Is There Such a Thing as a Sustainable Mining Boom?

An Early-20th-Century Copper Company Has Lessons for the Industry Today

In the Western U.S. and the north of Chile, large-scale mining has produced similar landscapes of extraction: open-pit and underground mines, smelter stacks, and large masonry structures. Transportation networks connected remote places to the world market, while many labor camps evolved into complex and vibrant communities. They also left their footprint on the natural environment: Polluted water and toxic fumes have made many of these sites inhabitable.

No other company left such a strong imprint in the mining regions of the Americas as the Anaconda Copper Mining Company—a “monstruous and complex …