As Above is Below: The Human Cost

One of the most notable (and often times noted notorious) time periods in mining history was the California gold rush in 1848. A mass exodus to all over the state in search of riches developed mines and miners which eventually died down and spread to other mines in search of work. Fast forward later in time to Montana, the town of Butte is on the fore front of mining operations in the US, scaling to be one of the biggest mining operations in the nation. Along with the technological change in extracting ore from the earth, was the lagging but essential change in environmental stability underground. Bigger and bigger mines grew with more complex tools needed and more prolonged operating hours needed, the question turned into a need; how to keep miners safer underground and not drastically affect their health. It has long been known in the present time that miners are exposed to immense amounts of cancer causing elements and poisoning potential. A more immediate threat at the time was breath-ability, immediate health and survivability underground. As miners began to travel deeper into the Earth, temperatures reached as hot as 110 degree Fahrenheit, and at times when the mines hit underground water pockets, the water temperature came to be a scalding 170 degrees Fahrenheit. These problems were initially solved with complex systems of pumping cool, surface air deep underground so miners could breath, as well as pumping boiling water out of the mines and transported away in wagons (to not loosen or re-flood the mine if dumped nearby).

The theme examined above shows that the immediate onset of problems propel the industry as a whole to find a solution to said problem at hand. In theory it is simple engineering; Discover a problem, find a solution, implement said solution, rinse and repeat. However during the “implementation process” of said technology, consequences can be a for-thought. When these technologies failed, it became disastrous for any miners below as the risk of failing life-support systems was high, and recovery efforts became complicated, thus having a large human cost on mining operations.

It is well known that mining operations have not only a deadly human cost but also a known environmental cost as well. Mining operations may be better regulated and achieved if local environments and (if applicable) towns were taken into consideration. Much like to avoid the effects seen in Butte, mines should not affect local towns and stability due to said mining. If local factors can be taken into account, as well as safe waste deposits and uses can be found, mining can be a safe operation in many ways. Safe mining can also be a reason to offer a tax relief to certain corporations or companies. Positive reinforcements in taxing and regulation can help drive companies for safer mining techniques and practices. Eventually, if no steps are taken, the human cost of mining will catch-up to others, pushing away future employees and prospects.

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