The Baja mining boom of the 1870’s is a subject that has not been extensively explored. Little has been written on this topic making literature work on the event limited consequently the event has appeared as if it never had any importance. It is for this reason that the subject was chosen for this paper. The writing of this paper relied on the limited available resources to discuss the history of the Baja mining boom as well as its impacts.
Mining refers to the extraction of minerals from under the earth’s surface. Minerals such as gold, copper diamond among others are some of the most popular mined elements. In the process of mining, people explore the underground in search for these elements in a process that involves digging deep into the underground. This paper seeks to discuss the Baja mining boom that took place in the second half of the nineteenth century. The paper will look into its causes as well the effects that it had on people’s lives.
Baja California mining boom of the 1870’s
The history of mining in Baja stems from the wars that took place in Mexico in the middle of the nineteenth century. During this war, a gold rush phenomenon took place exposing foreigners to a possibility of precious minerals in the region.
The local population were previously aware of the existing minerals but were rather not informed of the value that could be attributed to such minerals. The locals thus mined and used such minerals as gold in the same manner as they handled other minerals like quartz whose value is lowly considered.
The war, through gold rush, then exposed the existence of the valued minerals to foreign states that were then attracted to the region for the exploration of the minerals. It is the arrival of foreign miners from countries such as the United States among others that enlightened the local residents of the importance and economic value of such minerals as gold which were lying in their land unexploited. The initial mining exercise attracted miners from regions that included the United States among other countries.
The relation between the mining and the Mexican war therefore establishes the history of the mining to have originated from about the middle of the nineteenth century. The culmination of the Mexican war in the year 1848 was almost immediately followed by the explorations.
Foreign miners flooded the then discovered Baja mines and eventually led to the exhaustion of the mineral resources in these mines. Foreign miners then left the region as they had no more business in an already resource depleted land (Taylor 1).
Discoveries into new mines were later made and intense mining resumed in the southern regions of Baja. The mining and trade in the minerals led to the establishment of an economic centre along a route path that resulted from the mining and trade of minerals.
The activities at the discovered mines greatly increased to an extent that military forces had to be deployed to the mining regions to protect the resources and the miners as well as control illegal trade that would characterize smuggling of the mined minerals to other countries’ black markets.
The period of the years of 1870s and 1980s saw a tremendous increase in mining activities in the region that led to convergence of a population and establishment of a town in the region. The later discovery after the initial depletion of gold mines developed to a mining boom that was experienced in the years of 1870s and 1880s in the regions of Baja (Taylor 1).
Causes of the Baja mining boom
The development and later explosion into boom of mining activities in Baja was catalyzed by a number of factors. With the mining activity being traced to the earlier war of the mid nineteenth century, the particular war can be credited to the establishment, development and later explosion of the mining activity.
It was during this war that the foreign community was exposed to the existence of gold resources in the region. Advances were then made as foreigners flooded the region to explore and mine the resources. This inflow of foreign miners into Baja had in itself a number of implications to the mining process in the region (Michael, William and Susan 1).
The immigration brought in people who were experts in mining mineral resources and had international expertise on the area of mining. With vast experience from their countries and technical skills and knowledge in mining, the mining process in Baja was bound to positively respond to the sufficient and efficient labor supply that the region experienced. The increased number of miners in the region also reflected an increased quantity of minerals that could be obtained from the region’s mining.
The inflow of foreign miners that increased the number of miners as well as improved technologies used in mining contributed to the increased output realized from Baja mines which later resulted in the region’s mining boom (Taylor 1).
Even though Baja hosted a number of foreigners long before the nineteenth century, mining of gold into a considerable boom was not experienced until in the late years of the century. Europeans were for example in the region by the early years of the sixteenth century but they never explored the mining possibilities in Baja. One of the major factors into the development of mining in Baja which later culminated into a boom was the discovery of the minerals.
The considered boom was that of gold and other minerals in the region. The mining must have started as a small scale activity as the market and even the value of the minerals were not yet identified by the natives of the land who never took financial considerations over the minerals. The discovery of the minerals can be understood in a number of ways. First is the actual discovery of the existence of the minerals in Baja. This was however done by the natives long before the war that took place just before the middle of the nineteenth century.
The native discovered and mined the resources though they did not attach much of economic value to the minerals. This fostered the conservation of the resources as there were no forces to drive the exploitation of the resources to depletion. The next element of the discovery of the minerals was the exposure of the international community to the vast mineral deposits that were in Baja (Baldwin 1).
