And this burning, well...let's look at the results.
First, the mines were fairly remote, so there was no way to bring coal or other fuel to keep the fires going.
So they cut down local trees for fuel. And like I said, the fires burned for months.
Uh...that's a lot of fires and a lot of trees.
Deforestation was occurring at a rapid rate. And it was accelerated by the smoke from the burning ore.
Big clouds of sulfuric smoke, which was toxic to the trees, formed over the areas.
Trees that hadn't been cut for fuel were killed by the fumes.
The sulfur also mixed with the air and created sulfur dioxide.
And the sulfur dioxide settled in the clouds fell to the land in droplets of rain and sank into the soil. This is what we now call acid rain.
You've probably heard of it. But no one used the term back then.
Anyway...the acid rain created highly acidic soil.
Well, soon the soil became so acidic that nothing could grow, nothing at all.
Vegetation and wild life disappeared.
And it wasn't just the land and the air, it was the water too.
What do you think happen to the rivers?
Well, there are no trees to absorb the rain, and there was a lot of rain!
So the rain eroded the soil and swept it into the rivers.
This is called silting, when soil particles are washed into the rivers.
And the silting continued at an alarming rate.
But this was toxic soil and toxic runoff, the acid and metals in the soil made the once clear rivers flow bright orange.
So it was really that one step in the process of producing copper...the problems just built up and up until there was a desert where a beautiful forest used to be.
OK. Now let's look at reforestation and land reclamation efforts.