Technological advances during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were some of the most impressive engineering feats of that time. The invention of air pumps, water pumps, and electric lighting systems in the mine shafts were on the lesser end of impressive advances. The two most impressive ones were the ability to drill hydraulically and the ability for miners to descend into mines with stored oxygen on their back so they could breath in the toxic environment. “…the members of no other profession succeeded so well in as mining engineers in creating new environments in which humans could live and work,” (LeCain 53). As LeCain states after, these engineers were in fact the very first literal environmental engineers. These mines had to have people dedicated to making them safe in order to limit the consequences of mining. Mining comes with inevitable consequences of water contamination, air pollution and hazardous working conditions to name a few. Water pumped out of the mine has to go somewhere, so why not the ground so that is disappears into the watershed? The toxic, sulfur-rich air can’t be in the mines where workers might breath it in, so why not vent it out into the atmosphere? These technological advances might have been improving working conditions, but they were also aiding in the harm of the natural landscape.
I will address the latter, first. I think with the advances in robotics recently, mining can definitely be directly safe to humans by limiting the number of humans entering the mines. I think the environmental impact is inevitable to some degree. Mitigation before, after and during mining operations should be caused by continuous testing. Limiting the damage to the environment and humans is a necessity, however I don’t believe we are quite there yet in terms of having the technology at hand to completely diffuse any negative impact from mining.