“With improved maps and measurements… obstacles could be overcome with powerful new machines and techniques”. (Lecain, p.36) These maps and measurements were the very beginning of true mine engineering. Eventually, mines were able to grow deeper and wider thanks to the architecture of the “square set” that kept the tunnels from collapsing. However, giant and intertwining underground tunnels weren’t any use when they weren’t livable environments for humans. Technology allowed for the prevention of flooding by using giant water pumps along with fans and ventilation to keep the environment from being too hot for workers. The “Oxygen breathing apparatus” (p.45) took it a step further and allowed workers to breath in otherwise toxic, and sometimes deadly, environments. However, consequences resulted every step of the way. Silicosis was killing miners because of the innovation of steam-powered pneumatic rock drills. The Speculator fire killed over one-hundred and fifty men due to the catastrophic collision of multiple safety precautions and one mistake. Not only have workers been harmed, but the environment and future people have suffered as well. Lecain gives the examples of livestock that have been killed due to the toxic air and people in places like Butte who live in constant fear of the ground collapsing beneath them.
Mining is essential to humans current lifestyle and has been crucial for our modern technological advancement. I would like to say that mining is bad and isn’t worth the disastrous effects it has on the earth and its inhabitants. However, that stance is unrealistic and unhelpful due to the the fundamental nature of metals in our society. Assuming mining will continue for as long as it can be milked, I doubt mining will ever be safe for humans or the environment. Perhaps that idea isn’t impossible but it’s highly improbable, if only because there’s hardly any money or resources allocated to manage current consequences, let alone demolish future ones. Ideally, these issues will be researched and a technological fix will diminish past effects as well as prevent future ones but it’s hard to day dream up solutions when the money and the will isn’t there.