To Dig, or not to Dig

Early mining technologies like steam-powered water pumps, lifts, ventilation systems, and oxygen masks allowed underground mining to occur. It seems, however, that with each technological advance in underground mining, there came some kind of negative consequence. Take for example the pneumatic drills that miners started to use when the rocks became harder. These new drills crushed rock and made the air worse for miners to breath, and because of this mining engineers had to come up with better ventilation systems and oxygen masks. These ventilation systems allowed miners to work deeper in the mines while being supplied oxygen, but when Butte’s “Speculator mine” had a fire, these very ventilation systems that kept the miners alive, ended up fueling the fire with more oxygen and killed 164 men (LeCain 50). Also, now that copper ore could be mined from deep within the earths crust, smelters were put on the site of the mines. These smelters ended up causing incredible air pollution in the surrounding area, killing thousand of farm animals.


The negative aspects of mining have been proven over the years, and are still showing today throughout mining towns. These negative effects include, air pollution, environmental contamination, and toxic waste leakage into water ways, and many more. All of these effects should be addressed before a mine is opened and should continue to be addressed while the mine is active, and long after they close. This would take enormous efforts from the companies and overseeing governments, but they are much needed efforts if we wish to continue to mine for precious materials. Strict guidelines should be put in place when mining certain materials, and when using toxic chemicals. For example, companies should be required by law to dispose of their waste in a way that does not have an effect on the environment, while the mining process is happening and after they are done. I believe mining can be a safe proposition to humans and the environment, and that it needs to be. Everyday, new technologies are made and they require precious earth metals that come from underground mines. If we want to continue progressing technologically, we must be able to mine without the negative aspects.

One thought on “To Dig, or not to Dig”

  1. Nicely written Matt. I agree that we must find ways to address the negative repercussions of mines, but I’m not sure we would be able to completely eliminate them. Mining creates many environmental problems and believing that we could fix all of them might create unforeseeable problems in the future (as is the case with many technological fixes). While I think we could possibly eliminate some of them, or at least reduce the environmental impact of many of the problems, I don’t think we could completely eliminate all of them. Even if we imposed strict guidelines as you suggest, I don’t think that would remove all negative aspects of mining as there are bound to be more issues than we can solve.

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