Transforming, Relocating, and Delaying Pollution

Timothy LeCain talks about the three types of technofixes by looking at two case studies involving the copper mines and smelter in Butte, Montana as well as the copper mine new Ducktown, Tennessee. LeCain talks about how transforming, relocating, and delaying the environmental effects of the copper mines’ waste may solve immediate issues that mining companies are facing, but are still a detriment to the environment no matter what. In the case of the Ducktown copper mine that used heap roasting of high sulfur copper, the surrounding area began to see the ramifications of the process almost immediately (LeCain, pg 140). When the mining company began to feel the pressure of the community, they tried to find ways to cut down on the pollution that they were creating. This lead to the invention of a recovery system that converted sulfur dioxide into a substance that many people have at least heard about: sulfuric acid (LeCain, pg 140). This substance is highly used in fertilizers, especially in superphosphate fertilizers that farmers began to use to help over farmed lands recover. This is an example of a transformational techno-fix, but as LeCain explained further, it was also a delaying techno-fix. This is because the fertilizer that plants didn’t absorb, eventually began to seep into the ground water as well as streams which lead to the sulfur pollution being released at a later period of time.

We have seen that mining operations are extremely damaging not only to the population around them, but also the environment. Due to government regulations, we have seen mining companies be held to a higher standard than companies in the past. I personally feel that mining is a very high necessity in modern day society, but I also know and understand that it needs to be done in the safest ways possible. I think that engineers need to pursue methods that keep mining operations as least harmful to the people and environment around them as possible. However, I also know that it might not be possible to completely remove the harmful effects completely, which I think might have to be an acceptable loss. Modern society relies on the minerals and rare resources that mining produces too heavily to completely stop all mining operations.