Mass Destruction by Timothy J. LeCain

Copper makes the computer/iPhone/iPad you’re reading this review on run and also brings electricity into your home. Forget oil because without copper all the world economies would collapse; we’re heavily dependent on copper. LeCain attempts to trace the development of copper mines, particularly “the richest hill on earth” (Butte, Montana) and “the richest hole on earth” (Bingham Pit outside of Salt Lake City, Utah), and Daniel Jackling’s open-pit hard rock mining. The book also discusses copper’s role in the electrification of America and the devastating effects copper mining has on the surrounding environment.

Drawing a connection between the underground world and the “natural world” with the argument that everything above and below ground is apart of the natural world, LeCain examines the technologies of “mass destruction” needed to make mass production and mass consumption possible. Establishing a commodity chain (a tool discussed in one of my geography classes this past year), its clear to see how Jackling’s destructive technology has provided much of the copper in the world and in the products consumers buy.

Quite a bit of attention is paid to Butte, Montana and the Bingham Pit outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, but most of the information on the environmental damage comes from Butte. This maybe because the mines in Butte are all closed and one of the pits has filled with poisonous water earning it the nickname of “Berkeley Lake”.  Although I found sections of this book to be a little too technical for my taste, it still is a pretty fascinating read. So much so that my dad, who recommended this book to me, and I are planning to go see Berkeley Lake sometime this summer.

Book Mentioned:

  • LeCain, Timothy J. Mass Destruction: the Men and Giant Mines That Wired America and Scarred the Planet. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009. Print. 288 pgs. ISBN: 9780813545295. Source: Library.
Book Cover © Rutgers University Press. Retrieved: May 31, 2010.
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