The Ecological Cost of Industrialization

With the nineteenth and twentieth century came the rise of new powerful machines and techniques that allowed mining deep into the earth to be rationalized and systematized.  This included maps that allowed more efficient mining of precious metals, hydraulic miners who utilized water pressure to harvest a greater amount of gold, ventilation and square set timbering systems that allowed mining of metals deeper in the subterranean surface, and artificial supplies of oxygen that allowed humans to work in poisonous subterrestrial atmospheres (LeCain p. 45).  Many engineers and entrepreneurs saw the subterrestrial environment as unrelated to the terrestrial environment and disregarded the environmental consequences (LeCain p. 43).  Others made sincere efforts to minimize pollution in the environment and work safety hazards, however, were overconfident in their abilities in developing technological fixes which not only caused further pollution issues elsewhere but rationalized mines for increased speed and productions which often introduced new safety hazards (LeCain p. 48)

There is always an environmental cost involved with mining that has long been unaccounted for with no easy technological fix. Most efforts in creating safer work environments, remediation programs, and restoration programs involve relocating and containing toxins with little insurances that the material will remain contained over long periods of time without introducing new pollution risks during the transportation chain (Sandlos).  Of course, entrepreneurs and engineers can take steps to make mining safer for both miners and the environment and there exists evidence that suggests corporate negligence to improve safety and reduce pollution (LeCain p. 51).  However,  new practices and technological fixes to resolve environmental problems in mining often create other environmental problems elsewhere and only rationalize corporations to further optimize mines for profit. In the evolving industrial era mining may be an irreplaceable part of the current economy, however, important considerations must be made of nature’s natural ability to restore itself otherwise future generations will soon be subject to an era of irreversible pollution due to the actions of corporate mines today.