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Knowing Mines in North America: Memory, Science, and the Environment since 1900

Sat, April 1, 10:30am to 12:00pm, The Drake Hotel, Walton So.

Session Submission Type: Panel


Stimulated by industrialization, two world wars and an expanding consumer economy, metal production accelerated in the twentieth century. In order to keep up with demand, mining companies increased the scale of their operations by acquiring international holdings and initiating new extractive projects backed by the latest geological science. As the industry expanded, the “nature” of extraction became contested. Mining companies, miners, indigenous people, governments, communities, economists, and investors historically related to mining in ways that reflected their place within the international metal trade. Each set of stakeholders worked within ideological frameworks of global markets, geological science, and environmentalism to interpret the meaning of industrialized extraction.

Our papers work together to address the ways people “know” mines and mine products in North America. We are particularly interested in the construction of international science and geology networks, the role of the capitalist economy, and the relationship between local and extra-local perceptions of a mine. Our papers each address a different phase of the extraction process from mine discovery and metal production to closure and mine memorialization. Understanding the way people think about mines provides a foundation for remediation in communities affected by their presence. To what extent is mining knowledge shared across community, state, national, and continental boundaries? Is a mine a sacrifice zone or a home? Habitat or wasteland? How do the physical characteristics of industrial metals complicate or facilitate our hopes for progressive mining development? How did human experiences of mining in America compare to similar experiences in Canada? Our panel examines the intellectual infrastructure of metals mining with the goal of provoking a broader discussion about the way people have historically communicated and represented extractive knowledge.

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