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Original author: 
Tim Heffernan

For the past few months I’ve been reporting a big story on the copper industry for Pacific Standard. It takes a broad look at how the global economic boom of the past decade, led by China and India, is pushing copper mining into new regions and new enormities of investment and excavation. (It’ll be out in June.) But a few days ago a very local event shook the copper industry, and I thought it would be neat to look at how a crisis at a single mine can ripple through space and time, ultimately affecting just about everyone around the globe.

Above is a picture, from local news channel KSL, of a massive landslide at Bingham Canyon Mine, about 20 miles southwest of Salt Lake City.

Bingham is an open-pit mine—a gigantic hole in the ground. The landslide, in effect, was the collapse of one of the pit walls. (For scale, the pit is a bit less than three miles wide and a bit more than three-quarters of a mile deep, and as you can see, the collapse stretches halfway across it and all the way from top to bottom.) KSL has more pictures here, and Kennecott Utah Copper, the subsidiary of the mining giant Rio Tinto which runs Bingham Canyon, has a spectacular Flickr set here. Check ’em out.

The landslide went off at about 9:30 in the evening on Wednesday, April 11. It was expected: like most modern mines, Bingham has redundant sensor systems (radar, laser, seismic, GPS) that measure ground movement down to the millimeter and give plenty of warning when a collapse is imminent. The mine was evacuated about 12 hours before the landslide, and nobody was hurt.

But the scale of the landslide was a surprise. Approximately 165 million tons of rock shifted, causing a highly localized earthquake measuring 5.1 Richter. It damaged or destroyed roads, power lines, and other infrastructure, and a number of the giant shovels and dump trucks that move ore and waste rock out of the pit. (For gearheads, the shovels are P&H 4100s and the trucks are Komatsu 930Es. Bingham’s fleet includes 13 of the former and 100 or so of the latter. Here’s a fun picture showing the scale of a 4100’s scoop, and here is a picture—not from the Bingham landslide—of a 930E that has taken a stumble.)

The lost equipment was worth tens of millions of dollars, but much more significant is the fact that the landslide has shut Bingham Canyon down for an as-yet undetermined length of time. Much more significant because Bingham Canyon is not just another copper mine. Physically, it is the largest in the world, and it is among the most productive. Each year it supplies about 17 percent of U.S. copper consumption and 1 percent of the world’s. When a cog that big loses its teeth, the whole global economic machine goes clunk.

First to feel the effect (other than the workers at Bingham Canyon, of course, who have been asked to take unpaid leave) was Rio Tinto, Bingham’s owner. Its stock opened lower the morning after the landslide, and its analysts projected that the company’s profits would drop 7 percent for this year, with ripple effects for some years after. Bad for investors, sure. But those losses, in turn, will mean less capital for Rio’s investments in its numerous other ventures, and since Rio is the third-largest mining firm in the world—if you live in anything like an industrialized economy, you use its products every day—the ripple effects spread far beyond Rio’s shareholders. A pinch in Rio’s supply lines will push up metal prices for everyone. (And in fact last Thursday, copper prices jumped up a bit, although the landslide was not the only factor.)

After the landslide, Rio quickly invoked the force majeure protections in its insurance policies, which would allow it to cancel its futures contracts on Bingham copper and have its insurers cover the losses instead. But however those claims are resolved, there is no doubt that the insurers will soon be recalculating their actuarial tables. Landslides are a feature of pit mining (above is a picture I took from the bottom of the Bingham pit last October, looking up at one that happened a few years ago). But now it is clear that even the most advanced sensor systems can’t predict how big a slide will be. That uncertainty means insurers will have to raise their premiums. Again, the price effects will ripple through the mining (and the insurance) industry, and eventually spread out to affect all customers.

And there’s a third dimension to the ripple effects of the landslide: time. Big mines like Bingham run on schedules that extend decades into the future. I was at Bingham to report on a huge development in the operations: a shift from open-pit to underground mining. The prep work, which involves digging more than a hundred kilometers of tunnel beneath the pit, began in 2011 and was expected to continue until 2023. Meantime, a big expansion of the open pit had gotten underway, timed to expose a big batch of new ore in 2017, just as the existing exposed ore ran out. And that new ore would have run out in—you guessed it—2023, just in time for the underground mine to start up. Now all that planning is scrambled. The pit expansion is on hold until the mine reopens. And as for the move underground, Rio Tinto hasn’t released an official statement yet, but all the prep work got buried by the landslide.

