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Environmental History of Mining Part I: A roundtable on the state of mining history in North America.

Sat, April 13, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Clark

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


A common refrain of the mining industry is that “If it’s not grown, it’s mined.” Environmental historians may not object to the accuracy of this statement, but it nevertheless obscures the fact that much more scholarly attention has been devoted to nuancing the histories above ground than below. Indeed, it is not a stretch to say that the environmental history of mining has been collapsed into a subterranean category. This roundtable seeks to bring the complexity and diversity of mining history to the surface by exploring its commonalities and distinguishing features in North America. By bringing together a group of scholars studying various mineral resources, including copper, uranium, gold, iron ore, coal, and even helium, this roundtable will debate the coherence of the sub-field and offer insight on a number of its emerging questions. What unites mining history, and how might historians categorize the long list of different mineral resource histories? From an economic perspective, how did the material and market value of different mineral commodities shape the development of particular mine environments and communities? From a social perspective, why did certain mining communities command greater political influence or wealth than others? From an environmental perspective, what was the relationship between toxic legacies and specific regulatory frameworks in mining places? And how might mining history move beyond a declensionist narrative of damage and inequality, include a broader set of voices, and build methodological and conceptual bridges with other environmental histories?

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