LeCain describes three types of environmental techno-fixes: transformational, relocational, and delaying. He argues that these fixes, at the time, seemingly solved the problems facing the Ducktown and Anaconda smelter operations. The Ducktown smelter’s capturing and transformation of sulfur dioxide into fertilizer demonstrated transformational and relocational fixes, as the sulfur dioxide plaguing the area stopped killing vegetation. However, the fertilizer created from the captured sulfur ran off from fields that used it. This created eutrophication in rivers and lakes near the areas that used the fertilizer. The Anaconda smelter had a similar problem. Large amounts of arsenic were being ejected from the smelter, and a fix to capture the arsenic was employed. This seemed to fix the problems with cattle and crop death. The Anaconda smelter also used the captured arsenic as a pesticide and a wood preservative. However, as time passed, the effects of the stored harvested arsenic became apparent. The arsenic seeped into the soil and then into groundwater, causing numerous problems for the residents of the Deer Lodge valley. These fixes, Lecain says, may have temporarily solved problems the smelters were causing, but ultimately created more and perhaps worse problems in the future. Thus, LeCain argues that since these fixes don’t truly fix the problems, we could avoid mining certain metals or even stop mining altogether. This, he suggests, could help remedy the environmental problems caused by these smelters.
Even though mining produces waste, I absolutely believe we need the copper and other minerals we get from mining. Copper and the many other minerals we obtain through mining are ubiquitous throughout our world, and we have no feasible substitute. As much as I’d love a world where we don’t have to destroy the environment to obtain the necessary materials to make it run, the reality is we need these ores to do so. LeCain suggests avoiding these rocks and says that some mines and smelters avoid ores containing high amounts of arsenic and sulphur dioxide, even with the techno-fixes. (LeCain, 151) I do agree we should avoid these highly toxic ores. However, completely stopping mining and smelting is something our world couldn’t do. We are simply too dependent on these materials to cease using them. We should be far more environmentally conscious when we mine and smelt, but this is all we can do. Our tech fixes can’t fix everything, but mining these materials is a necessary evil for our society to function.