Butte, Montana was once the largest copper mine in the world. What had once started as a few miners following veins of copper ore eventually evolved into massive open pit mining. Most of the mines have been shut down for various reasons, but the biggest mine was the largest environmental disaster in Montana.
While the largest mine is in town, there are plenty of smaller mines in the surrounding areas. We’ve seen some of the scars and at times have had to skip over water sources for fear of the poison in them. Yesterday we were dehydrated as we hiked an extra 8 miles without water in the heat of the day. Some of the creeks look and smell like they’re from the bowels of the earth, smelling of sulfur and containing heavy metals. Tailing ponds show up on topo maps, presumably contaminating entire watersheds. Our water filter will get out anything larger than 0.1 microns, but can’t do anything against arsenic.
So we carry extra water and wonder about the deer, who must drink it. Maybe our societies’ relentless pursuit of riches has a cost that we all must bear.