UnderMining the Public

LeCain writes on the engineering advances that allowed men to mine in the most extreme depths. When the miners ran into water, state-of-the-art pumps were used to perpetually drain tunnels (LeCain, 44). When the temperatures soared too high, cooling tanks and fans were placed near the workers. And when the atmosphere was toxic, advanced apparatuses and helmets provided miners with oxygen (LeCain, 46). Each of these technological fixes aided the mining companies in surpassing “the subterrestrial environmental barriers to human survival” (LeCain, 47). Yet simply because new technology could create a threshold of survivability didn’t mean that the mines were remotely comfortable or safe. The depths were a hot dark hell, and each new technology furthered the complexity of the subterranean trophic cascade. Consequently, one small accident in the interconnected system could cause a catastrophic chain reaction, like that seen in the Speculator Mine fire of 1917 (LeCain, 51). Overall, the engineers crafted an intricate system of resource extraction where a miner’s survival often came secondary.

Often small communities and future generations are left to deal with the massive environmental trauma that mining companies have caused. Unfortunate mining companies frequently think of profits before the public. They prioritize efficient extraction over worker safety, and earnings over the land we leave for our children. Mining is a joint effort between global governments, communities, workers, and the mining companies themselves. Each group has its own agenda, and therefore solving environmental concerns is sickeningly complex. I’m no expert, but I’d want to assemble an inter-disciplinary collection of miners, scientists, politicians, businessmen, humanists, etc. to draft policies for future welfare. But the likelihood of such a coalition existing is doubtful. Even if the United States reformed its mining practices to minimize environmental destruction, other nations would pick up our torch and continue pillaging the earth’s crust.

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