The work is mostly invisible, being subterranean, but you can see the aboveground equipment at the bottom of the pit in a picture I took last year (above). Then match the distinctive, pale-grey trapezoid of rock on the pit wall above the equipment to the same trapezoid, visible center-right, in this picture from KSL. As you can see, the bowl-shaped depression where the underground work is based was completely filled in by rubble.

In short, the events of a few seconds on an April evening in 2013 are beginning to move through the economy, and will reverberate for at least a decade. And who will feel the vibrations, if they know what to feel for? Everyone who uses electricity, telecommunicates, gets their water from a tap, or eats food raised by Big Agriculture. Wires, pipes, and fertilizer: that’s what copper is used for.

I think we get too accustomed to abstract things, like changes in the federal interest rate or the pace of Chinese growth, shifting global markets. It’s good to be reminded that sometimes it's still the earth itself that shakes the world.


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Original author: 
John Walker

A real high-point of every GDC is the Game Design Challenge. Well, was. Sadly the tenth year of this annual treat was the last, with organiser Eric Zimmerman bringing proceedings to an end. And wow, did it go out in style. With the apposite topic, “Humanity’s Last Game”, some of the biggest names in the industry put forth their pitches for the last game we’d ever need. And one man entirely stole the show. For a second year, that man was Jason Rohrer.


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Something is happening. I’ve noticed it, you may have noticed it, and it’s probably no surprise to anyone who’s ever bought an “indie” record. The corporations with a finger in this delicious pie we call the games industry have been watching what’s happened, too. They’ve been watching the achievements of the likes of Jonathan Blow, 2Dboy, Notch/Mojang and other countless successful indie developers. Now, they’re changing the way the operate. And that is in turn changing how indies operate. Indie gaming will never be the same again. Is this a bad thing?

We talked to Double Fine, Positech, Klei and others to find out. (more…)

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In the grand scheme of MOBAs, Ironclad’s Sins of a Dark Age is quite the bold thing. AI directors, random rule-rewriting quests, and other RPG-influenced, flow-shattering shenanigans? This certainly isn’t DOTA 2.5 or Assortment of Apologues, and it’s not trying to be. But at one point, it was doing its damndest to be so much more. Unfortunately, the RTS-style base-building and commanding didn’t pan out, and Ironclad scratched them almost entirely. But according to studio director and co-owner Blair Fraser, his MOBA’s retching rejection of all things RTS is indicative of much larger problems for both genres. One, he argues, is on its death bed, and the other could be following suit if it doesn’t start blazing new trails.


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Somebody tried to kill Elle Peterssen. She's comatose in the hospital. Her wealthy family doesn't seem to care much -- not her Korean tiger mom, not her emotionally vacant father, not her spoiled brother. They consider her hospitalization a major inconvenience. Elle's boyfriend, Dane, cares a lot but he's the prime suspect.

Elle, unconscious in a hospital bed, is somewhat aware of what's happening. Her disembodied, amnesiac mind inhabits a kind of spirit world with other coma patients. With the aid of a psychologist (also in a coma and in a hospital bed right next to her) and a British coma patient, Elle attempts to figure out who she is and how she ended up this way.

Meanwhile back on Earth, clues of a complicated plot concerning Elle reveal themselves in odd places -- in a hospital staff doctor who purges Elle's records, in hoodie-wearing nogoodniks skulking in doorways and whispering urgently in their cellphones about contingency plans, in office explosions, and in double-crosses.

Mind the Gap: Intimate Strangers collects the first five issues of Jim McCain (writer) and Rodin Esquejo's (artist) Hitchcock-esque comic book series of the same name. The art is superb and the story is a masterfully-paced, intriguing thriller.

Warning: this is an ongoing series so when you get to the end of this graphic novel, you'll want to find out what happens next. Fortunately Mind the Gap #6 is out. I'm going to wait for Volume 2 of the anthology series, myself.

Mind the Gap: Intimate Strangers

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Last week I found myself in two conversations about resurrecting dead games. One was about Homeworld: I’d made a flippant comment about pressuring Relic to do a Kickstarter to make a sequel, and other people agreed. If Double Fine can raise millions for a point ‘n click, then why not millions for our lost and beloved space RTS? The other was about Syndicate. Wouldn’t it be great if we got a Syndicate sequel, finally, in the way we got a “proper” X-Com remake? No right-minded gamer would disagree. Hell, Paradox even seem to be planning to do so.

But I got to thinking about how this turn to “how games used to be” shouldn’t be about nostalgia, or the past at all, really. It should be about the future. The point of looking back must be to identify, rescue and save the futures we were promised.


