WHY ARE SOME resources sexy and others not? The monumental equipment that accompanies certain forms of major resource extraction helps in the sexiness stakes. In Pilbara mines, trucks weighing nearly 400 tonnes stand more than seven-metres tall, dwarfing the remaining humans that drive them. Automation is taking over in part because of the horrific accidents that happen when these mammoth beasts go wrong.
There have been many vivid cultural representations of resource extraction, perhaps none more so than Émile Zola’s Germinal. Published in 1885, soon after the miners’ strike in France that Zola witnessed, the novel features miners who work in a pit called Le Voreux, which ‘lay lower and squatter, deep in its den, crouching like a vicious beast of prey, snorting louder and longer, as if choking on its painful digestion of human flesh’. [i] Zola juggles different registers: ‘voreux’ is close to ‘vorace’, or voracious, and the mine is both animalised and personified – it eats human and it is a synecdoche of the human appetite.
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