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Mass destruction mining soon spread around the nation and the globe, providing raw materials essential to the mass production and mass consumption that increasingly defined the emerging "American way of life." At the dawn of the last century, Jackling's open pit replaced immense but constricted underground mines that probed nearly a mile beneath the earth, to become the ultimate symbol of the modern faith that science and technology could overcome all natural limits. A new culture of mass destruction emerged that promised nearly infinite supplies not only of copper, but also of coal, timber, fish, and other natural resources.
But, what were the consequences? Timothy J. LeCain deftly analyzes how open-pit mining continues to affect the environment in its ongoing devastation of nature and commodification of the physical world. The nation's largest toxic Superfund site would be one effect, as well as other types of environmental dead zones around the globe. Yet today, as the world's population races toward American levels of resource consumption, truly viable alternatives to the technology of mass destruction have not yet emerged.
In this wide-ranging history, Montana State University historian LeCain explores open-pit copper mining as one example of the "most destructive and dangerous ideas of the past century." From the Berkeley Pit "lake" outside of Butte, Montana, part of the country's largest Superfund site, to Utah's Bingham Pit copper mine, Lecain documents the legacy of 150 years' copper-fueled electrification: arsenic, cadmium, and other toxins released into the ecosystem along with copper ore. While mining is centuries old, modern open-pit methods have made it lucrative to mine material of even very low concentration, ballooning the number of mines. LeCain draws analogies to weapons of mass destruction as well as other extractive industries (timber, fishing, coal, etc.) and briefly suggests visions for the future: "the New West would do well to reconsider... the technologies and culture of mass destruction." In examining the history of one mining industry, LeCain has funnels a great deal of American history and culture into his narrative, resulting in a work that should catch a broad audience, from Old West history buffs to environmentalists.
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List of Illustrations Acknowledgments In the Lands of Mass Destruction Between the Heavens and the Earth The Stack Mass Destruction The Dead Zones Epilogue: From New Delhi to the New West Notes Index