Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for Research

Sometimes I feel like writing the fiction of River and Ranch and New Grass Growing is the underpinnings on a Master's degree in Idaho history and geography. It is still an ongoing process and throughout has been a compelling aspect of writing. I can't wait to get back to Idaho and (re)visit the places I have learned more about and discovered over the course of writing these books.

Sacajawea. Sharkey Hot Spring. Lemhi Pass. Tendoy. Viola and her store. On and on the list goes. Lemhi Pass itself. This is the place where Lewis and Clark first topped out on a pass and peaked into Idaho. The Last Chance vein has kept miners interested for most of the time ever since.

The fiction of River and Ranch rests upon Cale and Lane watching over a rare earth mine on Lemhi Pass. This is reality. That Last Chance vein is a gift that just keeps on delivering. One mining company has hoovered up many of the mining claims and is actively exploring the space. Their efforts are apparently enough to keep them going. The historical mining claims and grounds apparently include existing tailings piles, which apparently are containing enough rare earth rich material to make the tailings piles the first rare earth materials to be "mined" on the North American continent in quite a while, and they've been sitting next to the adit just waiting for someone to sample them. No need to mine them, just transport them to the processing facility.

Which brings up to the next interesting bit that research has uncovered. Not only does China have a large majority of rare earth reserves, China also has the relevant tribal knowledge and the only REE processing facilities on the planet. Everyone else is playing catchup on the processing front. China, meanwhile, just keeps pouring chemicals into shallow holes on the mountaintop and recovering what they can from trenches in the valley below. It seems to me that China has a lead on destroying their environment more so than processing rare earth ore. Research suggests that China just goes ahead and does virtually whatever they want, wherever they want, with little regard for future consequences. Somewhat like the US did a hundred (or more) years ago, during this nation's heavy industrial development phase.

Research is fascinating. It reminds me once again of what the U.S. did to its own environment and native populations in the name of manifest destiny and development. As I research the Chinese portions of this project, I frequently see that. Hard to call the kettle black when our own original kettle is as black as anything the Chinese are doing.

Research. Fascinating stuff. It makes me think about more than just the fiction I am writing.

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