The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin


After a two year slump, coal, iron, and everything related to mining is seeing a boom. Entities on the New York Stock Exchange linked to the extraction of minerals from the earth are seeing their profits go up. Like most things in the global economy, this dramatic shift cannot be separated from geopolitical events. The boom on the energy markets is directly linked to confrontation between the USA and China, related to the crisis in the Korean peninsula.

Too Much Coal

In 1930, a coal miner in Poland famously explained the economic crisis to his son with an unforgettable dialogue:

“Father, Why don‘t we light the stove? I am cold”
“We don’t have coal, son”
“And why haven’t we got coal?”
“Because there is too much coal.”

The father had been laid off from his job as a coal miner, due to the abundance of coal created by advances in mining technology. Because he was unemployed, he could not afford coal to heat his home. The coal miner and his son were without heat, not due to a lack of coal, but because there is “too much coal.”