Mine Over Matter


Copper was critical in a lot of the new technology and infrastructure emerging during the time of the later stages of the Industrial Revolution in America and the modernization of American society to using electrical power. This made it a highly demanded material (Lecain, 31). In the late 1800s, improving maps and measurement systems led to the ability to construct more extensive networks of mines. Complex pump, cooling and ventilation systems were developed. Hydraulic mining introduced high-pressure water jets to break up rock and sediment, and steam pumps drained buildups of water pools that formed at lower levels to allow miners to go even deeper (Lecain 37, 38, 44). Unfortunately, extensive mining created vast tunnels and caverns underneath the ground and loosened the soil, leading to a tendency for sinkholes and dangerous pits to form in Montanan soil in the aftermath, something that threatens both wildlife and people (Lecain, 35). Mining in itself was also extremely dangerous and collapses and worker fatailities were common, and finally, they produced dangerous amounts of chemical and radiological hazards (such as arsenic and contamination of the water table) (Sandlos)

Mines inevitably damage the environment. We must discuss all the potential risks, to health and environment, that a mine has before we start to construct one, and determine if those risks are really worth the benefits in the long term for the environment and our descendants that live in it. Some mines according to Sandlos need to be permanently maintained indefinitely, and we would be burdening future humanity with that task. If there alternatives, (different ways of getting material or using a different material entirely) we should take it. If we absolutely must mine, then there must be, in my opinion, contingencies and clean-up plans drafted to deal with the mine after death even before the first day of operations. Mining I don’t think will ever be 100% safe, but it can be made safer. Technology has the capability of reducing the harmful effects, but to what extent it can reduce them is always in question. Nevertheless we need to minimize them as much as possible, because anything that we can do should be done for the ultimate goal: to lessen our footprint on the environment while living responsibly and sustaining a civilization that will stand the test of time.