Mining in Butte, America

              In “Between the Heavens and the Earth,” Tim LeCain discusses the importance of copper mining at the turn of the 20th Century due to the increased demand of electricity (29). Cooper was used as a conductor in electrical wire. Butte, Montana and Southwest Montana in general had many hard rocks underneath the surface, such as copper, which was in high demand (39). The problem with deep rock mining is that it can be unsafe for the miners because of “too much water and not enough air” (44). Butte was one of the leading areas to find solutions to these problems through hydro-pumps to remove water from underground. As LeCain states, “…. mining in Butte essentially took place not only in an underground space but in what had been an underwater space—one kept dry by the constant efforts of gigantic subsurface pumps” (44). LeCain also mentions the use of breathing machines by miners in Butte to help with the issue of not enough air (45). There are several consequences mentioned due to the innovation of underground mines. One example is the system of tunnels running under Butte which occasionally create sinkholes that sink businesses and homes (37). Livestock death has been tied to some poisonous gases from copper mining (25). Finally, the natural landscape is drastically changed by open pit mining (39).

              Mining is a hot political topic in the U.S., especially in Montana. The question ensues about the difference between protecting mining jobs and keeping the environment safe and healthy. Where do we draw the line between not becoming Industrial Era England with smoke everywhere in the air, while still getting the resources we need? As much research as possible needs to be done beforehand to see if mining is necessary. During the mining process and after research needs to be done to make sure it is safer for workers and those living by the mines. Mining needs to be a safe endeavor for humans and environments, but alternative methods to energy such as wind, solar and other areas need to be researched and tested as well.

1 thought on “Mining in Butte, America”

  1. I appreciate the depth that you posted in and how you specifically tied it all to butte. It is definitely an area that has major issues that have been around since they started mining, and are having a lasting effect today for the entire city. The use of technology helped the mining industry, but at what cost to the environment. This is something we will have to think about as we continue mining with new technologies, and as we continue to try to clean up messes form previous mines that were left abandoned or in a terrible state. I like your last paragraph about a political debate, but I hope that one day it does not have to be one or the other who it comes to jobs vs, resources, but rather the potential for safe mining that has restrictions and regulations to keep it from being harmful to the environment, and having backup plans for potential hazards that may happen.
    Thanks for sharing and I like what you had to say.

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