In Mass Destruction, Timothy LeCain describes how mining technology made quantum leaps in the decades following Thomas Edison’s development of the incandescent light bulb. With Edison’s development came a whole new industry revolving around electricity and the products that would use electricity. This led to a massive increase in the need for copper and its procurement. Mining companies and the men willing to work in them answered the call. As the need for copper rose steeply so did the need for larger and deeper mining operations. Many problems came from this such as the need to stabilize mines so they wouldn’t collapse, the sweltering heat, and the toxic gasses that could kill a man if inhaled. In order to solve problems rose the engineers who developed self contained breathing apparatuses suited for mining, ventilation systems that brought relatively breathable air a mile beneath the earth’s surface, and water pumps that kept mines from flooding. However these technological fixes were far from perfect and it was not a rare occurrence for them to fail. Lecain points out that many of these failures were dealt with by dispatching engineers and mechanics to fix them and at worst were nuisances to the miners, but on occasion these failures led to fatal disasters for the miners such as the Speculator mine accident where an accidental slip of a giant copper wire that was covered in an oil soaked insulation led to a fire that took the lives of 164 men. These technological fixes however led to the creation of an artificial environment for men to survive. Akin to survival in space or in the depths of the sea, these fixes allowed men to tame a foreign and hostile frontier. Unfortunately engineers placed too much confidence in their fixes which led to accidents being a more than rare occurrence.
Mining has been a huge part of human history. Every major society has participated in it to some extent. However it is only in the last 100 years that we have become aware of the dangers of mining to the earth and to our quality of life. The fact remains that many facets of modern society revolve around mining to some extent or another. So what should mining companies do to eliminate or mitigate the harmful effects of mining? First of all I believe that the power of money if the greatest factor in play. If an individual does not approve of a company’s mining practices then they should not buy any consumer good that has that product in it. If enough people care about the issue then that company will have to change its methods. Company’s can also be compelled by their employees. If people do not like their methods, then those people should not work for that mining company. A mining company with no employees will have to change its ways or else literally go under. Another way to make mining companies change their methods is to sue them into submission. If a mining company’s practices negatively affect an individual or a community than they should file a lawsuit to hold that company accountable. I believe that companies should recognize they have a moral obligation to protect the environment they are profiting from. However an attempt to legislate morals into law is not a recommended idea. At the end of the day those companies have every right to abuse their property until it negatively affects another human.