Spectres are haunting technoextractive capitalism – the spectres of earth others.
How to learn to feel the thickness of accumulation by erasure, to see through the absences? On hazy day of late autumn in the mountain ranges of the eastern part of the country where i was born in, i stood facing a place where the mining and smelting combine RTB Bor began its operation more than a century before. The Old Pit (Stari kop), as it is called now, is a striking and overwhelming landscape, some might think it is sublime. Beyond what the eyes can see, more silently, it brims with specters. This hole used to be called Tilva Roš (‘Red Hill’) in autochtonous Vlachian language. It was first mined for copper in the Ancient Roman times, and then sporadically through the Middle Ages, and then the modern machines come in early 20th century. On one side of the pit extends the working smelter of the Combine, in full operation with a recently installed new furnace. On the other side is a small effort of filling up the hole… One day it might become a park, another post-industrial redevelopment. At the present, the specters of those trucked away are here, and they will stay.
To see extraction begins with listening and feeling to what is not there anymore, what was taken away elsewhere. The stories of these forced travels of minerals are told by the pit, as it is technically called, or, a hole. It is not void in fact, it is a yawning body of air sinking into, exhalations rising from the ground. The air in-between the exposed rock buzzes with memories of a mountain disappeared.
Along the slopes of the hole one can read the markers of the operations, the ramps that carried the lorries with ore up and down, where explosions were made. However, it is literally only the last slice of a long cycle of capitalisation by making this earth body into bits and chunks. The many other operations that led to this state of void are distributed but not intangible.
Some are very close. Just a bit farther from the precipice, i see masses that were made of the matter that was taken from what is now the hole. It took a while to understand and comprehend that these massive flat-topped formations were made by bulldozers. Interestingly, in the industrial jargon what needs to be removed in order to get to the mineral seams and veins is called ‘overburden.’ For some it would be a field day if mineral veins sat up in the air, waiting to be dissected.
A bit farther behind these heaps of overburden lie ‘tailing ponds,’ one of the crucial spaces of conflict between the industry and the surrounding processes. Great effort is put in ’embankments’ that shore up the ponds, that are supposed to ‘hold.’ The soil and earth are displaced to hold the newly compounded liquids, the remains from the flotation process, to keep them from ‘leaking out,’ actually back, into the rest of the environment. What sat still is stirring now, it is toxic, at least to lifeforms, including those who remixed them. Earth is supposed to obey all the way from the beginning to end; but, listen, it uprises, sometimes very slowly, sometimes rapidly.
I think of tails as the true mark of extraction, its subject being a forward-looking line of boundless accumulation, while attempting an escape from the effects and consequences, responsibility and accountability. Each extraction has a tail. Tail as part of a body, attached to it from behind, that can be cut apart only with violent effort and force. The thing is, tails cannot be cut off entirely. The voids keep tailing, telling of what was there before and after. One can join forces with these tailings, becoming a haunting in action.