Following the war that took place in the region in the year 1848, foreign communities got to know of the existence of gold reserves in the region. This discovery by foreigners who also had knowledge of the economic value that minerals such as gold are attached to, fuelled the movement of people from other states and countries into the region of Baja in order to extract gold and earn money from the process.
This further led to the discovery of the economic value of gold by the natives who had been illiterate concerning the matter. The knowledge of the existence of gold and other minerals together with economic value of gold and desire for money among the natives then drove them into the search for gold in the mines. Economic attachment being an incentive, miners concentrated in the benefits of their mass productivity yielding an outstanding gold mining in the region of Baja in the forth quarter of the nineteenth century resulting in the boom.
Another factor that led to the mining boom in Baja in the late nineteenth century was the existence of foreign companies in the region by that time. These companies had established developments in the region, a fact that had attracted a considerable population into the region.
This population, coupled with the influx of foreign miners into the area provided vast labor that was required for the full exploitation of the resources in the mines. The series of discoveries of different information that pertained to the minerals as well as the converged population of natives and foreigners in Baja were therefore significant causes of the boom in mining that was experienced in the region in the nineteenth century (Baldwin 1).
Economic impacts of the boom
The establishment and development of mining in Baja was in itself an economic activity. It was also coupled with a large number of other activities that had economic value. The establishment of mines in regions of Baja resulted in polled populations that led to formation of towns around the mines.
These populations were majorly people who sort work at the mines in the search for gold and other minerals. The development of mining in the region therefore created employment opportunities for people and its further boom led to increased employment opportunities or even increased incomes of miners and other stake holders in the mining industry in the region.
The mine together with its boom thus had the impact of economically benefiting the immediate population of Baja through direct employment. The boom which seemingly popularized mining in the region also led to a wide spread of mining activities in the region of Baja.
It is reported that “by the end of the nineteenth century, gold was mined from several places” (Minnich and Vizcaino 109) in the region of Baja. This means that the boom in mining that was experienced in Baja in the years of 1870s stimulated further exploration of mining opportunities in the region.
As a result, the Baja boom is seen to have initiated further economic activities through further explorations into mining opportunities. With these expanded mining sites in terms of numbers of mines, the boom can be considered to have facilitated economic activities in the regions Baja. This also translated to increased employment opportunities and established increased incomes for miners (Minnich and Vizcaino 109).
The expansion of mining that followed the boost also meant the expansion of complementary activities to mining. Processes associated with mining such as “smelting, running stamps, pumps and ore crushers” (Taylor 1) were also to be on the increase. All these processes were energy dependent and used wood as a source of that energy.
The implication is that the demand for wood to be used as a source of fuel increased in Baja. There was therefore another induced economic activity that was then fuelled by the boost in mining. There were also therefore associated increased employment opportunities as more suppliers and harvesters were needed to meet the increased demand for wood by the mining industry (Taylor 1).
There is a general trend that is always realized in the mining industry when it comes to the output level that can be obtained from a given area or territory. It also follows from principles of economics that an increase in supply of a commodity will have economic impacts to other elements that surround the subject commodity.
The mining boom that was realized in Baja meant that the output level of minerals that were extracted from the region realized a significant increase in quantity. This increase in the level of production of minerals such as gold and copper among others had direct impacts on the entities or individuals that owned or controlled the mines, the people who worked in the mines as well as the entire region in which the mining boom was realized.
Though the timing of the minerals might be different, the economic principles remain the same as pertains to the effects that such booms pose to the environment. Though mining booms are characterized by a number of negative side effects such as displacements, it also caries with itself a number of benefits to those who are directly involved in the mining activities.
One of the positive effects of a mining boom is the increased amount of labor that is absorbed into the mines in order to extract the minerals. Increased discovery of more mines in Baja opened ways for more people to be employed in the new mines that were realized as well as absorbing more people in mines that proved to be richer in the minerals.
Consequently, more employment opportunities were created for people in the event of increased capacity of mines. The increased number of employment opportunities coupled with increased income for miners then had an impact on the general economic status and living standard of the people who worked in the mines as well as their immediate dependants.
The boom in the Baja region also had an impact on the territorial management of affairs as well as the region’s income. After the onset of the boom for example, military personnel were sent into the mining regions in order to protect the territory’s mining generated income from smuggling of the minerals into the neighboring countries. The government’s move to send its forces for the protection of the mining regions was an indicator of the government’s vested interest in the mineral resources that were being extracted from its territory (Taylor 1).
The government’s interest in an economic activity is derived from the activity’s general impact on the territory’s overall population. A boost in any economic activity such as the Baja mining always have general effects like increased income for people in general terms as a result of increased productivity levels. This is normally transmitted into increased level of expenditure. The general economy thus experiences a boost in terms of cash flow in the economy as well as the per capita income and expenditure (Rolfe et al. 142).
