about. So it’s just not getting solved.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I inspect dams that contain industrial waste and make sure mining companies don’t violate any procedures.”

“Oh cool, I’m a DJ at a night club in Tokyo!”

And what happens when these dams fail? Well a bunch of old people living in small rural villages get killed. So who cares, right?

“Oh no, Jenna Ortega and Billie Eilish were killed in a tailings dam accident!”

Well yes, that never happens. If it ever did happen, it would save a lot of lives, because people would now ask themselves: “Wait, what’s a tailing dam?”

But in all fairness, it’s not the people dying when these dams collapse that should worry you. Rather, it’s all the toxic sludge that spills out, into the river and all over the farmland. You can’t use it anymore. The fish in the river die, the farmland becomes useless. When that dam collapsed in Brazil in 2019, people had to move, they could no longer use the land that was contaminated. Their lives were ruined.

There’s basically nothing being done about this, even though the problem grows bigger every year. There are dams holding back waste like this, that have not been touched in thirty years. Mining companies go bankrupt, they leave these giant reservoirs of waste behind, the waste continues taking up space and killing birds for decades as they land in it, then eventually one day the dam breaks and it all spills out across a forest or on some farmland, before ending up in a river where it kills all the fish and pollutes people’s drinking water.

Anything can happen. A heavy rain can cause a dam to overflow, an earthquake can bring them down, animals like muskrats can dig tunnels in the dam, then the toxic waste spills out all over our farms. And this problem keeps getting worse. The number of tailings dams failing has doubled between 1999 and 2019.

Let me just illustrate the problem for you. This is how much copper is produced worldwide:

It keeps going up. There’s no end in sight. Meanwhile, the ore grade keeps going down:

So, in 1940 you have a copper ore that’s 1.2% pure. Then in 2010, you have a copper ore that’s 0.4% pure.

So around the world, copper production went up eight times in that period. But if the global ore grade went down by 66%, that means the amount of waste material would go up 24 times!

And this waste amount is all kept somewhere. It has to be kept there, for thousands of years. But the amount of waste being added, to that pile of waste that already exists, is growing exponentially!

Think about how insane that is for a moment.

This was not a problem our ancestors had. They would get their copper from meteor deposits, that were basically 90% pure. They used up the perfect stuff.

So all these morons with glasses and .io website, yapping on about their AI and their post-scarcity world of abundance and their new model that is even smarter than their old model, I just wonder, do these people ever think about what goes into their self-driving cars, their gold-coated silicon chips?

If your comment on this post does not include the word “Strawberry”, I will just delete it, because I want to know if any of you are even reading what I have to say. Don’t take it personally.

“Our super smart AI drone will just harvest our food for us!”

Ok what is your drone built of? What is it living in, this disembodied large language model of yours?

Where does the electricity come from? Solar panels?

Ok, how did the solar panels come from China to the United States?

Ships? What do those ships use to travel around the world? Heavy oil?


Yes, I can’t find a video about this dam, not with a shitty AI voice and poor JPG images, that has more than 640 views, because nobody gives a shit about this! I just wonder what would happen, if I walked up to ten people here in Amsterdam, asking them: Hey what do you think of the tailings dams? Nobody has an opinion. It’s not on anyone’s radar. Three people will read what I have to say about it.

You all want to see the Burj Khalifa in Dubai! How many of you want to see the tailings ponds and the dams, where the industrial waste is kept, required to build it?

I’ve seen someone say that people are stupid for appreciating 18th century authors like Marquis de Sade. It’s like going to Versailles and inspecting the latrines. Well, I wish people would inspect the latrines sometimes! I wish the Syncrude tailings dam in Canada drew as many tourists as the Eiffel tower in Paris does!

Just look at this for a moment, to see the deep pile of industrial shit that we have collectively produced:

These lakes are all fake. They’re made by humans, they contain water full of toxic mining chemicals, they kill birds that land in them, so they’re fined anytime they fail to keep the birds out of there.

This is what should be drawing tourists. Don’t go on a city trip. Don’t take pictures of the Eiffel Tower, or the Burj Khalifa. Heck, don’t even go urban exploring like I do. Don’t break into old abandoned asylums. Don’t look at decaying ruins of graveyards and monasteries. That’s the stuff I go to. Some people go to Belgium, to walk through the old sewers, covered to their knees in shit. But that’s still being too easy on yourself.

No, go check out the real world sometime. I’m not saying you should go to Iraq, you would get killed. No, just visit a tailings pond. Just for a second, confront yourself with the immense behemoth, this massive pile of industrial waste material, that is just kept somewhere, these fake lakes that can contain no life, stored behind a dam that is eventually going to collapse and spill this junk all across the landscape, killing your forests and your rivers, rendering the soils too toxic to grow food on.

