Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines That Wired America and Scarred the Planet

Overview


The place: The steep mountains outside Salt Lake City. The time: The first decade of the twentieth century. The man: Daniel Jackling, a young metallurgical engineer. The goal: A bold new technology that could provide billions of pounds of cheap copper for a rapidly electrifying America. The result: Bingham's enormous "Glory Hole," the first large-scale open-pit copper mine, an enormous chasm in the earth and one of the largest humanmade artifacts on the planet. Mass Destruction is the compelling story of ...
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Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines That Wired America and Scarred the Planet

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Overview


The place: The steep mountains outside Salt Lake City. The time: The first decade of the twentieth century. The man: Daniel Jackling, a young metallurgical engineer. The goal: A bold new technology that could provide billions of pounds of cheap copper for a rapidly electrifying America. The result: Bingham's enormous "Glory Hole," the first large-scale open-pit copper mine, an enormous chasm in the earth and one of the largest humanmade artifacts on the planet. Mass Destruction is the compelling story of Jackling and the development of open-pit hard rock mining, its role in the wiring of an electrified America, as well its devastating environmental consequences.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Environmental History
"Mass Destruction is a highly readable and intellectually engaging text that will help to shape the future direction of a range of subfields from environmental to economic history and beyond."
author of Mining California: An Ecological History - Andrew Isenberg

"Written in a clear, straightforward style, Mass Destruction focuses our attention on the mining of copper—an industry both essential to the electrical age and ruinous to theenvironment. In so doing, LeCain shows the interconnections between the natural world of raw materials and the human world of technologies and commodities."
author of America's Forested Wetlands: From Wasteland to Valued Resource - Jeffrey K. Stine

"The colossal open-pit mines of the past century have left behind some of the largest artifacts on the face of the earth. Timothy LeCain's engaging history of this mega-industrial enterprise is remarkable for its insight, clarity, and wisdom. Readers interested in the contours of our technological and environmental past—and the inextricable connections between the natural and artificial—will find Mass Destruction a treasure trove of reasoning and enlightenment."
University of Virginia - Edmund Russell

"This is an eloquent and searing portrait of the environmental cost of the coins in our pockets and wires in our walls. As Timothy LeCain argues in this hard-hitting book, the quest for efficiency that gave us mass production and mass consumption also brought us mass destruction of the environment."
Earth Justice

"A most entertaining and informative book."
Choice

"LeCain writes skillfully and eloquently about the history, the engineering challenges, the successes of production and resulting consumption, and the environmental consequences of open-pit copper mining, mainly in the first half of the 20th century. With clarity and reason, LeCain analyzes this undeniable and inextricable connection between the technology of producing nature's raw materials and human and environmental imperatives. This book provokes serious second thoughts about the future of the exploitation of nature's bounty, and it should appeal to a wide audience, especially modern resource companies and conservationists. Highly recommended."
Wildlife Activist

"Timothy LeCain analyzes the environmental impact of open pit mining, including its ongoing devastation of nature. Both a historical chronology of the open pit mining industry in the western U.S. and a thoughtful essay on the economic drivers behind it, LeCain provides a compelling story."
Utah Historical Quarterly

"Mass Destruction is a thoroughly researched, elegantly reasoned study by one well-qualified to do so. LeCain has provided a well-integrated look at the environmental cost of America's burgeoning consumerism, with specific emphasis on copper."
Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813545295
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 7/15/2009
  • Pages: 280
  • Sales rank: 1,465,886
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Timothy J. LeCain is an assistant professor in the department of history at Montana State University and a historical consultant and expert witness in environmental litigation for the United States Department of Justice.

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Table of Contents

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

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