These pictures help us comprehend the scale of open-pit extraction with aerial photographs. These pits are dug by machines– “bucket-wheel excavators”, nearly five times the size of a titanosaur (largest dinosaur); they rip up the surface and gradually descend. Once the copper is extracted, waste products stream out as tailings, creating snaking tributaries that oxidize psychedelically in open air. These excavators leave ledges as they go down, creating a succession of ‘‘benches”. The Chino Mine, in my home state of N.M., has been excavated for over 100 years and is two miles across and 1,350 feet down. It’s an amphitheater built around an abyss, very popular on TripAdvisor, with comments like “you’ve got to be kidding!!!”
Disbelief seems to be the universal response to open-pit mines. Photographer Edward Burtynsky says, ‘‘I look for the biggest mines in the world.’’ These photographs, shot in Arizona (below) and New Mexico in 2012 are some of the continent’s largest copper mines. The Morenci Mine (below), will produce 900 million pounds of copper every year for the next five years.
The earth is reshaped radically. Burtynsky reveals how surreal, multicolored, carved up and drastic the newly patterned landscape is. Like it or not, this is how we get our copper that serves our hi-tech world!
Welcome to the Industrial Revolution, 150 years in the making. This is part of how we have reshaped our planet Earth.
There’s copper in our mobile phones, PC’s (“average” desktop computer has about 4.85 pounds of copper), appliances, cars, and inside the walls of our homes. ‘‘If you feel revulsion to this landscape,’’ this photographer says, ‘‘you should have a revulsion to your whole life.’’
If we are awed by these pictures, you can only imagine how the excavator driver feels as he or she descends into the deep and deeper abyss.
There may be no getting to the bottom of this... how we feel about it and at the same time our appetite (the world’s) for more technology is insatiable… which requires more copper extraction and devastation to the earth (depending on how you see it).
Thank you for reading my post. I share a story about how our community managed the “fracking company” when they came to our town insisting on “fracking undeveloped potential” in our neighborhoods (an unregulated activity at the time). We collaboratively worked together to create a state of the art oil & gas ordinance for our county. You can read about that in my book.
I am an organizational and business consultant living in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico with my husband and dogs. My core message of everyone is creative resonates with people of all ages and walks of life. I invite all to become the best version of themselves and find true meaning by pursing long term creative quests.