Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Technological advances, such as electricity and inventions that used electricity such as street cars, required copper based components like wires or motors, and therefore allowed underground mining to occur. World War I and World War II also sparked a new enormous demand for copper and zinc. Many Americans believed that “Copper would help usher in a clean, modern, electrically powered world that would provide all the conveniences of technology while also maintaining a healthy and morally uplifting environment (LeCain 29). Underground mining had several consequences such as in California where hydraulic mining had a huge toll on the environment. “The silt generated by the mines choked downstream rivers, destroyed fisheries, and covered good farmland with thick layers of unproductive sand and gravel” (LeCain 39).

Mining is an dangerous process, for the environment and for humans. Abandoned mines are thought to be like “zombies” as they continue to exert some sort of malevolent effect during their afterlife (Sandlos, Keeling). These negative aspects of mining should be considered before the process starts. During and after the mining process people need to be aware of the effects mining has had on the environment such as the chemical and radiological hazards that are produced. Even though toxic sites can be fixed, it is a very costly remedy, therefore I’m not entirely sure how the negative aspects of mining would be addressed, although I do believe it is important that they are addressed. Considering the effects that mining has on the environment and humans that work in the mines, I don’t think mining could ever be a safe proposition. If we were to continue, however, I do believe that it would need to improve so that it is safer for the environment and humans alike.

One thought on “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

  1. I thought you made a great point in emphasizing how WW I and II were great drivers of the expansion of the mining industry, as well as the importance of electricity, which not only drove the copper market but also the industry itself. However, I feel like you missed some key developments in mining technologies such as water and air pumps to provide working environments and timbering methods to provide structural support. I also agree with you that mines can be dangerous to human and environmental health, during construction, throughout its use, and for many years after it is shut down. It seems to be a necessary evil in our world, so the question is no longer whether it is safe because we know it is not, but rather how can we mitigate and reduce the dangers to people and the Earth.

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