Economic boosts were also derived from the revenues that government obtained from income earners in the mining industry. Increased income level for workers in the Baja mines implied that the government was entitled to increased taxes from these people, assuming the pay as you earn system of taxation model. The increased payments that were made by mining companies to workers, contractors or agencies in the mining sector were reflected in the government tax department (Rolfe et al. 142).
As a result of the boom, the mining companies experienced increased output of minerals which was similarly reflected on the companies’ revenues. These increased revenues were then consequently reflected in the taxes that were collected by the government. The mining boom in Baja in the late nineteenth century was thus characterized with benefits that were experienced by individuals who engaged in the mining as well as the entire community of Baja (Rolfe et al. 143).
Environmental impacts of the mining boom
The establishment and expansion of mining in Baja that eventually culminated into the boom also had environmental effects on the region. The use of wood in the processes of mining and processing of the mined minerals was, for example, reflected on the region’s environment.
The usage exerted more pressure on trees which were cut in order to provide wood for the mining processes. The rate of degradation of the environment must have thus increased with the increase in the level of mining in the region. This increased cutting of trees was therefore in the first place harmful to the environment.
This practice of cutting of trees especially in a relatively large scale also has secondary effects apart from the direct destruction of trees. One of the secondary impacts of the cutting of trees is the disturbance that is caused to inhabitants of the forest based environments. Wild animals such as lions, giraffes, monkeys among others depend on the vegetation first as their source of shelter then as their source of food. Destruction of such vegetation in the name of sourcing for wood for mining processes therefore induced a threat to the survival of these animals.
Extreme unsafe exposure of animals can have an effect on their existence. The cutting down of trees as a result of the mining boom also had the direct secondary impact of deforestation. The increased level of mining following the boom induced an increased rate of tree cutting in the region and its environment thereby causing an established level of deforestation.
Consequently, impacts of deforestation such as reduced levels of rainfall and further exposure of soil to erosion were thus results of the mining boom. Drought and wind erosion were therefore bound to occur in the region as a consequence of the mining (Minnich and Vizcaino 109).
Mining booms in any particular place also have a general impact of displacement from the exact mining region. Mining entails the physical exploration of land which is in most cases taken to the underground as further search for the mineral resources are made deeper into the earth’s underground. This implies an immediate total destruction of all features that existed on the ground surface of the region in which mining is to be undertaken.
As a result, there would be complete removal of the ground cover as well as the displacement of human beings as well as animals that lived in the region prior to the commencement or expansion of mining as a result of a boom.
This implies migration of people from their original homes in the mining areas to new habitats in search of shelter. Such displacements can be translated into congestion in other regions which would then mean poor living standards caused by overcrowded social amenities. Animals on the other hand can be endangered by such displacements if they fail to identify a suitable place in which their feeding and survival habits can adjust to.
Also directly associated with the survival of human beings and animals is the destruction of the environment which is a source food to both human beings and animals. Such was the case as realized in Mongolia following a coal mining boom in the area.
There were a lot of complains from people who were against the issue of expansion of mines on the grounds of the impacts that such expansion would cause to the people and their animals. About half of the population in Mongolia was reported to have been against the expansion of mines in the region following a mining boost. Displacement of people from their homes can have the impact of nomadic lifestyle especially to people who for one reason or another fail to settle after they are displaced by the boom in mining (Guardian 1).
Mining in regions of Baja started earlier than the mid nineteenth century. The war that took place at the time then exposed the existence of mineral resources to international community, some of whom had known the economic benefits that these minerals could yield. Consequently, miners infiltrated the region and discovery of mines led to the later boom. The boom however brought with it a number of both positive and negative effects.
Baldwin, Margaret. Memories of early days in Baja California. San Diego History, n.d. Web.
Guardian. Mongolia’s wilderness threatened by mining boom. Guardian, 2011. Web.
Michael, Meyer, William, Sherman and Susan, Deeds. The Course of Mexican History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Minnich, Richard and Vizcaino, Ernesto. Land of chamise and pines: historical accounts and current status of northern Baja California’s vegetation. California: University of California Press, 1998. Print.
Rolfe et al. Lessons from the social and economic impacts of the mining boom in the Bowen Basin 2004-2005. Anzrsai, 2007. Web.
Taylor, Lawrence. The mining boom in Baja California from 1850 to 1890 and the emergence of Tijuana as a border community. Jstor, 2001. Web.