Thursday, October 14, 2010


My great-grandparents lived in Park City, Utah, before it was a chi-chi movie star haven. When my grandpa was unsure whether he wanted to go to college, his mother arranged a job for him underground. He went to college, the first generation in our family. (If you went to high school in Logan or Preston, there's a pretty good chance he was your band teacher.)

I live now in Butte, Montana, where every day we look at the gigantic toxic scar that represents a good share of the copper that electrified the country and won wars and supplied technology throughout the 20th century. Similar to the big Kennecott mine in the SW Salt Lake Valley, but in a smaller context and filled with poisonous water. I think it's kind of like having to hunt for your protein. You can eat the meat, but you have to think about where it came from. We can turn on our lights in Butte, but it's with a keen awareness of the price paid.

My husband's parents grew up here. His grandfather ran a machinery company that supplied the mines. It completely changed the fortunes of his family.

My dad is a mining engineering professor. He works to make mining safer and to automate dangerous processes. His work has taken him all over the world.

My husband is a groundwater hydrology professor. He's just getting into studying mine water problems. It's possible that some of the damage we've done can be remediated, if it can first be better understood.

All this to say, mining is way down deep in my blood. And it's full of ugliness and tragedy and big mistakes. But it is different in many ways from how it used to be. I can see its blessings really clearly along with all the problems. I know I still need it, and I depend on it every day. It is kind of a leap of faith, but I believe overall it's for the greater good.

1 comment:

wendy said...

My dad was a coal miner and died in a coal mining accident. And we live really, really close to the Kennecott Copper Mine. Every time I read your blog, I find something that makes me feel like we have a lot in common (reading, cooking, losing weight, homeschooling, adoption, transracial family, LDS, etc. etc.)