A History Better Not Repeated

Tim LeCain shares in his text “Between the Heavens and the Earth” a wide array of examples of how mining engineers have been finding ways to overcome nature since the Romans. Mining engineers were especially creative in the American west beginning in the mid 1800’s chasing gold on the surface in creeks and rivers. But, after some time miners started looking for deposits of valuable minerals under the surface. In 1859 William Randolph Hurst and a group of other investors began hard rock mining under the surface by Comstock Lake and really pushed what they could do with the environment. LeCain shares on page 40 how when their mine hit groundwater and began to flood they paid for the first ever water pump to be brought up from San Francisco. This device allowed them to keep their mines dry while another innovation of theirs the “square set timbering method” allowed them to keep their mines from closing as they discovered the hard rock wasn’t as hard as they hoped. As time went on mining continued to progress more extremely and engineers pushed the limits of nature even further. In Butte, Montana in the early 1900’s mining engineers shaped the mountains into mass production facilities. As the author shares on page 47 they developed such technologies as industrial ventilation that used groundwater cooled by large fans to ventilate the mines on its way to the surface. What mining engineers did was also put the environment and the workers at risk at their inventions could also mean that there is more risk to those involved and the areas surrounding.  

In order for mining to be a feasible process the environmental impact will have to be deeply investigated prior to a bid being granted, during a mine is active and after the mine has ceased operations. Mining can be extremely profitable and worthwhile if done appropriately but as we know from history when it is done inappropriately with little to no regard for the environment then there will be major long-term consequences for those communities. As John Sandlos and Arn Keeling share in their article “Zombie Mines and the (Over)burden of History” we can use areas such as the area surrounding the Washoe smelter in Montana and Sudbury, Ontario as brilliant examples of how mining can be detrimental to the environment. Therefore, before any mining claim is approved by any government the area should be studied intensely to study how the ecosystem is prior to mining and if there are any sensitive species. Then, after years of study if the mine is approved and the government and local community has few concerns then the mine has to be continually under surveillance from the government. Study of the surrounding environment must continue to be routine and if any concerns arise then the mine should be halted. After the mine is closed then the area has to be cleaned up to the same condition it was found. No way can a corporation be allowed to profit off of the land then leave it in ruins. If we take this approach hopefully mining will have a smaller impact on the environment in the west and around the world.

2 thoughts on “A History Better Not Repeated”

  1. Science continues to play an important role on mining and the best possible way to extract medals from the underground. Your ideas on how we should conduct mining is quite interesting, and importantly takes the needs of the ecosystem in account. However, the biggest issue, one of the big issues for any corporation or government, is that this could potentially cost a lot of money. So the question of who would be paying for all of the tests and research is one reason why the steps might not be taken. We must find a way that balances the safety of not only the environment but the workers that work the mine, as well as the cost of the safety measures. The way that the mining engineers as well as the public needs to change trying to conquer and taking natural resources, but rather a cooperation between earth and man. We are the only species with the capability to ruin the planet, but that also means that we are the only ones that can save it!

  2. Hey Cameron! I really liked your post! I agree mining is going to happen if we like it or not so it’s best to try to minimize the damage as much as possible. And just like you stated, before anything takes place, an environmental impact report should be completed before any physical work begins. We can’t go back to the way we used to mine and not worry about any of the damage until after it was done. And I also agree that the land should be left exactly like it started. It will be difficult but I believe it can be done. Good job on your post!

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