The Perils of Mining

Due to the perilous and risky nature of mining, many technological measures are necessary in order to make the process possible. One example of these technologies is the Knowles Steam Pump, used to remove the excess of water underground. Over the course of the 20th century, mines were “kept dry only by the constant efforts of gigantic subsurface pumps” (LeCain, p. 44). These pumps had problematic consequences; the resulting detriment of the air quality impacted the miners, leaving many with a deadly lung disease (LeCain, p. 45). This problem led to a new technology, Draeger helmets, with the function of allowing humans to breath in poisonous atmospheres. The illusion of trust these helmets created put miners in dangerous situations they otherwise would not have been subjected to, like entering a mine where fire was actively burning (LeCain, p. 45-47).

Mining has a lot of downsides—I would argue too many for it to be a viable process at all. Defenses of mining are the jobs opportunities and materials it provides, but those employed in mining are regularly putting their lives at risk to engage in a process that will always be harmful and dangerous, no matter how much effort we put into making it cleaner and safer. Additionally, the financial value the resources in mines holds can only be considered a short-term profit, as future complications the process of mining creates costly problems. As outlined in the article explaining Zombie mines, the Giant Mine in Canada put a billion dollar burden on taxpayers for the cleanup and perpetual maintenance costs (Sandos and Keeling); this, alongside the toxicity it placed upon the environment, serves as an example how mining will never be a beneficial proposition.

One thought on “The Perils of Mining”

  1. Hi Audrey!

    I am going to disagree very slightly with your view that across the board mining is an activity that results in more damage and harm than it gives us back in positive benefits. I would posit that mining, by itself, as an activity is neither in a moral sense good or bad, and it is the circumstances around it that can turn it into a positive or negative (often both) activity. When driven by greed, mining operations can easily cause great environmental pollution and harm to people and animals, but many of the products from that mine can bring great benefits to people, such as providing resources like coal or copper that help construct and power out electric grid. There are many benefits to having access to such a power grid, and there is a correlation between available power and overall health [1] [2]. I would posit that mining is in a sense a necessary evil, and that we should seek to maximize our benefits from mining and minimize the damage it causes.

    [1] http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/household-air-pollution-and-health
    [2] http://www.who.int/sustainable-development/health-sector/health-risks/energy-access/en/

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