The Poison from the Plunder

The ever-increasing rewards of deep subsurface mining necessitated the invention of new methods and technology to allow for mining to take place in increasingly hostile environments. Miners faced challenges including but definitely not limited to high heat and humidity. Another challenge they faced in some areas would be the presence of groundwater, which needed to be pumped out to allow for mining. Miners in Butte purchased what would today be $2 million work of pumps (Lecain, p. 44) in order to pump out massive amounts of water to allow for copper mining. Bad air was also a common problem with deep mining, and that necessitated the construction and engineering of complex ventilation systems, involving “immense electric fans and miles of flexible canvas tubing to force surface air deep down into… the mines” (Lecain, p. 45). Noxious air led to use adoption of O2 delivery systems, enabling miners to work in the mines in conditions that would normally kill them. “In an earlier age, [noxious] mines would have been abandoned, but with breathing machines, miners could continue to work…” (Lecain, p. 47). It is these technological advancements and even more not mentioned that allows for the great plundering of the resources deep in the Earth.


As for the environmental impacts of mining, with modern science we are now well aware of the myriad long-term impacts mining can have on the environment, from arsenic-laced dust left by the Giant Mine in Canada, to the contaminated water seeping into the Berkeley pit (Sandios). In the Giant Mine case, that mine produced almost $3 billion worth of gold yet cleanup costs exceed $1 billion, yet that cost will be borne by the taxpayers and not the people who benefited from the mine. Basically, they were allowed to profit off of making a bill for others to pay. It would seem logical that for ongoing and future mines, the mine stakeholders should be legally held responsible for any damages their mine causes. The repeated event of a company mining, making money, declaring bankruptcy, and then passing on the cleanup responsibility to the general population must not be allowed to continue.