That is a horror show. That is existential terror. Youtube is full of these Urbex videos, with some dude looking scared into the camera and a title like “I SAW A GHOST AT AN ABANDONED ASYLUM”. No dude, that’s overdone. We’ve all seen that. Take a picture of yourself, staring frightened into the camera, with a clickbait title like “I SAW ABSOLUTELY NO LIFE AT THE SYNCRUDE TAILINGS DAM”.

Do the low IQ low status white males ever think about where these bricks of gold in their basement laying next to their stored food, their guns and their King James Bibles came from? The insanity that is required for all of this junk, the giant mountains of waste sludge being stored out of sight from us?

Because that is reality.


  1. Strawberry. Mhmmm, Strawberries.

    This both both horrifying and morbidly fascinating. I’ve commented this in previous posts, but since a Adharmic society can’t last due its own self-destructive tendencies, it is inevitable for Dharma to re-establish itself with time. I would not be surprised if we lived the next few thousand years in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with a medieval to age of sail of level of technology. I would not mind this, I’ve always wanted to be a knight.

    Wotan will have his Galactic Empire someday however, we’ll do things better. Let the old world burn so a better one can take its place! The new Merovingians will lead the charge!

  2. I’ve been vaguely aware that tailings are a huge environmental problem and it’s good you’re shining a spotlight on it.

    You didn’t clearly explain why these tailings are so incredibly toxic, for thousands of years.

    Why is this leftover rock so much more poisonous than a strawberry?
    According to the NIH “reagents are powerful and flexible means that provide the necessary flotation selectivity. Flotation reagents can be of organic or non-organic origin, and can be present in the pulp in molecular or ionic form.”
    So let’s regulate strictly the use of reagents worldwide, which brings up the question of how much control do we cede to our globalist masters.

    But it’s not just the added chemicals. Apparently when ore seams are opened up, bacteria are exposed and the sulfides are oxidized to acidic sulfates. So the problem is inherent in mining (and extraction of oil from shale).

    Let’s go grab an asteroid.
    That would be a good use of the space program.

  3. “I find myself wondering if any of these people have ever really thought about how the world around them really works, or have any real world experience with it at all”

    Fucking nope. They’re dazzled by their own bullshit.

    This is among the better posts I’ve read of yours.

    Anyway, strawberry.

  4. These e/acc skinny fat balding nerds who wear glasses and write on Substack, Medium and .io domain websites do not consider any of these problems that you raise in this insightful article because:

    “Living is easy with eyes closed
    Misunderstanding all you see
    It’s getting hard to be someone, but it all works out
    It doesn’t matter much to me

    Let me take you down
    ‘Cause I’m going to strawberry fields
    Nothing is real
    And nothing to get hung about
    Strawberry fields forever”

    In order to distract themselves from the unfortunate reality that their perpetual growth delusions are deluded due to finite scarce natural resources on planet Earth, they attend music concerts where the V.I.P. singers have hopefully NOT been killed by an avalanche of toxic industrial radioactive sludge:

    “Sitting in the stand of the sports arena
    Waiting for the show to begin
    Red lights, green lights, strawberry wine
    A good friend of mine follows the stars
    Venus and Mars are alright tonight”


    • There’s also the Baotou toxic sludge artificial lake in China (Inner Mongolia) which contains all the leftover waste material from all the rare earth metal mining required to feed humanity’s addiction to electronic devices and consumer gadgets.

      Here is a video of the BaoGang Steel and Rare Earth complex which is located right beside the toxic lake, described as the ‘worst place on earth’ by the BBC. You will never look at a Strawberry uhh sorry I mean Apple iPhone in the same way ever again:


      Note the most up-voted comment on the video:

      “Well, hearing “It’s a Small World” playing in a steel mill is the most nightmarishly dystopian thing I’ve experienced in a while.”

    • You must be kept busy reading every post on every Substack account. I’m impressed. Now I think I’ll go eat a strawberry.

      • The only Substack/Medium author I am currently reading at the moment (apart from Igor and GVB) is Richard Crim. Here he is raising an interesting point about how ironic it is that right wingers are concerned about school children being groomed by LGBT drag queen trannies and paedos when they themselves are being groomed by the Koch brothers and fossil fuel companies:


  5. This is the ugly inevitable side of modern hightech civilization. The more renewables we build, the more tailings dams we will get, ”the Mordor economy”. As the energy scarcity gets worse the maintenance of these dams will deteriorate and eventually cease completely.

    There is no way out of this mess, sorry no reaching the stars. There is no sustainable state for humanity beyond the hunter-gatherer stage with maybe 1 million humans. Our society in a theoretical steady state will still destroy the environment and waste nonrenewable resources in an unsustainable way. Everything unsustainable eventually ends.

