In this mad rush of greed and excitement, other blunders besides those of investing in unprofitable lands were made. Furnaces for smelting were located without due regard for getting fuel; costly machinery for crushing ore was bought and forwarded to the scene of action, without knowing whether ore would be found at all, or whether the apparatus was suited to the kind of ore discovered; new processes for extracting metal were resorted to, without reliable information as to their value; and other such ruinous mistakes were committed by frenzied speculators.
There was also an enormous waste of valuable minerals in consequence of this same impetuous desire for wealth. In the lead regions of the Mississippi Valley, argentiferous galena was quite common, and often the lead was entirely wasted in the extraction of the little silver. In the coal regions, especially before the organization of the large companies and their combination in monopoly, only the richer measures would be worked, leaving a large quantity of inferior, yet valuable coal on higher levels to be lost by caving.
Such recklessness in handling was practiced, that from a third to a half of the product was lost. The same state of things was found in the silver country. Mines were neglected as soon as the rich surface deposits were procured, and the accumulation of water and rubbish made it next to impossible to work what were really paying shafts. But, by the latter half of the 19th century, a reaction set in in these regards and the extravagances steadily began to decline. There has been a protective tariff, too, on foreign metals at times, the heaviest having been since ; and this has greatly promoted the development of our iron, copper, coal, and other minerals.
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Bolles, Gold Mining in America. Silver Mining in the United States. Your email address will not be published. The first Springhill Mine Disaster occurred on 21 February , when accumulated coal dust caused an horrific explosion which swept through Nos. The number of dead was unprecedented for the nineteenth century in Nova Scotian and Canadian mining history. The second Springhill Explosion occurred on 1 November A mine train hauling a load of fine coal dust to the surface encountered fresh, ventilated air being forced down the No.
The dust was blown into the air and dispersed widely in a particulate mist. At the same time, several railcars broke loose from the train and began rolling backwards down into the mine, derailed, and then hit a power line; this caused an arc which ignited the suspended coal dust.
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The resulting explosion, fueled by the additional oxygen, created a massive blast which levelled the bankhead on the surface. Heroic draegermen rescue miners and barefaced miners no breathing equipment entered the mine immediately and were able to rescue 88 miners; another 39, however, were beyond rescue and died in the explosion. The resulting stress can cause the immediate collapse of surrounding bedrock, bringing down as well wooden support pillars and the roofs of mine tunnels and chambers.
The tremendous internal pressures thus created and released can also reverberate along and throughout the coal seam. The 'Springhill Bump' was the most severe in North American mining history. The bump at Springhill spread as three distinct shock waves, each resembling a small earthquake. People on the surface were quickly aware that the disaster covered a wide area underground. Draegermen and barefaced miners descended immediately, working under extremely dangerous conditions.
They assisted early survivors found walking or limping to the surface, they encountered increasing concentrations of deadly gas released by the bump, and they worked in shafts that were partially collapsed and unstable, or completely blocked by debris. The last survivors were found on 1 November; thereafter, the rescuers encountered only the deceased, their bodies so decomposed that they were brought to the surface in airtight aluminum coffins.
Of the miners working in No. Mine disasters then and now attract immediate, world-wide public attention. Canadian and international news media travelled to Springhill in the aftermath of the bump.
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Miners soon complained about poor working conditions, noting especially the fact that they were continually working in deep coal dust. A local union official stated in a safety report that he felt someone would be killed there in the near future. Two months after his prophetic remark, a methane gas explosion rocked the mine on 9 May , killing 26 miners.
Trying to sort that out and find where there's a free market in uranium — I find that very questionable," said Luke Danielson, an attorney and minerals consultant who closely follows the uranium industry. In the early days, the government offered a year price guarantee for certain kinds of uranium ore. Everyone with a jeep and a Geiger counter was out trying to get rich," said Danielson. By the s, the program had packed U. However, it left in place rules barring the use of foreign uranium until , when it began to allow a growing percentage of overseas supplies into the market.
That opened the door to high-quality, low-cost supplies from Canada and Australia. By , the United States was importing nearly 15 million pounds of uranium, and domestic output fell by about a third to roughly 13 million pounds. While competition weighed on U. However, the American love affair with atomic power proved short-lived.
The meltdown of a reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania sparked fierce backlash against nuclear energy. Seven years later, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster turned a Ukrainian city into a ghost town. Utilities were also growing wary of the cost and time required to build and permit nuclear power plants.
Fewer reactors were built than originally envisioned in the 80s, depressing demand for uranium. By the time the last wave of facilities came online in , U. Miners got some good news in , when the Commerce Department determined the Soviet Union had been dumping cheap uranium onto the U. The department put restrictions on the supplies, but the relief didn't last long.
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One year later, the United States struck a deal with Russia to buy tons of weapons-grade uranium that would be converted into low-enriched uranium to fuel U. Over the course of the year Megatons to Megawatts program, the Russian uranium provided about a third of the fuel for U. A wave of deregulation also set in motion the creation of competitive power markets in many parts of the country that would eventually push nuclear power out of power markets.
The decade also saw the government privatize the Department of Energy's uranium enrichment operations, in the process transferring 45, metric tons of uranium to the new company.
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That flooded the market, according to Goranson. Around that time, the former Soviet state Kazakhstan was ramping up uranium mining. In just a few short years, it would become the world's top uranium producer and the second biggest supplier to the United States. The Central Asian nation accomplished that feat in large part by exploiting a process called "in situ leaching" increasingly being used to extract uranium. Along with countries like Niger, Mali and Mongolia, Kazakhstan has an advantage: lax regulations that allow it to process uranium cheaply from in situ leaching, which involves pumping chemicals into uranium reserves and carries serious risks to the environment if it's not carried out responsibly, said Danielson, who consults developing nations on mining through his company Sustainable Development Strategies Group.
In the first years of the 21st century, something strange was happening: Uranium prices were soaring. Falling stockpiles and renewed interest in nuclear energy both in the United States and in growing economies like China and India was creating a second gold rush for uranium. Both Energy Fuels and Ur-Energy, the companies that petitioned for the Commerce Department investigation, got their start during this period.
They were formed in Canada, but their mines were located in the United States. Financial crisis gripped the globe in , and the drop in economic activity weighed on electricity demand.
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At the same time, U. Nuclear energy faced added pressure as prices for wind and solar power projects fell, especially in the unregulated markets established in the late 90s and early s. The industry took another hit from government policy in , when the Department of Energy started bartering excess uranium to pay for cleanup at a government enrichment plant.
And then in , the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan created a backlash unlike anything seen since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. In the aftermath, Japan shut down all of its nuclear reactors, and Germany decided to phase out nuclear energy by Watch a mining executive discuss the uranium market in in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Supply was not as quick to react to this huge loss of demand," said Nima Ashkeboussi, director for fuel cycle programs at industry trade group the Nuclear Energy Institute.
The venerable Westinghouse Electric Company filed for bankruptcy last year under the weight of billions of dollars in losses tied to its troubled nuclear power plant projects in Georgia and South Carolina. That has heaped pressure not just on U.