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Botinacula, since you asked.

Yesterday Jim wrote a superb piece arguing that games are best when everything is going wrong. That the measure of a game’s potential for generating anecdotes, and its depth of connection to the player, is based in the amount of peril it’s able to generate. Citing games like Day Z, FTL and XCOM, Jim’s argument made one small mistake: it was all wrong. Games aren’t best when they’re stressing you out, piling on the pressure, raising your anxiety levels to breaking point! Games are best when they embrace you into their wonderful worlds, telling you great stories, and letting you get away from the incessant worries of real life.


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Feature, Fotografia, Go Itami, Interviste, Libri, Photo, Photo Issue:

Saremo sinceri: di Go Itami non sapevamo niente, tranne la sua data di nascita (1976) e che stava a Tokyo. Abbiamo scoperto i suoi lavori tramite I Like This Blog – un sito, principalmente di fotografia, curato da Paul Paper - e ci siamo innamorati immediatamente. L’occasione della recente uscita della quarta parte del suo ‘Mazime’ ci è sembrata l’opportunità perfetta per conoscerlo meglio e per farvi vedere alcuni suoi lavori presi da questo volume.

Ciao Go Itami, come stai? Dove ti trovi?
Sto bene. Sono a casa mia, a Kanagawa.

Raccontaci un po’ di te. Quando hai cominciato a scattare? Come mai? Qual è la tua formazione?
Ho frequentato una scuola di moda, dove ho seguito il corso di fotografia e là me ne sono interessato per la prima volta. Si tratta di circa 10 anni fa: fui incoraggiato da un commento positivo del mio professore. A scuola comunque ho (solo) imparato come usare la macchina fotografica, per il resto sono autodidatta.

Quindi adesso lavori come fotografo?
Sì, scatto principalmente per le (varie) riviste. Ma sai com’è… guadagno con gli altri lavori.

Cosa vuol dire ‘Mazime’?
Detto in inglese vuol dire ‘serio, costante, onesto, grave’, ma in giapponese non ha un significato così positivo. Sarebbe tipo ‘non-interessante, testardo, chiuso’, e visto che sono onesto ma anche ottuso, mi è sembrato perfetto. Ci vuole un po’ di auto-ironia, no?

È la quarta parte di una serie, ho capito bene?
Sì, ma la prima e la seconda sono esaurite. Le foto dell’intera serie puoi trovarle qua.

Dove hai scattato le foto di questo libro?
Quasi tutte a Tokyo e Kanagawa. Cammino tutti i giorni e scatto quello che vedo.

Quindi porti sempre una macchina fotografica con te?
Sì, ma principalmente un piccola mirroless, per le foto di mia moglie. Per ‘Mazime’ ho una macchina grossa e pesante, è un’altra storia.

L’hai fatto uscire da solo. Perché?
Sì è self-published. Mi piace così.

Collezioni anche libri di fotografia?
Sì, ne ho un bel po’.

Ci dai i nomi dei tre giovani fotografi giapponesi che ti piaccono di più?
È una domanda difficile, soprattutto nominare solo tre persone. Space Cadet (la galleria online, n.d.r) di cui ho fatto anche parte, ha tanti nomi interessanti. Anche se ci trovi un paio di nomi più o meno established, ci sono sicuramente anche alcuni che non sono ancora diventati rappresentativi per la fotografia giapponese.

Cosa farai quest’estate?
Ad agosto diventerò papà! Sarà un grande giorno per me. Poi da novembre a febbraio dell’anno prossimo ho le mostre individuali a Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, e a Kanazawa.



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EVE Online! Since the servers first rumbled to life nine years ago the deeply political, single-shard MMO has been a source of endless fascination for RPS, on a par with helicopters. How do they stay in the air?

But what’s happening in EVE? Last we heard, some of its most famous chaps were grumbling or rioting, followed by something that continues to feel like a controlled peace. We needed an update, and so it was that CCP sent over a crate containing Senior Producer Jon Lander, Lead Game Designer Kristoffer Touborg and Community Developer Sveinn Kjarval. Together, we would get to the truth.

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Ludum Dare 23, get your Ludum Dare 23 here! I’ve gathered together eleven of my favourites from the recent 48 hour compo/jam, although that’s not to say I’ve played all 1,402 of the entries. The theme was ‘Tiny World’ and below you’ll find a musical, an existential microjaunt, a personbreeding simulation and a space cat trader, with other delights sprinkled about. There are also unconventional marks out of ten, based on number of graphics, similarity to Tetris and inclusion of comical readme file.


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