“I was having a real tough time figuring out what to do without any flint,” said Susan Graves, “and then it struck me.”
Photo By Julia Wong
As supply chain issues continue to plague the nation, the lives of many consumers, business owners, and megacorporation CEOs alike have ground to a halt due to shipping delays, dwindling stock, and ships getting stuck in canals. While many aspects of life have changed in the face of the breakdown of global commerce that followed the COVID-19 pandemic, for one small town in rural San Diego County, the rampant shortages threaten to cut off a key source of income.
Coal Valley is home to several large flint mines that are estimated to produce up to 68.9% of the country’s supply, or an estimated 50 pounds every year. “Coal Valley only really has one major export,” explained Jeremiah Jameson, a local miner. Lately, the mines have struggled to produce their normal quotas, many residents believe that the floundering supply chain is to blame. Jameson continued, “If we lose the flint mines, we lose our livelihood.”
Outside Coal Valley, the shortages are beginning to affect daily life as well. Susan Graves, an avid backpacker, said, “I rely on flint to start my cooking fires every night, but we’ve had to resort to ancient technology because of this shortage. I mean, I haven’t used a butane lighter since college! I don’t know how I’ll get by if the shortages hit jerky next!” Other outdoor enthusiasts have been forced to turn to alternate methods such as matches to keep warm at night as flint supplies dwindle.
The denizens of nearby cities, however, seem to pay no mind to this issue. When asked about the ongoing flint shortage, one La Jolla native responded, “We’re running out of flint? That’s kind of a bummer. Shouldn’t we just, like, mine more gravel then? How much flint do we really even need?” Another resident said, “Damn, dude, that sucks. Anyway, have you ever heard of KhoslaCoin?”
Annie-Sue Beckham, the mayor of Coal Valley, cites the town’s dwindling supplies as the main reason for their lost productivity. “We can ship our product out just fine. In Coal Valley, if you don’t mine flint, you truck it out of town,” she explains. “No, it’s the damn birdseed that’s the issue!”
Jedediah Longtree elaborated on the issue: “We gotta keep our canaries fed somehow. When the virus hit, them shipping drones just stopped coming. Without the drones, we can’t get no birdseed. No birdseed means no canaries, and we can’t mine without our little birdies. We can barely stop the canaries’ cooing about their plans for a coup, let alone get them to help us pull flint out of the ground.”
Scarce awareness of Coal Valley’s struggle makes the situation even more dire, with many residents beginning to lose hope. “Them city slickers couldn’t care less about us,” said one miner. “Let’s see how all those kids like it when their flint is gone.”
While it is unclear if the supply chain will ever return to normal, it is obvious that the effects of this shortage stretch even into the most remote corners of the country. The worsening flint shortage is just one of many issues that seem to spark surprisingly little emotion outside of their immediate sphere of influence. As Mayor Beckham said to the residents of Coal Valley, “We’re tryin’ to stoke the fires of change. But there ain’t no fire to stoke when we ain’t got no damn flint.”