Deep in the ground not too far from here, the miners in Butte, Montana experienced work in some of the most extreme environments this country has ever seen. The ambition to mine deeper, while economically successful, was creating many safety concerns for these men. One large issue was the air quality in which these men had to work. With the introduction of steam-powered drills and mining technology as well as the atmospheric changes, the air in many areas of the mines became toxic. To combat this, the Draeger helmet technology was implemented to provide portable fresh oxygen for the men. This allowed them to continue working deeper and deeper. Another issue was the groundwater. With the importation of large pumps, the constant seeping of groundwater was no longer something that prevented more mining. The use of technology to combat the harsh environments of the mines did not come without consequence. “Miners were taught to trust the life-sustaining power of machines they carried on their backs – even though hat trust was not entirely warranted” (Lecain 46). With this technology came risks that caused many to lose their lives. Some caused fires, others caused toxic chemicals to poison the men. While the technology prevented some risks, it also caused many others.
We now have the ability to reflect on the mistakes made and the environmental impacts we have caused through mining. I do not have an answer whether the cleaning up of old mines is effective or harmful to our environment. With our new technologies, environmental engineers can address the negative aspects of mining and apply their knowledge to best prevent the consequences we have seen in the past. We must consider if the profit from the mine is worth the lifetime of consequences we can cause. From what I have read, the act of mining and even the act of cleaning up a mine are both potentially damaging to our world. One can conclude that it is very difficult to conduct mining at a level of safety that is required to protect our people as well as our environment.