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Gil Hodges
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Gambling on OreGambling on Ore

The Nature of Metal Mining in the United States, 1860-1910

Kent Curtis

Narrated by Chaz Allen

Available from Audible

Book published by University Press of Colorado

Gambling on Ore examines the development of the western mining industry from the tumultuous and violent Gold Rush to the elevation of large-scale copper mining in the early twentieth century, using Montana as representative of mining developments in the broader US mining west. Employing abundant new historical evidence in key primary and secondary sources, Curtis tells the story of the inescapable relationship of mining to nature in the modern world as the United States moved from a primarily agricultural society to a mining nation in the second half of the nineteenth century.

In Montana, legal issues and politics—such as unexpected consequences of federal mining law and the electrification of the United States—further complicated the mining industry's already complex relationship to geology, while government policy, legal frameworks, dominant understandings of nature, and the exigencies of profit and production drove the industry in momentous and surprising directions. Despite its many uncertainties, mining became an important part of American culture and daily life.

Gambling on Ore unpacks the tangled relationships between mining and the natural world that gave material possibility to the age of electricity. Metal mining has had a profound influence on the human ecology and the social relationships of North America through the twentieth century and throughout the world after World War II. Understanding how we forged these relationships is central to understanding the environmental history of the United States after 1850.


“This is a very well-written, well-argued, and thought-provoking book.... Highly recommended.”


“A century of copper mining and smelting in Montana has left an ecological wasteland marked by arsenic poisoning, toxic lakes, and mountaintops scraped into rivers. Kip Curtis's provocative Gambling on Ore helps us understand how uncertainty was at the core of such mining practices. Beautifully written, Gambling on Ore offers a new approach to the environmental history of mining in the American West.”

—Nancy Langston, author of Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES

“In this important book, Kent Curtis reveals that much of our current economic insanity began a century ago when a handful of gigantic corporations transformed America into a 'mining nation.' Today, when reckless corporate risk-taking seems to be the new normal, the message of Gambling on Ore could hardly be more profound and timely.”

—Timothy James LeCain, author of Mass Destruction: The Men and Giant Mines That Wired America and Scarred the Planet

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University Press Audiobooks
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University Press Audiobooks