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Despite labor struggles, political controversies, and environmental accidents, mineral and energy extractions have been the hard-earned mainstays of New Mexico’s economy for centuries, surviving countless boom-bust cycles. The economic instability of mining and drilling has caught many New Mexico towns off guard over the years (p. 206).

Many in New Mexico harbored some hope that the Obama administration would beef up mining regulations and challenge the 1872 Mining Act, which practically gives away public lands to mining interests at $5 an acre, even in 2009, and charges no federal royalties on minerals taken from federal land (p. 207).

Others worry that New Mexico’s economic base could be eroded by what they consider overregulation. The state depends on revenue from a wide range of minerals and energy sources. The mining of copper, potash, perlite, silver, gold, lead, pumice, molybdenum, vanadium, salt, turquoise, uranium, coal, oil, and natural gas has supplied a major number of jobs and sources of state revenue (p. 208).

  Lookout over the Santa Rita. The dump trucks used here weigh 300 tons each, have six twelve foot high tires and use 1,000 gallons of diesel in 24 hours. These trucks permit the extraction of ten times what was possible in the same period forty years ago. March 2008.
  Retired diesel mechanic Terry Humble worked in the mines for more than thirty years. Now the self-appointed local historian in Bayard, he takes me to the shed behind his house to gift me some native copper, and shows me his old mining equipment. May 2007.
  The iconic Hurley smelter stacks behind the general store building-cum-art gallery were felled soon after this photograph was made. One retired miner recounts that in the old days you would smoke a cigarette in this town and it would taste sweet. "Like sucking on a penny" recalls another. May 2007.
  The Hurley Cemetery. March 2008.
  One of the retired miners showing me around tells me that the statue of Jesus and Mary inside this stone chapel behind Saint Anthony’s church in Fierro was transferred here from the church that used to be in Santa Rita, a town that became an island in the middle of the mine, before being closed and mined itself. Just beyond the parking lot outside are the headframes of a copper mine. March 2008.
  This mill was established in Hurley, ten miles from the Santa Rita mine, because there is sufficient water there. Now trucks drive in the opposite direction over the pipes, carrying the old tailings back to the mine in order to leach more copper from them. March 2008.
  The site of the headframe of a disused underground mine. In the background are waste dumps: dirt from the Santa Rita open-pit mine that does not contain enough ore to go to the mill but instead will be leeched. March 2008.
  The Amalgamated United Steel Workers of America Local 890 union hall in the town of Bayard. Murals by Bob Ames. May 2007.
  A chapel near the mine, with a posted prayer to the Patroness of Impossible Cases, Saint Rita. May 2007.