In LeCain’s “Between the Heavens and the Earth”, he discusses various technological advances that allowed for underground mining in addition to the consequences of this technology. As mines descended further into the earth, there was the issue of flooding, heating and ventilation underground (LeCain, pg. 37). In response to these major problems, there had to be technological solutions. One of these solutions was the steam pump, which was used to drain water in the deep hard-rock mines (LeCain. pg. 44). While these pumps enabled mining companies to continue to mine deeper and deeper into the earth, they also presented their own problems. In addition to the new steam-powered pneumatic rock drills, the air quality in the mines became detrimental to the miners’ health. This led to a lung disease called silicosis, which was caused by the clouds of silica dust produced by these new high powered drills. The ventilation systems in the mines, while mostly beneficial, also had problems. Most notably, in the 1917 Speculator mine disaster in Butte, the ventilation system helped fan the flames of the fire, as well as carry the carbon monoxide and smoke through the mine (LeCain, pg. 51).
I think negative aspects of mining can be managed at all parts of the mining process. Before beginning to mine, I think it’s important that the mining company be prepared to pay for cleanup that results from mining. During the mining process, negative aspects can be managed by practicing safe mining practices, and obeying all regulations. After the mine closes, I think it is especially important to conduct safe clean-up procedures, including safe storage practices of any hazardous materials. I’m not sure if mining can ever be a safe practice. This being said, I think it needs to become safer than it is now.