    I like to have strawberry jam in my oatmeal by the way.

  6. Strawberries, huh?
    As a child, we lived near what was at the time the largest ball bearing plant in the world. Had its own steel mill to ensure the quality of the steel. Their holding ponds had colorful, swirling patterns- this was very rural land, surrounded by a mix of farmland and small communities.
    The ground water is contaminated. I’m sure this is far from unusual.
    Don’t see any fixes, no one is willing to put forth the effort. You’re right, they don’t see how fragile it is.

  7. The solution to this and every other problem is population control. 8 billion people need a lot of chicken ranches, houses, roads, water, sewage treatment… and yes, copper mines. Any other solution is just treating symptoms, strawberry brain.

  8. “And this waste amount is all kept somewhere. It has to be kept there, for thousands of years. But the amount of waste being added, to that pile of waste that already exists, is growing exponentially!”

    Nelly, what do you think will be the end result of this exponentially growing waste?

    Within what timescale?

  9. Rad, I don’t read one hundred percent of your rants, most of which are incoherent, but was wondering what your latest rant, which is actually not too much of a rant, had to do with a strawberry.

  10. Yes, people don’t understand these things. I once explained to an otherwise smart person how their family holiday house in a river valley was going to be put at risk by the tailings dam of a new gold mine.

    And to make matters worse, the gold mine had promised to do cyanide processing off-site as part of the approval process, but surprise, surprise, this would’ve reduced the profitability of the enterprise, so the deal was changed after the mine was approved and the toxic processing is done on-site instead. . .

    The person with the house had no idea what I was talking about, they had totally missed the story, and had no idea about the risks. The same person, who has no idea how lucky they are and how fragile it all is, has also accused me of being ‘ungrateful’ over my concerns about ecology once at that same house!

    Hmmm. . .

    As fate would have it, that house failed to survive the ramping risks all around it and burned down in the recent mega fires. You’d think that would’ve perhaps been a bit of a wake-up call to this person, but no.
    Anyway, it’s a pity.

    This valley is really very beautiful, despite being trashed once already by huge alluvial gold dredges, but it’s not hard to imagine it being permanently destroyed by toxic waste from a collapsing tailings dam from the gold mine above.

    All it takes is one freak storm or what have you, and we all know that nature doesn’t just sit there, inert.

    It would be terrible to see the valley and river below toxified.

    That said, this person with the burned down house is perhaps a bit blessed to be ignorant and/or in denial or whatever. While I would argue that being a bit more aware doesn’t make me less grateful, it can cast a pall on my worldview. Even simple things, like, say, eating a delicious strawberry take on a new dimension if you take a step back and look at the process that goes into providing them: https://gardenculturemagazine.com/strawberries-top-toxic-fruit/#:~:text=Strawberries%20are%20%231%20on%20the%202016%20Dirty%20Dozen,Group%20based%20on%20the%20USDA%E2%80%99s%20Pesticide%20Data%20Program.

    • I know someone who was taken on a school trip to a bauxite mining area, and I think probably an aluminum production industrial area as well.

      Imagine being on this trip and listening to the mining rep recite her spiel on the bus: “And if we look over there to the right kids, you will see the beautiful lakes that the mining company is making out of waste from the mine.”

      And then hearing the smart kid say: “Don’t birds die if they land on those lakes because they’re made out of acid?”

      And then the mining rep says: “Now, moving along. . .”

      And that’s how it goes: a spoonful of strawberry jam to help the toxic spin go down. It seems to work on most people, but not everyone swallows it.

      • Ungrateful child. . .

        Would she have preferred not to go for a daytrip to the acid lakes?

        So lovely and clear. . .

        Didn’t she know it’s not polite to point out that’s because nothing can survive in them?

  11. I work in the government department that caretakes the reservoirs in the province next to the oil sands. No strawberries grown here for sure. I’ve asked my superiors what they’re planning to do with these structures that are 60+ years old. No answer… Just a wide-eyed look of silence. Some of our structures are over 100+ years old too, but most answers are take them out of service. I feel like the guy hearing someone suggest removing Chesterton’s fence…

    FYI An engineer typically plans for their designs to last 50 years. Earth based dams can last much longer since the material doesn’t degrade like metals, but there’s no long term ideas for things like this.

    Maybe Canada will send more hundreds of millions to Ukraine. That will fix these problems right?

    • Thanks for commenting and confronting your superiors with this problem. It’s bizarre how our landscape is littered with these ticking time bombs, with new ones being added at a growing rate.

