The bookstores I wondered into here in southern California all have many books that describe the things you must do and see before you die. Kind of cloying, but a reflection of the money and habits of old people like myself. My host on Friday night admitted that she had never seen the Four Corners area of the United States although she has taken and plans trips to Russia, Italy, and China. I told her she is deprived and ignorant of her own country and the glories of the Anasazi empire. She told me I was drunk and obstreperous.
Thus I retort with this list of five mines everybody should see before they die…….or write sanctimoniously about any aspect of mining. This list reflects my personal prejudices and experiences. You can probably designate your own five that is very different.
Royal Mountain King Mine near Copperopolis in California. Just west of Angle Camp and the Sierra Nevada range of northern California is this closed mine, operated by Meridian Gold, now part of Yamana. For centuries it was the place the Indians came to gather salt and acorns, and they left behind many graves and artifacts. Then the modern miners came and dug up the graves, relocated the skeletons, and dug open-pits to produce gold. For the last ten years the site has been in closure. The site is surrounded by luxury homes on two-acre sites inhabited by rich people from San Francisco who hire expensive lawyers to fight salt-laden runoff from the mine that leaves salt deposits on the golf course. Go see it to see a beautiful site, a well-reclaimed area, a locus of fancy houses, and the inevitable interaction of wealth and the inevitable results of mining that made San Francisco rich.
Cannon Mine just to the southwest of Wentachee, Washington. This was an Asamera Minerals mine. I designed and was on site for the construction of the 300-foot high tailings impoundment. Now the site is closed. I cannot even find the tailings impoundment on Google Earth so well reclaimed it is. I have not been back since closure and so this site is on my personal list.
Impala Platinum mine near Rustenburg, South Africa. I can see every detail of the tailings impoundment on Google Earth. This was the tailings impoundment I designed to replace the one that failed, killing 13 miners and covering 50 miles of country with fine sandy tailings. This is where the platinum in your car comes from and so it is worth visiting for that reason alone. But the impoundment is large, the largest in the area, and innovative then and now. This is where you can see sustainable mining in full swing and glory. And there you may cogitate on the balance of mining, jobs, the environment, and engineering to protect human life.
Giant Mine in Yellowknife in Canada. This is an old mine, now under the care and control on INAC, which is short for Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada. I saw this mine one cold winter when snow was all around. I am told it is amongst the most polluted sites in Canada and will cost lots to close. Go see it and decide for yourself.
Uravan, Colorado. The mine is now gone. the town levelled, and the area just another beautiful sight on the road that goes south from Grand Junction to Naturita. This is the most beautiful part of the world I know and anybody who tells me they have yet to see Australia and Europe and China before they die but who have not been here is just delusional. This is nature perfect. Go up the mesa behind the old mine and town site and see the three uranium mill tailings site, designed and constructed to last for 1,000 years and more. I was involved with only one of them. But I have walked over all three and wondered at the engineering details of sites that will resist the forces of nature for thousands, if not millions, of years. Here you will see why I know we can mine uranium and generate nuclear power and live in harmony with the environment.
As I said, this is a very personal list. There are other places to go to see mining and its impacts. Go see the WItwatersrand of South Africa where sixty percent of the population now lives. Go see the oil sands mine north of Fort McMurray whence comes the oil for the US and the money for Canada. Go see the gravel pits of Azusa just to the northeast of Los Angles whence comes the materials that built the city and its high-rises. Go see the coal mines of Wyoming. I have not seen them but on Google Earth they are spectacular and remote.
The point is that you do not need to travel too far to see spectacular places whence comes your ability to traval and live the good life. You do not need the paintings of Italy, the palaces of the Czars, the bordellos of Paris, or the Hobbits to travel well and hence to grow in understanding and maturity. Just go take a look at your local mine and think of its history.
Travel well. And tell us of your travels.