Butte Tough

In Between Heavens and the Earth, Tim LeCain explains the dangers that come with underground mining and the many inventions by humans to increase work conditions in the mines, possibly making the miners’ lives more difficult with each invention. Inventions like ventilation tubes from the surface were put down in the mines so that miners could get fresh air. Breathing tubes and helmets were also invented so that miners would be able to breath clean air while underground, preventing the miners from breathing in toxins with each breath. A mine in Butte, Montana named the “Speculator” went as far as attempting to install sprinkler systems in the underground mine, but a fire started during the process that killed over one hundred fifty people. Miners’ health was overall in danger at all moments because of: toxic gases in underground mines, risk of fire, risk of the ground collapsing and mining can cause air pollution, which effects the miners and other people residing in the area. The miners were effected by all inventions because those inventions increased the amount of time that a person could stay underground. (LeCain, 37, 43-49, 52-60).

The dangers of mining should be considered before establishing a mine, during the mining process and during the mine clean up and land restoration. In Butte, Montana, mine clean up is continually a problem many years after many of the mine closures because the toxic minerals from mine tailings threaten to effect Butte’s drinking water if action is not continually taken to clean the toxic minerals. I do not see many ways that mining can be environmentally friendly unless clean up and the most efficient, safe mining tools are the established before breaking ground. Mining should be safe for both miners and the surrounding environment, and if not, than no mine should be made.

2 thoughts on “Butte Tough”

  1. Mr. Trudnowski,

    You have taken an intriguing new angle on the mining issue with your post. I am particularly interested by your supposition that mining on any level, and advancements to that end, only serve to worsen the danger miners operate in. I think you make a new and innovative point about the way that progress begets only progress, and those on the edge of that curve inevitable suffer from the challenges and setbacks of the equipment they operate. Both a new perspective on the history of mining, and, in the present, a worryingly applicable theory, I think you have posited a fascinating idea.

  2. I think you summarize the article very well. There were so many dangers for underground miners such as fires, cave-ins, and exposure to poisonous gases as you mention. These harms have cost so many miners their lives. I found Jen’s lecture on EPA Superfund sites and actions in Butte and Libby to be very interesting. It was interesting to note the many years it takes to clean up messes from the mines and how bad the people living near the mines can be exposed to toxic drinking water and even cancer over long term effects. I agree with you that it really needs to be considered whether mining can ever be safe and necessary. Great job!

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