National Geographic : 1980 Feb
One looks at mining and sees de struction. Another examines our lifestyle and counts the mineral needs. Can the two be reconciled? It's true. Miners dig up the land. Surface mining can bury fresh green lands under mounds of sterile subsoil. Many mills pro duce barren tailings. Chemical leaching can pollute streams. Drive off wildlife. Transform beauty into ugliness. It's easy to see how some despair and call for laws to protect our fields and forests. At the same time minerals pro duced from the land are intimately involved in our lives. The Dept. of Interior reports extraordinary mineral dependence-about 40,000 pounds per American per year: Iron, aluminum, coal, cop per. And lesser known things: cadmium for paint color, phos phate in fertilizer, boron to make steel tougher and yttrium for TV sets. With demands like that, many argue forcefully for full re source utilization. To mine or not to mine. Mine disturbance can be controlled. State and Federal coal reclama tion laws require return of surface mined lands to near original con tour with topsoil replaced. And it can often be done at acceptable cost. Even at that, relatively little land is disturbed by mining. Less than 0.3% of our total land area has brought us all the domesti cally produced minerals used since 1776. A third of that land has either been reclaimed or reverted to natural state. Caterpillar makes machines to mine and transport minerals and to reclaim land. We believe Americans should encourage de velopment of our nation's re sources. And that development must be carried on within a framework of environmental re sponsibility. There are no simple solutions. Only intelligent choices. H CATERPILLAR Caterpillar,Cat and CBare Trademarks of Caterpillar Tractor Co.