      And as the years go by and manpower, competence and energy become ever scarcer, doing anything about these ticking time bombs merely gets harder.

  12. i have a couple friends that are working on the Hanford site debacle; one is in an audit capacity and the other a researcher working on approaches to “vitrification” of the waste (i.e., turning it into a stable glass form). the Hanford site is a complete shit-show of radioactive waste on the Columbia river in Washington state, upstream of Portland. how much of a shit-show? it dates back to the Manhattan project of the 40s, and basically they just dumped whatever radioactive waste they had into large storage tanks. what did they dump? who knows! some of the tanks are so hot it destroys any sensors they put in there to try to measure it. many research papers are being written on new radiochemistry being discovered in “experiments of opportunity.” billions of dollars per year are being spent on clean up there, but of course no one has a clue when or if it will be cleaned up enough to grow a strawberry.

    to stray off-topic somewhat, the thing that bugs me the most is that this friend group, which consists entirely of phd physicists working at funding agencies and national labs who are pretty jaded about how the sausage is actually made, one hundred percent enthusiastically lined up to get the vaxx. we are high-level players in the modern scientific funding game, intimately familiar with how little people at the “forefront of knowledge” actually know, and yet…?

    • “this friend group, which consists entirely of phd physicists. . . lined up to get the vax”

      Perhaps it’s the fact that they are ‘entirely of phd’ level education gives a clue?

      That’s a lot of indoctrination/brain washing right there.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the more educated one is the more compliant/obedient one is likely to be.

      • Pro comment right there.

        The more years tertiary education you have, the more you’ve been steeped in the be-compliant-jump-through-the-correct-hoop-correctly mentality that defines the education system from kindergarten on up. That’s not to say that well educated folks are universally incapable of thinking outside the box and acting counter to authority…but we certainly do so less often than you might otherwise expect. This is why almost all folks in the medical industry these days have VERY little creative thinking ability. Great at problem solving within defined parameters. Great at following complex sets of instructions. Absolutely terrible at thinking outside these pre-taught parameters.

        Radagast – someone else commented that this was a much better and more coherent post than a lot of your recent stuff, and I agree. Great post.

  13. Good post. I’ve met one or two people involved in cleaning up industrial waste sites, and they were down-to-earth individuals with meaningful lives. So perhaps there is some karma in this world.

    And um, strawberries.

  14. I asked Gaia about those strawberry dams and she said it’s ok because she likes our high-tech ability to defend her from asteroids. The dams are the price to pay for this, she said.

  15. I have nothing significant to contribute to this discussion, but I empathize with the horror of realizing colossal and terrible things are going on and that almost nobody knows, wants to know, or cares much even when they find out.

    The internet does this awful thing where it takes work to comment, but people often only feel strongly enough to clear that activation energy when something pisses them off. As a result, comments sections falsely appear far more hostile than they need to. I’m trying to make a point to stop and say “Yeah dude, I get it, good work” more often even if I have nothing else worth saying, just to oppose that tendency.


  16. Strawberry.

    I also have little to contribute, especially on the subject of the dams. However, it is frightening watching everything undergo get crappier and more expensive. A big part of me thinks this will simply become the new normal, and we will take a permanent hit to our standard of living— presumably a lot of processed food and junk will be too expensive to produce, and thus be discontinued, but even real food will cost more. I also expect a lot of businesses to close, mainly in retail, if things continue. Not much to say other than the future looks grim and yeah, the AI types are coping heavily.

  17. When I worked in Brazil the food was noticeably shittier than in the EU, even the premium stuff.
    Soy sauce was mostly fake and made of corn, chocolate is mostly vegetable fats, some cheese isn’t cheese at all. Not sure what about the Strawberry.

    This Brumadinho dam disaster from 2019 felt like deja vu because of the Mariana dam disaster in 2015.
    At least the tailing dams are on the radar of Brazilians and they’ll have opinions about it, it was kind of a big deal there.

    • You’re in Brasil and complaining about the food? I can tell you the food is fresh and good. I am not one to kiss and tell but if you’re single you need to go to Brasil.

      • I didn’t say all the food was bad. There’s some fresh food indeed.

        I meant that this phenomenon of chronic economic inflation making products worse was more easily noticeable in Brazil than in the European Union.

        Even rice brands failing the regulatory standards and delivering a lower quality type than what’s indicated on the package, for instance.

        I heard that Brazil tends to export their best food products and strawberries as well, while sometimes selling a somewhat inferior quality domestically.

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The patients in the mental ward have had their daily dose of xanax and calmed down it seems, so most of your comments should be automatically posted again. Try not to annoy me with your low IQ low status white male theories about the Nazi gas chambers being fake or CO2 being harmless plant food and we can all get along. Have fun!

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