Superfund – How we are paying for History’s scientific advances

Tim LeCain explains the influence that mining engineers had on the development of hospitable subterranean environments.  Miners were required to trust the system that engineers had created to keep them safe. One of the remarkable feats accomplished by engineers was the systematic clearing of ground-water in the hills and lowlands around Butte.  Without immense pumps, the mines of Butte have been flooded since the mines closure. In addition to Water, there was a lack of oxygen in the mines, making them inhospitable for human activity. Engineers created personal oxygen kits for miners, allowing them to remain underground for sustained periods.  Unfortunately, like LeCain explains, the trust in the systems in place was often unwarranted. Because these new technologies were relatively untested, they had many unforeseen flaws. The new availability of electrical products contributed to the potential of mines, and in some drastic cases, the mines themselves became some of the largest energy consumers; using refined versions of the metal they were tasked with extracting.


Under the Mining act of 1872, A United States citizen may open a mine on any federally owned lands.  In recent years, reclamation acts have been proposed to help account for the ‘zombie’ like effects of mines.  In 2011, the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act died in congress. This act proposed an eight to fifteen percent royalty on mines to pay for the future reclamation of the land. It is my belief that our contemporary legislature is outdated regarding who can open a mine.  Very little thought is given to the future of our public lands in regards to mines, this to me is somewhat worrisome. We can see the negative impact that superfund sites, like the berkeley pit, are having on our country today; it would be foolish not to adjust our laws to meet our understanding.

1 thought on “Superfund – How we are paying for History’s scientific advances”

  1. Great post! You did a good job illustrating how much corporate mines costed our environment, the lives of miners, the nation’s energy consumption, and how a large portion of the resources gained from mining operations were only being used to further mining operations. I liked how you gave the recent examples of how the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act is no longer being enforced. It really puts your argument in perspective that even in recent times not much is being done for the future of public lands and that if the laws of our legislature continue to disregard the impact of superfund sites and zombie mines then future generations will soon have to pay for the consequences of our negligence.

Comments are closed.