Techno-fixes technically don’t fix anything

LeCain asserts that there are three types of technological fixes for environmental consequences of industry and provides two examples of these fixes in the mining activities of Ducktown, TN and Anaconda, MT. The three techno-fixes that LeCain identifies and addresses are the transformational techno-fix, the relocational techno-fix, and the delaying techno-fix (page 138). The Duckworth case that LeCain presents is exemplary of the transformational and relocational techno-fixes, as dangerous sulfur dioxide gas was captured and transformed into sulfuric acid, which was then sold and converted into superphosphate fertilizers (page 140). He asserts that this simply transformed the environmental hazard into another form and relocated it to another ecosystem where it was not studied or mitigated. In the case of the smelting operations of Anaconda, LeCain asserts that all three techno-fixes are relevant but chooses to primarily focus on the delaying techno-fix. This was accomplished by capturing most of the dangerous arsenic pollution being produced by the smelter and stored in the form of arsenic-containing dust (page 148). This dust was then transformed into usable products and relocated to other ecosystems such as agricultural fields in the south as a pesticide. However, the byproduct was also used to treat mining timbers, which now that the mines are closed, and the pumps turned off, are sitting below the water table and poisoning the groundwater below Butte (page 148).

 

Knowing that mining produces waste, I do still think that our society relies so heavily on the minerals produced that it is a necessary evil. However, I think that LeCain is correct in suggesting that it is worth the time, effort, and money to fully evaluate its impacts across all systems and to develop methods of surveying and containment that mitigate and reduce these impacts.

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