LeCain’s arguments regarding technological fixes in mining are essentially: these fixes aren’t actually fixing anything, just delaying or moving the problem elsewhere. This can be seen clearly in the case of the Anaconda smelting operation. The process by which the smelters are getting copper from its ore is producing a sulfur dioxide gas that has massive effects on the wildlife and livestock surrounding it. The company, pressured by new federal environmental regulations, wants a solution to their problem that can still be profitable. The company discovers the gas can be manipulated into sulfuric acid and can be mixed with fertilizer and sold to farmers. It appears a win-win solution, the smelting operation supposedly ceases it’s unintentional production of noxious gases with this new method, thus helping the nearby farmers, and the company wins with the production of their new profitable byproduct. However, as a result of sulfuric acid being used in fertilizer, and abundance of it in farmers crops leads to runoff into rivers and streams causing further environmental problems. As the reading suggests, “Wherever phosphate and other fertilizers have been widely used, considerable eutrophication of water systems has resulted.” (p. 142 LeCain)
While there is evidence to suggest that mining some materials such as oil may not be as necessary as we thought thanks to new technologies, copper doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in our modern world. As the past reading described, copper is really the only feasible material that we can use to conduct electricity in light circuits. Not only is it one of the few metals known to conduct electricity, but it’s the only one that won’t cost a fortune to obtain. Overall, copper mining isn’t going anywhere unless we find a new material to use.