- By Blake Hounshell
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.
Today’s Tuesday Map comes via a fascinating story by John W. Miller in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. It’s subscriber-only, so I’ll have to summarize.
Suddenly, the musty Royal Museum for Central Africa has become a hot locale for international mining corporations eager to cash in on the global commodity boom. Why? Because in its collections, virtually ignored for decades, are dozens of hand-drawn maps from the heyday of the Belgian Congo. Here’s an example:
It’s too dangerous to do much on-the-ground surveying in the highly volatile Democratic Republic of the Congo, so would-be prospectors hope the old maps can provide clues to the whereabouts of the country’s legendary reserves of copper, cobalt, gold, and tin. And at $332 a day, access to the museum is relatively cheap.
DRC officials, who didn’t manage to safeguard their own copies of the map archives, are peeved at being cut out of this bonanza. The country needs vast quantities of aid in order to recover from its devastating 1998-2003 civil war. So I have a wacky utopian scheme: Rather than squabbling (or worse, killing) over the Congo’s mineral wealth, why not share it?
Belgium has a historical debt to pay the Congo. But if the museum turns over the maps to the DRC, they may get lost, destroyed, or misused for personal gain by corrupt officials. So why not do as Canada’s GoldCorp famously did, and put all of its data up on the Internet for experts and enthusiastic amateurs to pore over?
Today Goldcorp is reaping the fruits of its open source approach to exploration. Not only did the contest yield copious quantities of gold, it catapulted [CEO Rob McEwen’s] under-performing $ 100 million company into a $9 billion juggernaut while transforming a backward mining site in Northern Ontario into one of the most innovative and profitable properties in the industry.
I’d do the same for the DRC. Let the “wisdom of crowds” do the work, and then, under U.N. stewardship of some kind, allow companies to bid for mining rights. In exchange for easy money, they’d agree to share the proceeds equally and transparently with everyone in the DRC, via the United Nations. It’s so crazy, it just might work.