A journalist/activist’s investigation into the history, science and politics of copper, a metal essential to modern civilization but one whose extraction is enormously polluting.
Carter (Red Summer: The Danger, Madness, and Exaltation of Salmon Fishing in a Remote Alaskan Village, 2008, etc.) begins his story in his backyard in the old copper-mining town of Bisbee, Ariz., where he discovered that the soil in his garden had been poisoned by toxins created by years of mining and smelting. The question of whether the open pit mine on the edge of town might reopen led the author to consider what that would mean for his young family’s quality of life and to examine how and why that might come about. He educated himself about the copper market, researched the largest mining companies, toured working mines, and traveled to Bristol Bay, Alaska, where a battle is under way over the possible development of one of the world’s largest copper mines close to the home of the world’s largest sockeye salmon runs. Carter also visited a nearly defunct mining town where a new job-producing copper mine is planned. In his travels, the author chatted with locals, mine workers and mine company personnel. Although he was unable to visit them, he paints a vivid and truly horrific picture of mining operations in Africa and Indonesia, and he delineates the growing impact on the worldwide copper market of burgeoning economies such as those of China, Brazil and India. Carter’s scope is large, but his storytelling technique is up-close and personal. In the end, the author decided to move his family out of his beloved Bisbee to escape the threat of a reopened copper mine, but he makes it abundantly clear that there is, for our modern society, no escape from dependence on copper.
A well-told, fact-filled story written with a touch of fury and a dash of regret.