Lecain gives us many examples of the technological advancements to mining occurring in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Namely, he explores the development of the Comstock Lode in Nevada and Anaconda Mine in Butte. Innovations focused on increasing the efficiency of removing ore from the earth, as well as transforming the underground environments that miners worked. Some techniques and technologies had lasting impacts on nature and worker life. Two examples of such advancements are hydraulic mining, and the invention and implementation of breathing equipment that supplied oxygen to workers in dangerous atmospheres. The first technique, hydraulic mining, involves utilizing the forces of nature to shoot water out of a nozzle at extremely high speeds. Miners used this stream of highly pressurized water to blast hillsides in an attempt to recover trace amounts of precious minerals. The technique resulted in the degradation of thousands of acres in California alone, destroying natural habitats and covering farmland with gravel and sand (Lecain 39). This process represents an undertone of mining during this time. In an attempt to increase our efficiency in producing minerals, we transferred the workload to Mother Nature, and the natural landscapes paid the price. A similar effect can be seen in the transferring of the workload and burden of mining to laborers by large mining companies. This transition was assisted by the invention of tools that allowed workers to work in toxic environments by carrying a supply of oxygen. What was advertised as an improvement to safety was in reality an attempt to improve mine efficiency and depth. The deaths and injuries of miners from malfunctions of the equipment, as well as unforeseen problems created by the new environments, helped to create some of the most powerful worker unions in the industrial world. Even today, workers unionize and fight higher wages and better working conditions in return for their labor.
In the current day, mining for precious minerals is still vital. The raw materials extracted from the earth give us the conductors in our phones, computers, and more. Our use of steel and aluminum is so abundant that we hardly notice the buildings and vehicles around us. Based on the current pace of developments in technology and industry, it is hard to imagine that we will ever be without mining. However, I believe that we have the wherewithal to minimize our impact on the earth. We have become much more conscious of the environmental consequences of industry since the early 1900’s. I do not believe that we will ever be able to leave zero trace of mines around the world, however, I think it is our duty to implement the technology we have in the mining industry. As such, it is important that we strive to minimize our footprint by carefully planning before, during, and after current mining operations are started, underway, and concluded.