Make a hole. Make it bigger. Acquire the resources. As simple as mining may sound, it isn’t. It requires a lot of work, and a lot of energy. Not to mention, money. As time progresses, so does the science and technology of developing complex systems needed to tackle the obstacles of mining. However, in parallel to these complex systems, the consequences are nonetheless apparent. Major concerns that miners run into are often water and oxygen. Often times miners hit subterranean lakes and rivers. As anyone can guess, an environment too rich in water can lead to many problems. LeCain discusses the issue that occurred in Butte, 1877, when miners hit the groundwater flows(Lecain, pg 44). The solution was to pump out the water. Marcus Daly, the “Copper King,” bought two $100,000 pumps to fix this issue. That is the equivalent to buying two $2,285,000 pumps in 2018. Oxygen was also a problem. The deeper you mine, the less airflow. Not to mention mining in a subterranean environment creates a polluted and poisonous atmosphere. The Butte mines were one of the first to pioneer the use of oxygen masks and apparatuses. And as technology advanced, the Copper King opted the awkward apparatus for sub terrestrial breathing machines.
Roads, bridges, and building would not exist if it wasn’t for mining. Mining has life-long consequences. Not only to humans, but the environment too. Sub-terrestrial lakes and rivers can be drained away, and the land that was once rich and beautiful lays barren. Mining causes contamination, erosion, water pollution, the list goes on. The cost, literally and figuratively, does not always outweigh the value. Arsenic dust spreads onto relied crops and water. A two year old dies from drinking contaminated water. Whether mining can ever be a safe proposition to humans and the environment, that’s the million dollar question. As is asking if mining can be sustainable. With the modern complex systems in place, it is a lot safer than it was in 1877, and exponentially more so than the mining of “hells” by the Romans. With current science and technology, and the trend of safety coming towards the top of the s-curve, one can only hope that we make mining as safe as possible.