The Sad Truth About Mining

As the text explains, when mines first started, little technology was needed to accomplish the task. However, the great challenges of mining soon came when operations shifted and growth pushed further underground. As the depth of the mine increases the environment quickly becomes unstable and unhealthy. LeCain states “ambient temperatures reached 110 Fahrenheit, while the ground water percolating up from below was a scalding 170 degrees.” (LeCain, pg. 41) The only way to cope with these conditions is to develop methods to counteract the dangers. By using water pumps and funneling air into the tunnels miners were able to reach greater depths. As the miners kept pushing deeper, the engineers kept developing technology to assist that movement. But not all of this technology led to better conditions. With the advance of mining some unforeseen consequences followed. Butte’s Speculator mine is home to the worst hard-rock mining disaster which resulted from technology originally developed for the welfare of the workers. “The workers accidentally dropped it down the shaft and subsequently set fire to the oil-soaked insulation wrapped around the copper wire.” (LeCain, pg. 49) This is a great example of how technology developed for the better can also have hugely negative consequences. The best answer to this question comes from the text. “When these complex systems fail disastrously, the consequences could be deadly.” (LeCain, pg. 49)

The negative aspects of mining should be addressed throughout the entire mining process. If they are not, then we dig ourselves into the situations we are currently in. If the negative aspects of mining were discovered and policies put in place before the operations started it would have at least reduced the current effects. I don’t think mining could ever be safe for both humans and the environment. No matter how far the technology progresses there will be unforeseen consequences. This is true for many fields other than mining as well. In an ideal world mining should be safe for both humans and the environment but I don’t think we will ever reach that point.

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