In his essay, Timothy LeCain talks about the three major categories of technological fixes which include transformational, relocational, and delaying techno-fixes. These fixes are all temporary, though the mine owners saw this as an adequate way of dealing with any environmental effects that their operations had. LeCain begins by talking about Ducktown, Georgia and how the copper smelting operation there was harming farmers and the surrounding landscape and states, “Within a radius of several miles of the smelters, scarcely a single blade of grass grew,” (LeCain 140). Simply relocating the sulfur dioxide, however, isn’t enough as a fix because it only moves the pollutants to elsewhere rather than gets rid of them entirely. Another case study LeCain looks at is the smelter at Deer Lodge, Montana. This smelter was releasing incredible amounts of arsenic over the valley which resulted in the deaths of many ranchers’ animals. The fix that was proposed for the Anaconda mining operation was the installation of electrostatic precipitators which would capture much of the arsenic. This fix however only brought the emissions down to about a third of what it had been previously, simply delaying the inevitable.

Of course, we need these materials. Though mining produces copious amounts of waste, it is necessary to extract these minerals which are so important to the means of production and industry. Without these minerals, we would have almost nothing that we have today because everything requires things like copper or gold. Computer chips need gold to function correctly and copper is important for electrical needs as well as even currency. If we were to ban mining simply because it harmed the environment, then we should ban every other means of production that pollutes as well. Unfortunately, environmental impacts are unavoidable in many things humans do and in regard to mining, it is almost necessary in order to retrieve these important minerals. Fortunately today there are many more effective fixes to these problems so the impacts of something like mining is greatly decreased, though it isn’t perfect and likely never will be.

Leave a Reply